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particular; we shall reserve that subject for the concluding portion of the present work, if the public countenance shall afford us reason to think that such an extension of it
may be acceptable. We propose, however, to make some We general observations relative to the causes which have operated, from time to time, to promote so great an advancement of this manufacture; and, to give a general view of the progress of events, not restricted to matters of topographical or historical detail; but extending to the various circumstances by which this Trade, concurrently with the Cotton and Silk Manufactures, and other branches of our national industry, has risen to its present unrivalled eminence.
Of the origin of the Earthen Manufacture at Burslem and the neighbourhood, the destructive hand of time has left no record; but the causes of its establishment here are obvious enough, from the combined natural advantages presented by abundance of COALS, which the District supplies, CLAYS proper for working on the wheel, and Saggar MARL, all of them found near the surface; and although the clays were dark-coloured, and the vessels wrought of them by the primitive Potters, came out from the fire opaque and dun, they were dense and substantial, and well adapted for domestic uses, during the long period which preceded the introduction of modern luxuries.
In 1686, when Dr. Plott published his Natural History of Staffordshire,* he described four sorts of clay from which the various kinds of Ware were fashioned, and which, he says, were dug round about the Town of Burslem, all within half a mile's distance. From this account we may conclude, that the seat of the Pottery was at that time circumscribed pretty much within those limits. He described the qualities of those several clays; and the slips by which some of the superior wares were ornamented; also, the different descriptions of articles
+ Ibid. p. 122.
manufactured, and the operations of the artizans, with so much minuteness, as must convince every reader that he had attentively witnessed what he described. After the firings were completed, "they then draw them," (he proceeds), "for sale, which is chiefly to the poor crate-men, who carry them at their backs all over the country." One considerable branch of the Trade, at that time of day, seems to have been the Butter-pot,—a coarse, cylindrical, unglazed vessel, in which the butter, sold at Uttoxeter Market, (and no doubt other neighbouring markets), was bought up by the London dealers. We extract the passage here referred to, which is rather curious, and is preceded by an observation, that the London Cheesemongers had set up a factorage for butter and cheese, at Uttoxeter; and that they frequently laid out £500 in those articles on a market-day :
"The butter they buy by the pot, of a long, cylindrical "form, made at Burslem, in this county, of a certain size so as not to weigh above 6lbs. at most, and yet to contain, at least, 14lbs. of butter, according to an Act of "Parliament made about fourteen or sixteen years ago,* for regulating the abuse of this trade, in the make of the Pots, "and false packing of the Butter, which before was laid
THE BUTTER-POT TRADE.
good for a little depth at the top, and bad at the bottom, "and sometimes set in rolls, only touching at the top, "and standing hollow below at a great distance from the "sides of the pot. To prevent these little country moor"landish cheats (than whom no people whatever are es"teemed more subtle), the factors keep a surveyor all the summer, here, who, if he have any ground to suspect any of the pots, tries them with an instrument of iron "made like a cheese-taster."t
This Act was passed A. D. 1661, (13 and 14 Car. II. cap. 26,) and proves that Dr. Plott's account must have been written about 1676. + Plott, p. 109.
At that period, as Dr. Plott informs us, "a Potter's oven was ordinarily about eight feet high, and six feet wide, of a round, coped form." It was, no doubt, sheltered by some kind of out-work, or penthouse, to preserve the regularity of the heat; which, according to the testimony of elderly people, was in the most ancient times a wall of clods, but afterwards of broken seggars, roofed over with boughs and clods, and appropriately termed a hovel. One such hovel, with thatched sheds, as workshops, attached, for the Thrower, Presser, Handler, (Stouker) and other operatives,* perhaps from five to eight in number, at a single work; and a drying shed, similar to those now used at our Tileries; a tank for preparing the diluted clay, in which it was evaporated to the proper consistency by the heat of the sun, (and thence called a sun-pan,) with a smoke-house, as it was termed, for drying the green ware more expeditiously,-this cluster of mean buildings gives a specimen of the ancient Potwork, until near the middle of the last century, when a spirit of improvement and enterprize gradually arose, and some of the more successful and spirited of the manufacturers began to erect for themselves respectable houses, and improve and enlarge their old-fashioned laboratories. Soon after, Dr. Plott wrote, viz. about the year 1690, the practice of glazing with salt was introduced; lead ore, or Smithum, having been the fusible material previously used for glaze, which Dr. Plott says was procured in Fown's Field, on the side of Lawton Park, which is within five miles of Burslem, and sold to the Potters at six or seven shillings per ton.
*We use this word, in deference to the improved language of the present day; we need hardly say such a word would have puzzled the poor Potters a century ago. + Page 166.
In 1831, the vein was traced up to the vicinity of Trubshaw Colliery, and some favourable specimens were obtained; but the speculator died, and the work was abandoned.
ELERS' SAMIAN WARE.
It has been thought by some, that the salt glaze was in use before this period; but Plott would certainly have mentioned it had he known of it, and there can be no doubt that his remarks were made from personal observation; and the more correct opinion, we think, is, that the process of glazing with salt first was practised by two ingenious foreigners, of the name of Elers, who set up a small Potwork at Bradwell, within two miles of Burslem; from whence the people flocked in astonishment to see the immense volumes of smoke which rose from the Dutchmen's ovens.* The same individuals also introduced an improved kind of unglazed red ware, of a delicate sort, resembling that called Samian, for which some of the clays of this vicinity were suitable; but they did not long continue their operations in Staffordshire; being eyed with the utmost jealousy and inquisitiveness, by the native Potters; and they removed the seat of their manufacture to the neighbourhood of London. Their practice of glazing with salt was, however, according to general tradition, obtained surreptitiously by the Burslem Potters, by the artifice of a workman, who, feigning himself an idiot, got access to their works; and while they took no notice of the apparent dolt, he took sufficient notice of their mode of glazing and other particulars, to enable him to communicate the secrets to his employers, who soon adopted the discovery, and for a considerable period the use of salt, which was poured by degrees into the tops of the ovens, during the process of baking the ware, and whilst in a state of intense heat, was found to answer all the purposes, and for a long time almost superseded the use of the lead glaze. The quantity of salt consumed in this way must, indeed, have been enormous; for, in the paper before referred to, of the date of 1762, it is stated, that the Excise duty it contributed to Government amounted to near five thousand pounds per annum.
* Aikin's Manchester, p. 526.
↑ See p. 29.
Soon after the commencement of the 18th century, the whiter clays from Dorsetshire and Devonshire began to be used by the Staffordshire Potters, in washing or lining the insides, and ornamenting the outsides of their wares; and, about the year 1720, a considerable improvement was made, by using calcined flint-stone, at first as a wash or dip, and afterwards incorporating it with the clays. The merit of first introducing Flint is generally attributed to Mr. William Astbury, of Shelton,* who, in his journey to London, stopping at an inn at Dunstable, noticed the very soft and delicate nature of some burnt flint-stone, when mixed with water (the ostler having used the powdered flint as a remedy for a disorder in his horse's eyes); and thence conceived the idea of applying it to the purposes of his trade.
Several individuals, soon after this time, engaged in the Earthen Manufactures with spirit, and introduced further improvements, whose names deserve honourable mention in our pages.
In 1733, Ralph Shaw, of Burslem, obtained a patent for making a description of ware, the body of which was of a chocolate colour, the inside lined with a white slip, and glazed with salt; but the other Potters contested his right to such a monopoly, and in an action brought to try the validity of the patent, at Stafford Assizes, it was declared to be void.
A mixture of flint with the native clays was the basis of the white stone ware, which, being washed in a slip of Devonshire clay, and glazed with salt, produced an excellent and durable article, which obtained great reputation and very extensive sale, and became the staple commodity of the district for many years. Vast quantities, even at that time of day, were exported to the British Colonies of America and the West Indies, as well as