Wartime Pottery

06/05/202015:0106/05/2020 15:05Leave a Comment

At the outbreak of war in September 1939 pottery production was being scaled back. Many pottery workers were being called up into the forces, or had volunteered, while others left to do war work at the local munition factories and engineering works. While export orders declined rapidly, the British government was placing large orders to supply its civilian and military canteens. These were usually stamped with the date of production and ‘GR VI’ to show that they were government property.

In 1942 official Utility restrictions were placed on what the pottery industry could make for the home market, including a complete ban on decorated ware, but until then factories were able to accept orders, and a small number produced some patriotic designs, usually only made in small numbers.

Nightlight in the form of an Anderson shelter Shorter & Son, Stoke-upon-Trent, Staffordshire, c.1940 Collection, Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent

Among the pieces at PMAG we have a nightlight from the Stoke-upon-Trent firm of Shorter & Son. Made in cream earthenware in the form of a corrugated iron Anderson Shelter it has the letters A.R.P. (Air Raid Precautions) in the roof. In a period when many homes still did not have gas or electrical light, candle night lights were common, particularly in bedrooms. A tealight would have been placed inside the Anderson shelter and the light would have been filtered through the letters. At such a time of uncertainty there is an irony that a nightlight, intended to reassure, should have been produced in a shape associated with air raids.

The Preston firm of Dyson & Horsfall were a mail order firm that ran a very successful national Christmas Club scheme. In a period before the internet, local organisers would deliver the mail-order catalogues, take and forward the customers’ orders, and then collect the purchase money, in weekly instalments. The company gave presents to its successful local agents, usually a chrome-plated teapot but in 1940 Dyson & Horsfall commissioned the Tunstall firm of AG Richardson to produce this teapot for its organisers.

“Liberty and Freedom” teapot made for Dyson & Horsfall, Preston
A.G. Richardson, Tunstall, Staffordshire, 1940
Collection, Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent

Printed and painted with the flags of the Allies it has, to one side ,“Liberty and Freedom”, and to the other “War against Hitlerism. This souvenir Teapot was made for Dyson & Horsfall of Preston to replace ALUMINIUM STOCKS taken over for ALLIED ARMAMENTS 1939. That Right Shall Prevail”
Despite the reference to 1939 in the inscription this piece was almost certainly made for distribution at Christmas 1940. The inscription refers to “France Western Colonies” and “France Eastern Colonies” but not to mainland France, which had fallen to the Germans in June 1940.

Reverse of the “Liberty and Freedom” teapot made for Dyson & Horsfall, Preston
A.G. Richardson, Tunstall, Staffordshire, 1940
Collection, Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent

In August 1939, in advance of the declaration of war, the London Clearing Banks moved their cheque-clearing operations to Trentham Hall, with most of its staff based in the Ballroom.

The Ballroom at Trentham Gardens, the wartime home of the London Clearing Banks
Collection, Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent

Hundreds of bank staff were billeted with local families in and around Trentham, and many local people were recruited to work alongside them. The London staff, far from their homes and families, referred to themselves as “The Outcasts” and even started a staff magazine “The Outcasts Observer”.

“Outcasts” mug, made by T Lawrence, Longton, 1940
Collection, Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent

In August 1940, to mark the first anniversary of the evacuation from London, these mugs were commissioned from the firm of T Lawrence, Longton, and were presented to staff by the Controller of the Central Clearing House, Percy S. Quick.

Reverse of the “Outcasts” mug, made by T Lawrence, Longton, 1940
Collection, Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent

In 1941 the staff were given a commemorative Outcasts ashtray made by Crown Devon, Stoke, – but by 1942 the Utility restrictions on the production of decorative pottery meant that another commemorative piece could not be commissioned. Although we have a couple of Outcasts mugs we don’t have an ashtray. So, if you have one in good condition that you would like to donate, please contact us.

“Outcasts” ashtray
Made by S Fielding “Crown Devon” ware, Stoke-upon-Trent, 1941
Image: thepotteries.org

The Utility restrictions on what pottery could be made for the home market were gradually lifted after 1945, but the emphasis was on winning back export orders, and it was not until 1952 that production for the domestic market was back to normal. Consequently we do not have any ceramics made in 1945 to commemorate the end of the war – although many have been produced over subsequent decades to mark the significant anniversaries

Written by miranda - Modified by Joe Perry (Curator, Local History)

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