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A Meander Around Wade Pottery, Ceramics and Earthenware

1976 World of Survival Series Wade England Polar Bear

A Meander Around Wade Pottery, Ceramics and Earthenware

When you think of Wade pottery, many of us would probably think of Wade Whimsies (unless you are a Wade collector) but I think that is a real shame. In fact, Wade have produced industrial ceramics, and some wonderful porcelain and earthenware objets d’art over the years.

Wade Ceramics Limited, Staffordshire, UK, is a pottery established in 1810 and still manufacturing today at a brand new factory only opened in 2010. When first founded, the company actually comprised several companies, established by different members of the Wade extended family, eventually uniting to form Wade Potteries Limited in the 1950s.

Wade Whimsies

As I have already mentioned, Wade are best known, in the UK and USA, for creating and manufacturing Whimsies from 1954: small porcelain animal figurines, which were low priced and highly collectable.

1950s Wade Whimsies 1st Series Poodle
1950s Wade Whimsies 1st Series Poodle


I am one of many people whom, as child, set out to collect as many different whimsies as my pocket money and Saturday job would allow me to buy!  This hobby didn’t stretch to my adulthood- I was a student for 7 years and money didn’t reach that far!

Some of the older and rarer (pre-1970s) whimsies are increasing significantly in value and worth £20-40 each, if in good condition and boxed.

Wade Range of Ceramics

But… Wade also produced a wide range of eclectic and wonderfully detailed ornaments, tea services, and face masks, in all shapes and sizes, including:-

  • Cartoon and disney characters,
  • Birds and animals of all types
  • Famous people
  • Characters from the literary, film, opera, and music world
  • Nursery rhyme characters
  • Advertising wares (including Scotch Whisky decanters)

This Wade pin dish features quite a racy looking Queen of Hearts!

1960s Wade Pottery Queen of Hearts Pin Dish
1960s Wade Pottery Queen of Hearts Pin Dish


Jessie Van Hallen

One of the most famous designers at Wade, and contemporary to Clarice Cliff, was Jessie Van Hallen. There is a fascinating blog about her on the Wade Collectors Club website, written by David Chown. I especially love her 1938 version of ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ figurines, which were produced with support from Disney, and sold for £1.00 a set and now worth considerably more!


Jessie Van Hallen’s Snow White Collection


Wade Collectibles

These small but detailed 1950s yachts sit nicely on my bathroom wall.  They were actually ‘Made in Ireland’ at the Wade (Ulster) Ltd factory established in the 1930s by Colonel Sir George Wade. This factory closed in the 1990s. We are missing the smallest yacht in the set of three but I’m still looking!

Irish Wade Yachts


This little basket was also made by Wade under their ‘Noveltio’ brand.

Vintage Wade Noveltio Straw Effect Pottery Basket
Vintage Wade Noveltio Straw Effect Pottery Basket

Wade were commissioned by ‘Survival Anglia Limited’ to produce some animal figurines based on their popular TV Series ‘The World of Survival’. Two series of figurines were produced between 1976 and 1982.

1976 World of Survival Series Wade England Polar Bear
1976 World of Survival Series Wade England Polar Bear

The polar bear is from the first series. All of the animal figurines are highly prized.

Back Marks

Don’t forget to check those back marks! Antique Marks has a very good pictorial representation of the key marks used at the various Wade UK and the Ulster factories. There have been many copies and reproductions of Wade but few can compare with the original, unless made from the same mould. Wade and a few other companies have reproduced limited editions of some of the vintage items, using the original moulds, but these are clearly marked.

If you are interested in collecting Wade, then the Wade Collector’s Club website is an excellent source of information. We also have on or two vintage pieces for sale on our website and in our Etsy shop.













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Who were Bretby Art Pottery and Tooth & Co?

Vintage Bretby Art Pottery Nursery Rhyme Bookends Models 3262 and 3263

Who were Bretby Art Pottery and Tooth & Co?

Bretby Art Pottery was started in 1882 by Henry Tooth and William Ault. The company was actually known as Tooth & Co. Ltd.

Tooth and Ault designed and built their own pottery in Woodville, Derbyshire. Manufacturing began on 25 October 1883.

They entered the Crystal Palace Exhibition in 1884 and won a gold award. Not a bad result for a first attempt! The famous ‘Sunburst’ trade mark was registered in the same year.

Breathy Sunburst Mark
Bretby Sunburst Trade Mark

The partnership was dissolved on 1 January 1887 when William Ault set up his own pottery Ault & Co in Midland Road, Swadlincote.

Tooth & Co. produced both inexpensive pressed wares, and more expensive art pottery, in a variety of shapes and sizes from large jardiniere (1-2 meters) to trinkets. They also tried to emulate other types of surfaces e.g. metals such as pewter and copper, but using ceramic.  The range of objects manufactured was also huge, not just vases but famous figures, flora, fauna and bamboo-style decorative pieces.

There are a few examples in the images below. Their designs are quite distinctive and very tactile.

I especially love their 1930s ‘Kitchen Kupboard’  Bretby Ware. It is very similar to Cornish Ware made by T.G.Green, which I have collected over the years!

Bretby Kitchen Kupboard Advert

Bretby also produced a range called Clanta or Clanta Ware

Bretby remained part of the Tooth family until 1933. After WW2 they became known as Tooth and Company Limited, Bretby Art Pottery.

From the 1950s, Bretby moved into industrial pottery before finally closing in about 1996.

Backmarks for Bretby with the iconic sunburst.

Back Marks include the familiar rising sun over the name BRETBY (1884), and HT for Henry Tooth used from 1883-1900. Made in England is only found on 20th Century examples. The impressed mark usually includes the pattern/ Design number.

Year      Design number(s)
in use in that year

1891             917
1896            1065 – 1095
1897            1116
1898            1222
1907            1678
1908            1790
1911             1852
1924            2326 – 2701
1929            2985 – 3045

However, Bretby used the same moulds over several years, and reused them several times in years much later than their original registration. This makes Bretby very difficult to date!

The Clanta and Clanta Ware impressed marks were introduced in 1914.

The following images show the Bretby sunburst impression and design number.

The former Bretby Art Pottery building has been recently acquired by the Derbyshire based ‘The Heritage Trust’ . 

According to their website:-

We hope to find a sustainable new use that retains links to the pottery industry that once thrived in the area and using funding from The Architectural Heritage we are currently undertaking a project viability study.

Let’s hope they are successful in their endeavours and provide a fitting tribute to Bretby and Tooth & Co.

Please click on the following link for Bretby products available on our website.










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Clarice Cliff, A. J. Wilkinson Ltd, Newport Pottery, Shorter & Son Ltd

1930s Shorter & Son Staffordshire Pottery Set of Three Fish plates

Clarice Cliff, A. J. Wilkinson Ltd, Newport Pottery, Shorter & Son Ltd

A. J. Wilkinson Ltd, Newport Pottery, Shorter & Son Ltd were all factories owned by the Shorter family and they worked in close co-operation.

The ‘Shorter & Bolton’ business was founded as a partnership between Arthur Shorter and James Bolton in 1872, in Stoke, Staffordshire, UK.  In 1891, after the death of his brother in law, Shorter commenced managing A.J Wilkinson.

Arthur Shorter died in 1926 and Shorter & Son Ltd continued under the management of brothers Arthur ‘Colley’ Shorter and John Shorter, and Harry L. Steele. Colley Shorter died in 1964 and the business was acquired by S.Fielding & Co. Ltd (Crown Devon).

The arrival of Colley Shorter saw a change in direction in manufacturing for Shorter & Son, from domestic earthenware to wonderfully colourful novelty and ornamental products.

1930's Shorter & Son Pink Wild Rose Preserve Jar
1930’s Shorter & Son Pink Wild Rose Preserve Jar

Their main claim to fame were the renowned designers Mabel Leigh and the infamous Clarice Cliff, whom worked at the A.J. Wilkinson factory.

Mabel Leigh Pagoda Cottage

In 1927/8 Clarice Cliff designed the handpainted ‘Bizarre Ware’ pottery range. The name for the range was chosen by Colley Shorter whom married Clarice Cliff in 1940 after the death of his first wife.

Clarice Cliff ‘Red Picasso’ Bizarre Range


There has been much speculation as to whether or not this fish range of tableware was actually designed by Clarice Cliff.

1930s Shorter & Son Staffordshire Pottery Set of Three Fish plates
1930’s Shorter & Son Staffordshire Pottery Set of Three Fish plates

Shorter & Son Ltd trade names include ’Batavia Ware’ and ‘Sunray Pottery’.

The Shorter& son maker’s backmark comprised variations of a printed ‘Shorter & Son Ltd, Stoke-on-Trent, England.’  

1930's Shorter & Son Pink Wild Rose Preserve Jar
1930’s Shorter & Son Printed Back Mark

It is strange, to me at least, that many of us have heard the name Clarice Cliff but few of us have heard of Shorter & Son or their wonderful pottery. I hope this short blog goes some way towards remedying that!






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A Short Introduction To Gray’s Pottery

Art Deco 1930s Gray's Pottery Cream Wall Pocket Vase

A Short Introduction To Gray’s Pottery

Gray’s Pottery was founded in 1907 by Albert Edward Gray (AE Gray). The company was initially set up in Manchester, England prior to moving to Hanley, Staffordshire in 1912.

They are most widely noted as a pottery decorating company, however, in the 1930s there was a fashion for matt glazed undecorated products, and several undecorated pieces were produced. This trend was most notably led by Keith Murray at Wedgwood.

Wedgwood Keith Murray Tankard Mug
Wedgwood Keith Murray Tankard Mug

Grays most famous designer was Susie Cooper, who worked there between 1922 and 1929. She started as a production-line painter before reaching the level of Art Director. Cooper implemented floral, banding and strong geometric patterns, and also produced lustre vases.

Susie Cooper Gray’s Pottery

The Gloria Lustre range was a silver-medal winner at the 1925 Paris Exhibition.

Susie Cooper ‘Oranges’ Gloria Lustre

Backmarks for Gray’s Pottery

The most iconic back mark for Gray’s pottery includes the ‘Clipper’ or ‘Galleon.’ This mark appears as early as the 1910s.

Earliest Gray’s Pottery Backstamp, 1910s, with the iconic galleon

A variation of this backstamp was used right up to the 1950s and included two variations of Galleons, the Liner, the Clipper and the Pharaoh’s Boat. There was one exception which was the ‘Sunburst’ backmark used for the Gloria Lustre.

This commemorative plate nicely illustrates some of the main backstamps used by Gray’s.

Gary’s Pottery Backstamps


The following image shows a 1930s Back Stamp. All brown and approximately 28x5mm in size.
This uncommon mark appeared on ware made exclusively for Gray’s Pottery.

Art Deco 1930s Gray's Pottery Cream Wall Pocket Vase
Art Deco 1930s Gray’s Pottery Cream Wall Pocket Vase with brown 1930s backstamp


Gray’s pottery can often be found with two (dual) backstamps, one for the original maker of the white ware with a second, often superimposed, mark for Gray’s.

The ‘Zebra’ lustre pattern was one of the last to be produced by Gray’s in the 1950s and bears the 1950s clipper backstamp.

1950’s Gray’s Pottery ‘Zebra’


Gray also made collectibles for many large retailers including Dunhill, Heals, Mappin and Webb, and Mottahedeh (new York). The backstamps included the name of the retailer.


Grays was bought out by Portmeirion Potteries, in 1959, on the death of Edward Gray. One of the most famous designers/ owners of Portmeirion pottery was Susan Williams- Ellis, daughter of the renowned Sir Clough William-Ellis.

Sir Clough was the creator of the beautiful Italianate village in Portmeirion, North Wales. This may be better known, at least for fans of the 1960s TV series ‘The Prisoner,’ as the home of Number 6 (Patrick McGoohan): the one with the bouncy ball on the beach, and the people in stripy blazers and straw boaters….

Sir Clough William-Ellis Portmeirion Italianate Village in North Wales

For a more comprehensive look at Gray’s Pottery then click on this link to the rather wonderful ‘go to’ resource

For Gray’s Pottery products, please click on the following link.


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What Is A Wall Pocket Vase?

SylvaC 320 Pottery Wall Pocket Vase With Pixies

What is a Wall Pocket Vase? An Introduction To Wall Pockets

What Is A Wall Pocket Vase?  Today, we probably think of them as a flat backed ceramic vase, which can be wall mounted and filled with flowers but they are much more versatile than this.

A wall pocket is not to be confused with a:

  • Wall sconce, which is effectively a wall light or a receptacle for holding a light e.g. candles or, these days, electrical wires.
Meissen Porcelain Wall Sconce
  • Wall plaque a thin, flat plate or tablet of metal or porcelain intended for use as ornament.
Art Deco Cope & Co Lady wall mask
Art Deco Cope & Co Lady wall mask/ plaque

Wall pockets date back many centuries to when they were made out of cloth or wood. In fact, they are an early form of storage for those things you wouldn’t want to lose if you hadn’t the luxury of a chest of drawers or cupboards!

Cloth pockets stored things like scissors, needles and thread. Prior to the 17th Century, wooden wall pockets became popular for holding pipes, spills, candles, matches and eating utensils. Even today, you will often see a mounted wooden candle box holder in a church or stately home. Some of these may be modern reproductions but there are many antiques out there too!

Wooden wall pocket for storing candles

It wasn’t until the 18th century that we first saw stylish porcelain wall pocket vases with the arrival of the potteries in UK and abroad.

Most of these early pottery wall pockets were just too expensive for many people but, during the industrial revolution, cheaper methods of making ceramics were introduced, and the popularity of these wonderful objects just exploded.

Most potteries and manufacturers produced a version of a wall pocket including:

  • UK potteries: too numerous to mention e.g. Bretby, Royal Worcester, Wedgwood, Royal Doulton, Grays, Crown Devon, SylvaC, Arthur Wood.


  • U.S.A e.g. Roseville, whom produced wall pockets in the form of art vases which are now highly prized.
Roseville ‘Foxglove’ Wall Pocket
  • Japan e.g Noritake.
  • Germany e.g. Meissen, Dresden

This lasted until about the 1960s when their popularity started to decline as fashions in homes changed. I blame the arrival of stores like Habitat with their range of more affordable, must have, home designs: only joking!

Wall pockets can be found in all sorts of shapes and sizes from people, characters from books, musical instruments, hats, clothing, shoes, household objects, animals, birds, houses, seashells, fantasy/ mythical/ biblical  creatures, flora and fauna. In fact, just about anything you can think of! Sizes can vary from small, 5-10cm (2-4 inches), to over 30cm (approx. 1 foot).


Manufacturers didn’t just stop at using ceramics either. Wall pockets were also made out of glass, wood, metal, cloth and plastic.

Vintage Pink Glass Wall Pocket

There are not many survivors from this era as they had a habit of falling off walls… Just look what was used to hang this Aldridge Easter Bonnet shaped Wall pocket!

Aldridge Pottery Wall Pocket Vase: hung up with electrical flex!

Prices for antique and vintage wall pockets vary from just a few pounds to 1000s of pounds for some of the rarest designs.

They had, and still have, a multitude of uses including displaying fresh and dried flowers, living plants, herbs, storing soap bars, pan scrubs, hair and tooth brushes, filing papers, and house keys. I even heard of one lady who bought a vintage mouse shaped pocket vase and kept her pet mouse in it. The mouse was able to run up and down the flocked wall paper to its house whenever he pleased…. Ugh!

Wall pockets are still made today and from all sorts of materials and called by a range of names e.g. wall planters, holders, racks but rarely pockets or even just vases. They include reproductions of vintage and antique wall pockets, sometimes using the original moulds, to glass test tubes, holding a single flower stem or herbs, with a suction cup to enable you to stick it on to a window.

In fact upcycling of old light bulbs and chemical glassware has led to a whole range of wonderful wall mounted vases and holders. Have a look on Etsy and Amazon if you need some ideas!

Love them or hate them, these versatile household items have been with us for centuries and are here to stay!

Please click on the following link for Wall pocket vases for sale on our website.