The Cotterill Connection

We first mentioned Eliza Smallwood on the blog almost two years ago when we linked to her indenture of apprenticeship, an item we’d been unable to include in our collaborative display with The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery – it turned out to be too big for the display case! Since then her name has appeared in numerous blog posts (seven and counting!) as a great example of the importance of the factory workers in the Minton Archive story.

Over time it’s fair to say we’ve grown rather fond of Eliza. You can therefore imagine our excitement when, having highlighted her time as an apprentice China Enameller and as a Potter’s Paintress, wife, and mother, we received a contact form submission which began:

I was amazed to see my grandmother’s name Eliza Smallwood mentioned[…]

To paraphrase Rick Blaine, “Of all the blogs, on all the sites, in all the world, they discovered ours” – it really was an incredible stroke of luck for us to be able to connect with one of her descendants in this way. In the initial message her grandson confirmed that the family had indeed lived at 35 Brighton Street for many years and that he had known Henry, Eliza’s husband (and his grandfather), as a small boy. Sadly Eliza herself had already passed away before he had been born.

To see Eliza’s name once again highlighting the power of the Archive was wonderful, in this particular case drawing attention to the types of connections that work such as our ongoing name indexing can help uncover. However, what we weren’t expecting to hear was that Eliza’s grandson’s treasured possessions included a set of six cups, saucers, and plates, all hand-decorated by Eliza. Jaws most certainly dropped here, that’s for sure!

We were lucky enough to be allowed to photograph these delightful pieces shortly after this revelation, along with photographs showing Eliza with one of her sons and another of her husband Henry. Eliza looks rather stern in her portrait but, as her grandson said to us at the time, was probably just a little worn out from raising 9 children!

To one day be able to see, touch, and share Eliza’s work as a paintress is something that would never have crossed our minds when we first found her indenture in the collection, and yet we’re informed that it was donated to the company by Eliza’s son many years ago and from there found it’s way into the Archive – what an incredible bit of Minton magic (and surely further proof of the interconnectedness of all things)!

Our thanks go to Eliza’s grandson (and his wife, who’s searches uncovered the Eliza posts on the site) for allowing us to share these cherished objects with you all. Check out the gallery below for more images of Eliza’s work!