Eliza Smallwood, China Enameller

We’ve mentioned Eliza Smallwood’s indenture of apprenticeship once before on the blog, citing it as an example of something we’d have loved to have included in our Welcome Home! display if we’d had a little more room in our display cases. It’s a fascinating document and something we’ve wanted to cover in more detail for a while.


At the date of the indenture – 25th September 1878 – Eliza was 13 years old and lived with her father William at Honey Wall, Stoke-upon-Trent. She was to learn china enamelling for a period of 7 years:

during all which term the said Apprentice shall and will faithfully, honestly and diligently serve and obey her said Masters as a good and faithful Apprentice ought to do.

In return those “Masters” – Colin Minton Campbell, Thomas William Minton and Herbert Minton – would:

teach and instruct the said Apprentice or cause [her] to be taught and instructed in the aforesaid branch of the Potter’s art or business in the best manner they can during the said term.

Rates of pay are outlined in the indenture. Eliza would be paid 2 shillings a week for the first year, then two-thirds of the rate paid to journeywomen (a woman who has learnt a skill and works for someone else, i.e. what Eliza would become if she stayed on at the company after finishing her apprenticeship) in the same trade for the remainder of the term. Her father is also charged with ensuring that Eliza is fit and healthy to work. Throughout her term the indenture stipulates he must:

find and provide the said Apprentice with sufficient meat, drink, washing, lodging, clothes and all other necessities.

Eliza has also signed her own name on the indenture.


Certain details from Eliza’s indenture can also be found in SD 1705/MS591, a Register of Apprentices covering the latter part of the 19th century and containing over 1,300 entries in total. The register’s fields provide a wealth of information but it’s the additional handwritten notes alongside some of these entries which really bring the register to life. Scribed in red pen are the disappearances, the physical frailties, and the dismissals which account for the premature cancellations of a number of Minton apprenticeships.

Deaf & dumb – grinding for a long time, at her own desire
A stupid girl – would not make any effort to learn
Left for immorality
Allowed to stay away so long as studying or not connected with any China Manufacturer
Discharged 22/5/76 for incorrigible conduct
Allowed to leave, bad eyes