“Welcome Home!”: Tableware

Tableware, in its many guises, formed a mainstay of Minton’s production. Having developed a set of themed searches for the website, we decided to use the same framework to highlight material related to this very important area of ceramic production within the display case. The artists, artwork, shapes, patterns, production, and employees represented within this material are innately connected to the ceramic pieces found in this case and throughout the “Welcome Home!” display.

Using the item list from the original Tableware case label, we’ve added extra information to explain our choices and reproduced it below. For those of you who might not get to see the display in person we’ve also included the introductory text and created a case layout diagram to give you an idea of how the items sit together.

Minton Archive: Tableware

From its earliest days the factory excelled in all aspects of ceramic production. Specially commissioned table and tea services formed an important part of the business. In 1931 Reginald Haggar was asked to design a programme for the British Porcelain Ball held at Claridge’s Hotel, London. Haggar’s design was a circular programme, the cover of which he decorated to resemble a china plate. The programme design was subsequently used on ceramics and is known as ‘Porcelain Ball’ pattern.


1. Design for a coffee pot and can in Una shape by John Wadsworth, 1937

This design is part of a series found within the folios of the Minton company catalogue’s “Art & Design” section. Due to space constraints we weren’t able to feature any work by John Wadsworth in the Art and Design display case – here his artwork for part of a coffee service represents the ideas and concepts created by artists before they are considered for production.

[SD 1705]

2. Shape book, post 1827

The earliest Minton company shape books are hand-drawn volumes – we included this particular example in the display due to its beautifully ornate representations of the various production shapes. With the advent of photography in the 19th century these shape books were superseded by the equivalent “photograph books”. In both types of volume item dimensions, shape numbers and other notes were included alongside the shapes themselves.

[SD 1705/MS1584]

3. Photographs of operatives at work at Minton c.1925

Comprising a bundle of over 20 individual images, we decided to regularly rotate this part of the display to highlight the large number of processes captured in these photographs. Wedging, transfer printing, casting, saggar-making, gilding, handpainting, modelling, placing, dish pressing, handle-making, jolley moulding and burnishing are all represented, serving as a visual record of the work taking place inside Minton in the early 20th century, and of the workers who were employed there at the time.

[SD 1705/MS3366]

4. Colour Recipe Book, early 19th century

Early documents from the Minton company catalogue often feature what the original cataloguer, archivist Alyn Giles Jones, described as “eccentric” spelling. This particular recipe book is no exception, also containing many chemical names we no longer use today. In the instructions for an “excilent” rose the author warns not to dry the gold and perl ash mixture – washed with “bolling” water – by the fire as “it will go of[f] like thunder”!

[SD 1705/MS1436]

5. Early pattern book known as ‘Shop Book 17’, showing patterns 1 to 50, c.1801

We weren’t able to commit to using the four earliest pattern books at the time of our display – fortunately “Shop Book 17” contains copies of the first 50 patterns found in Minton Pattern Book No. 1. Undertaken in the same naïve, hand-painted style as in Pattern Book No. 1, this volume was therefore a chance to represent some of Minton’s earliest bone china patterns in the display.

[SD 1705/MS2288]

6. Programmes for the British Porcelain Balls held at Claridge’s Hotel, London, 24 November 1931, and at the Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh, 10 December 1954
7. Plate, cup and saucer, bone china, pattern H5141 known as ‘Porcelain Ball’.
Designed by Reginald Haggar, produced c.1959

The journey of Haggar’s intricate china plate design, leaping from paper programme to bone china tableware – from artwork to ceramic object – was made possible by the people, processes and technologies we’ve highlighted within this display case. Being able to place these two types of object together emphasised the innate connection between the archive material and the final ceramic pieces throughout the rest of the “Welcome Home!” display.

[SD 1705/MS2766-MS2767]

Plate – Gift of Miss Mary Bowdler, 1990P448;
Cup and Saucer – Gift of Elizabeth Adams, 1995P26.1-2

“Welcome Home! A Celebration of the Minton Archive”, located in the first floor circular gallery at The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, runs until Sunday 27th March 2016.