Eliza Smallwood: Potters Paintress, Wife, and Mother

In our last post we brought together Eliza Smallwood’s indenture of apprenticeship and the Register of Apprentices volume in which her details can also be found. One of the great things about the register is that it contains enough detail to make census searches possible. Through these searches we can find out even more about Eliza, and the same process could reveal all sorts of information about the other 1,302 apprentices listed in the register.

In 1871 – the first census on which she appears – Eliza was just 6 years old and living with her father William, her mother Ann, and her younger brother William in a place called Honey Wall. This matches up with the details supplied on the 1878 indenture and together these two documents ensure the next census holds few surprises – 16-year-old Eliza is listed as being a “Potters Paintress” and was still living at home with her family.

On 14th May 1887 – just under two years after her apprenticeship at Mintons was completed – Eliza, now 22, married Henry Cotterill (25) at Hartshill Parish Church. The marriage register tells us Henry was a “Blacksmith’s Striker” but does not give an occupation for Eliza.

The next census in 1891 recorded that Eliza (recorded as Elizabeth) and Henry were living at 56 Honeywall along with their 10 month old son Frederick, but by the time of the 1901 census the family had moved to Brighton Street, a short distance from Honeywall, and had grown considerably larger. Eliza and Henry now shared their home with 5 sons aged between 9 months and 10 years old, as well as with Henry’s widowed mother Patience. The appearance of another 3 children – 2 girls and a boy – on the 1911 census brought the total number of people living at 35 Brighton Street to 10. The 5 eldest sons were also now in work: Frederick as a “Postman”; Bertram as a “Labourer”; Percy as a “Prentice Plumber”; and Ernest as a “Cup Handler”.

Sadly, Eliza’s name next appears in the register of deaths for October – December 1915. She was 50 years old.


As we worked to find Eliza in the various censuses we realised that her time as an apprentice coincided with the coming-of-age of John Fitzgerald Campbell. At first it might seem odd to connect the 21st birthday celebrations of the pottery owner’s son with the apprenticeship of a china enameller from Hartshill, but connections are what the Minton Archive is all about. A gilt-embossed address, given to John by the employees of Mintons and the Campbell Tile company to congratulate him on his milestone, contains the names of all 1,792 workers employed by the two companies. The very last paintress listed in this volume? Eliza Smallwood.

eliza-sw_MS50_001

This post’s feature image is courtesy of the collections of The National Archives, via Ancestry. Crown copyright.