Pattern Numbers and the Archive

It probably won’t come as a surprise when we say we’re rather keen on the Minton Archive (perhaps 163 blog posts, numerous catalogue enhancements, and a near-constant enthrallment with the Art & Design folios gave it away!) and so it was inevitable that one of us would eventually acquire a piece of Minton pottery. It’s a slippery slope…

Our new penchant for pottery is not without benefit to the site however, it giving us the perfect opportunity to show you what information can be gleaned from the Minton company records with a pattern number as a starting point… we just hope your own identification mark is a little more legible than ours! Thankfully after some squinting and staring (and a bit of Photoshop magic to confirm it) we identified our piece as having pattern number G2713.

The Pattern books and Patterns section of the online catalogue holds the two main sequences of pattern books in the collection – the “Works” and Office” copies – but before moving down the hierarchy to locate specific volumes it’s worth reading the cataloguer’s note found in the section level record itself. This describes the basic ordering of the sequence and the meanings of the letter prefixes – in the case of our “G”-prefixed piece we’re told:

G were richly decorated expensive China Tableware patterns, practically all of which had a lot of gold on them, but they would include things like expensive free-hand painted patterns, which may have had no gold beside the edge.

Together the two surviving pattern book sequences, along with some additional patterns and designs, provide a relatively complete set of pattern numbers and it’s often possible to find a particular pattern in both the “Works” and “Office” sequences – in our case we located G2713 in SD 1705/MS2121 (Works) and SD 1705/MS2431 (Office).

Our “Works” pattern (left) turned out to be unusually well annotated – the “Office” copy (right) is probably a more realistic representation of an average pattern book page – but as the name implies these notes were created to aid the production process rather than to help users of the Archive viewing them over 100 years later, so they can sometimes be of limited use. Be that as it may, the contrast between the two pages above is still a great example of why it’s important to check both “Works” and “Office” versions of a pattern whenever the opportunity arises.

The next most useful place to search for pattern information is the Full General Series of Estimate Books, which the online catalogue breaks down to cover each major series in turn. Estimate books show evidence of costs and retail pricing but you might also find the name of the shape onto which the pattern was applied, a description of the pattern (which itself may reference other patterns), and – if you’re lucky – a date too.

G2713’s entry in SD 1705/MS1507 revealed that our piece was part of a tea set in “Goode’s can shape” and was also produced as tableware pattern G4823, as PA92 with “no gilding”, and also as painted toiletware. A quick trip back to the pattern books uncovered the “Works” and “Office” copies for G4823 – we’ve included the “Works” version below – but unfortunately the Archive does not hold the matching PA volume… we did say it was relatively complete!

If you’d like to find out about your own Minton pattern number the first step is to check the main pattern and estimate book sections of our online catalogue and make a note of the finding numbers (which always begin SD 1705/MS…) for any items you think might be useful. All these pattern and estimate books (along with the rest of the Minton Archive!) are available to consult at the City Archives here in Stoke-on-Trent but you can also get in touch with us if you’re unable to visit in person. We can’t promise there’ll be as much information as our own search turned up – we were rather lucky with that one – but connecting a pot with a pattern is always going to be fun!