Dated English delftware and slipware in the Longridge Collection

Editorial Staff Art

By Leslie B. Grigsby. Originally published in June 1999.

The Longridge Collection of ceramics is English pottery Valhalla. Nestled in a New England house with rare English and Continental treen, medieval ivory and metalwork, and early furniture and carvings, this extraordinary collection of ceramics can be divided into two main groups: about 440 pieces of tinglazed earthenware (delftware) and 100 pieces of lead-glazed earthenware with slip decoration (slipware). Many of the pieces are quite rare, and all reflect the owner’s fascination with bold shapes, decorative motifs, and inscriptions. Conspicuous is almost unheard of number of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century dated pots and dishes: 132 of delftware and 55 of slipware.

  • Pl. I. The bowl that forms the bottom section of a four-part delftware (tin-glazed earthenware) wassail bowl, probably London. Inscribed “EKE/1708” inside the spice container at the top. Height 241/4 inches. See also Pl. Ia. The objects illustrated are in the Longridge Collection; photographs are by Gavin Ashworth.



  • Pl. II. Delftware vessels probably made by the Picklegerring pottery or possibly the Montague Close pottery in Southwark, London. Height of tallest, 97/8 inches. Left to right: Mug inscribed “EDMVND:PEIRSON:&:ELIZABETH:1635.” Mug dated 1630 or 1632 under the handle. Bottle dated 1628 under the handle. 



  • Pl. III. Delftware dish, probably Picklegerring or Montague Close, Southwark. Inscribed “AWF/1638” on the front and “RI” and “AFW” (in monogram) on the back. Diameter 161/2 inches. 



  • Pl. IV. Delftware dish, probably or Montague Close, Southwark. Inscribed “1622/: STEPHEN: FORTVNE&: ELIZABETH:” around the border well. Width 193/8 inches.



  • Pl. VII. Slipware (lead-glazed earthenware with slip decoration) dish, probably Hanley, Stanffordshire. Inscribed “RALPH TOFT 1676.” Diameter 171/2 inches.



  • Pl. XIV. Slipware cradle and dish, Staffordshire. The cradle is inscribed “IOHN MEIR/MADE THI[S]/1708.” Height 51/2 inches. The dial on the dish is inscribed “Sam[uel] Malkin/The maker/in bur[s]la/m.” The date, 1712, is indicated by the numberals “17” under the hand that points at 12 o’ clock. Inscribed below the dial is “The:Chri[s]tian[s]:dyal:or:a/Cheap:Watch:for:a:poor:Man.” Diameter 141/4 inches.



  • Pl. IX. Delftware objects probably made in London. Height of candlestick, 93/4 inches. Left to right: Bossed mug inscribed “GBW/1653.” Goblet inscribed “MR1/1656.” Plate inscribed “IWA/1664.” Candlestick inscribed “IIT/1653.”



Many of the dated pieces in the collection can be organized by decorative subject: Chinese and Japanese (kakiemon) motifs and European themes, including neoclassical and commemorative designs, company arms, landscapes, and religious and everyday subjects.

Among the earliest of dated English delftware objects are examples attributable with more or less confidence to the pottery in Southwark, London, who, in 1627/28 received his second patent, granting him permission for the sole making of all such gallyware [tin-glazed earthenware] and other ware as heretofore he hath been accustomed to make (himself beinge the inventor thereof within this Kingdome)… And all kinde or sort[s] of bottell[s] of all Colo[rs] basons er ewers salt dishes of all sort[s] drinkinge pott[s] pavinge tyles Apothecaries & Conmfittmakers pott[s] of all sort[s] & all kinde of earthen worke.

As Wilhelm was also permitted to search locations suspected of holding wares that infringed on his patent, other potters presumably were producing tin-glazed wares at the time. Dating to this time is the earliest delftware object in the Longridge Collection, a 1628 bottle (Pl. II, right) that is very comparable to one with closely related decoration and the same date that  astonished archaeologists when it fell from the ceiling during the London Underground’s recent excavation of a tunnel from Westminster to London Bridge. The bird-on-rock motif on the three objects in Plate II derives from the ornament on Chinese porcelain of the Wanli period (1573-1619). Dated English delftware examples range from 1628 to as late as 1651. Some of these may have been made at Pickleherring under Wilhelm’s son-in-law, Thomas Townsend, who managed the pottery from 1630 to about 1645, or under his successor, Richard Newnham, the manager between about 1645 and about 1684. The motif was probably used at other London factories as well, and it was not uncommon on seventeenth-century Dutch kraakporselein, tin-glazed earthenware that imitated and was named for some Chinese wares being exported to Europe.

Much less common on English delftware than designs derived from the Chinese are Christian religious motifs. Among the most important and earliest objects so decorated is a large dish dated 1638 that depicts the Adoration of the Magi (Pl. III). The lamb may be a reference to Christ, the Lamb of God, or the lamb and child could represent Saint John the Baptist. The scene, probably derived from a Bible illustration, includes many contemporary elements, such as a dish on the shelf resembling Chinese export porcelain, the latticed window, candlestick on the floor, and the furniture. The outer border was inspired by Italian maiolica. The initials “AWF” on the front of the dish and in monogram on the back may refer to Aaron Witt and Frances Allen, who were married in Southwark on July 9, 1638. The initials “RI’ on the back may be those on the potter Richard Irons, who was buried in Southwark in 1664. When the plate was made the only three potteries active in Southwark were Pickelherring, Montague Close, and Rotherhithe. Centuries after its manufacture, the dish hung on the wall of a house in South London, where it survived the blitz of the 1940s.

The classical taste is perhaps best illustrated in the collection by the boldly painted and relief decorated fecundity dish dated 1633 shown in Plate IV. It is the earliest of at least twenty dated examples from various molds, the latest dish being from 1697. Such dishes derive from sixteenth-century French lead-glazed earthenware dishes traditionally attributed to Bernard Palissy (1510-1590) — thus the popular title “Palissy dishes” for the English examples — although there is no evidence that Palissy’s factory made relief dishes decorated with fecundity scenes. On the dish illustrated, the decorator combined European motifs and Chinese designs. The Artemisia leaves in the oval border reserves of the fecundity dish represent one of the Eight Precious Things revered by Buddhists. English delftware potters apparently chose such motifs for their decorative merit alone rather than for any interest in their meaning.

The dates and occasionally initials on fecundity dishes indicate that some examples were produced at Pickleherring and others perhaps at Montague Close. Fragments of an undated fecundity dish were excavated at Rotherhithe. Examples bearing royal portraits in the border wells, presumably reflecting the owners’ political sympathies, are sometimes also dated. A 1659 dish in the collection (not shown) dates to Cromwell’s Protectorate, and one of 1671 to Charles II’s reign (1660-1685).

References to royalty also appear on the dated objects shown in Plates V through VIII and X. The earliest (Pl. VI, left) is a bottle, probably from Southwark, that is initialed “CR” and dated 1644. This places its manufacture during the English Civil War (1642-1651), a period when overt support for the king may have been dangerous. The bottle is one of at least eight bearing crowns and dates from the reign of Charles I (1625-1649), and some are inscribed “CLARET,” “SACK,” OR “WHIT WINE.” Crowns, perhaps also indicative of royalist sentiments, surmount cartouches on Longridge delftware obhects dated from 1653 to 1664 (see Pl. IX).

Another bottle probably made in Southwark is dated 1650 and inscribed with the name “IOHN*TOMES” (Pl. VI, center). It dates to the Commonwealth but is tentatively associated with Charles II because a John Tomes of Long Marston is credited with disguising Cromwell’s men following the battle of Worcester in 1651. Jane Lane (d. 1689), a friend of the Tomes family, first aided Charles by disguising him as her manservant and having him accompany her to the Long Marston house of a Mr. “Tombs,” and then on toward Sherborne, from whence Charles escaped to France.

Delftware portraits of Charles II in ceremonial robes are probably derived from published images. The earliest dated object in the collection with such a depiction is a mug from 1661 (Pl. VI, second from left). Chronologically the next object is a magnificent and exceptionally large jug (Pl. V, right) dated 1662 that portrays Charles with his bride, Catherine of Braganza (1638-1705). The initials identify the owners and (in an unconventional fashion) the royal couple. Charles wears armor under his robes, and the portrait reserve is set against a landscape with exotic (probably Chinese) figures, buildings, and oversized flowers. On the blue-dash charger of 1666 at the left in Plate V (one of twenty-six in the collection) Charles’s robes cover clothes in the French style rather than armor. He stands in a columned hall with a vaulted interior, a setting unkown on dated ceramics before his coronation in 1660.

The comparatively unpopular James II (r. 1658-1688) was next to rise to the English throne, but is not very often referred to on English delftware. William III (r. 1689-1702) and Mary II (d. 1694) are much better represented. The mug in Plate VI, second from right, probably dates to the five-year period between the coronation and Mary’s death. A plate dated 1691 (not shown) depicts bust-length portraits of the couple, and blue-dash chargers in the collection have full-length portraits of the couple together and singly.

Mary’s sister Queen Anne (r. 1702-1714) is commemorated posthumously on a larger number of English ceramics than most other monarchs, including on the mug of 1720 shown at the right in Plate VI. Anne was the last of the Stuarts to be crowned and was presumably the focus of Jacobite hopes. In reality, she appears not to have pretested the coronation of her sister Mary II and William III, which introduced the house of Hanover into the line of succession.

The royal arms, rather than a portrait, are found on the extremely important tile shown in Plate VIII. Based on its date of 1664, it was made during the reign of Charles II. No other heart-shaped tiles displaying the royal arms are known, and the only recorded earlier tile of this shape is dated 1663. Typically, large tiles of this type are associated with pharmaceutical use, and most bear the arms of London’s Worshipful Society of Apothecaries. The “NB” initials on the tile illustrated here perhaps refer to Nathaniel Bateman who, in April 1653, was admitted as a freeman of the Society of Apothecaries.

Like the heart-shaped tile, three pieces of slipware in the collection bear English royal arms, The earliest (undated and not shown) is signed “WILLIAM: TALOR” and was probably made during the reign of Charles II. It resembles in its decorative style and trellis border the 1676 dish in Plate VII, which is signed ‘RALPH TOFT.” Dates on signed Ralph Toft dishes, most of which display courtly themes, appear to be limited to 1676 and 1677.

Stylistically much different from the slip-trailed dishes is the impressive sgraffito-decorated dish shown at the center in Plate X, probably made in Morth Devon (now Devon). The date 1748 and the initials “GR” for George II (r. 1727-1760) appear on the motto ribbon below the shield. Comparable dishes are extremely rare.

Much more frequently royal arms occur in sgraffito on large North Devon harvest jugs, so named for their association with carrying drink to farmworkers in the fields. Two such jugs in the collection are initialed “GR” and date to George III’s reign (1760-1820). The example at the left in Plate X is inscribed under the handle “Come fill/me full with/Liquor Sweet for/that is good when/friends do meet/march the 13/1766.” The other jug (not shown) bears a similar rhyme and the date 1791. The earliest date on any of the more than a dozen such jugs known is 1735. An example dated 1748 and inscribed with a harvest thyme and the name John Hockin bears decoration that particularly resembles that on the dish shown at the center in Plate X. The continuing popularity of such jugs is demonstrated by the example dated 1797 (Pl. X, right) with an unusual figure of a woman holding a scythe and sheaves of wheat within a frame inscribed “CERES.GODESS.OF.THE.HARVEST.” Flanking this reserve are flowering plants with birds, and under the handle is a heart-shaped panel inscribed with a drinking rhyme and the signature, “Made [scratched out] in Bideford By Tho[s]Ba[f?]t/for Mr: PARKER/1797.”

Unlike slipware potters, those who made delftware very rarely included full signatures on their work and only slightly more often initialed it (see Pl. III). Instead, the names and initials on tin-glazed wares typically represent the owners and are prominently placed. Several delftware pieces in the collection dating from the 1650s and 1660s show initials and dates within elaborate cartouches set against otherwise plain white grounds. The mug of 1653 at the left in Plate IX and a posset pot dated 1651 are the only two known hollow ware objects displaying rows of bosses pushed out from the interior. A Southwark attribution of bossed vessels is based on their dates and on biscuit fragments of similar mugs excavated from the Pickle-herring site as well as tin-glazed fragments found at consumer (as opposed to production) sites in London. Also excavated at Picklegerring were biscuit fragments of a base and stem, much like those of the goblet shown in Plate IX, second from left. This goblet is one of five dated in the 1650s, one of which bears the arms of the Copper’s Company and the inscription “he that hath this cup in hand drnke up the beere let it not stand 1656.” Wine and other liquors were probably also drunk from such vessels.

The candlestick of 1653 at the right in Plate IX takes its shape from contemporary metalware. No other delftware candlestick of this shape is known to bear a date, but one of a defferent shape is inscribed “WWE/1648,” the earliest date found on any delftware candlestick. The initials have been associated with William Withers and Elizabeth Snelling of Saint Olave’s Parish, Southwark. The Pickleherring factory was active in the same parish.

The arms of various London companies also appear on nine pieces of dated delftware in the collection. Theree of the earliest are shown in Plate XI. The bottle at the right, inscribed “THOMAS WIBRON” and dated 1650 displays the arms of the Worshipful Company of Parish Clerks. Winbron perhaps commissioned the bottle to celebrate his acceptance as a freeman of the company. For unknown reasons, all other dated delftware bottles with company arms also date to around this time. The mug or caudle cup at the center in Plate XI is dated 165[7?]. It bears the arms of the Worshipful Company of Bakers and the twice repeated initials “AMR”, presumably for a baker and his wife. Prominent on the cup are the inscription “DRINKE:YP:YOVR:DRI/NKE & SEE:MY:CONNY,” and, on the interior a crouching rabbit—both lewd references to a part of the female anatomy. The final object bearing company arms illustrated here is the trick posset pot dated 1674 shown in Plate XI, left, which has a false bottom about one third of the way up. The front spout, flanked by the Merchant Taylor’s arms and an inscribed panel, opens into the upper chamber. The back spout opens into the lower chamber, further access to which is provided by an open-ended tube that rises from the center of the true bottom. Sucking on the wrong spout produced nothing but air.

European landscapes on late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century English delftware often derive from Continental prototypes and are well represented in the Longridge Collection. Particularly important is a massive wassail bowl (Pl. I), dated 1708, that retains its three-part lid, including a small covered spice container. The beautifully painted scene on the outside of the bowl depicts a stag hunt in a landscape with large domed buildings that perhaps represent an actual estate. Considering the use of large bowls of this general type, depictions of Bacchus and grapes are surprisingly uncommon, and no closely comparable figure to the Bacchus inside the Longridge bowl (Pl. Ia) has been found. The inscription on the spice container (“EKE/1708”) and to a large extent the unusual borders on the bowl recur on a plate in the collection and on another from the same set. All three may have been produced for a single household.

Slightly later but also depicting European landscapes are the hitherto unpublished punch bowl and two-handled cup dated 1715 and 1716, respectively, shown in Plate XII. These vessels are so similar in figures, details of the date numerals (those on the cup are on the bottom) that they were almost certainly decorated by the same hand. The flowers and birds on the reverse of the cup imitate Chinese porcelain motifs and are typically associated with Bristol, although elements of the landscapes are of a type usually attributed to London. The scene on the interior of the punch bowl (Pl. XIIa) differs so much from that on the exterior that it is probably by a different decorator: It also introduces a group of pots in the collection that are illustrative of everyday life. The drinking scene in the punch bowl is painted in a palette and style often associated with Bristol. It perhaps depicts Punch (who was commonly portrayed as a hunchback), which would be a play on the use of the bowl. The scene may also be a reference to the troupe of Italian hunchbacks in a popular series of prints by Jacques Callot (1592-1635).

The slipware cradle dated 1708 (Pl. XIV, left) reflects a more personal aspect of life and was probably made in celebration of a birth and may have been presented as a christening present. Staffordshire slipware cradles bear dates from as early as the 1670s and continued to be made there and at other potting centers until well into the nineteenth century. John Meir, shoes signature appears on this cradle, may have been related to the potter William Meir, who signed a somewhat similarly shaped cradle dated 1693. The back of the bonnet of the 1708 cradle depicts a crowned head of indeterminate gender, perhaps reflecting support for Queen Anne who, a year earlier, achieved the passage of the Act of Union, which, among other things, joined Scotland to England, creating Great British.

The clockface dish shown next to the cradle (Pl. XIV, right) initially seems to reflect the potter’s awareness of the other extreme of our existence: death. The humorous inscription in relief below the dial, however, proves otherwise. It reads “The:Chri[s]tian[s]: dyal:or:a/Cheap:Watch:for:a:poor;Man.” The dial itself is inscribed “Sam[uel] Malkin/ The maker/in bur[s]la/m.” The date, 1712, is indicated by the number  “17” in a square under the hand that points to twelve o’ clock. The only other known dish of this type is in the British Museum in London. A matching shard inscribed “Chri[s]t[…]/[…]p W[…]” was unearthed at Massey Square in Burslem, Staffordshire, and identifies the site of Malkin’s factory. Another fragment from the site is from a dish of a different model but appears to record the same sentiment, for it is inscribed “[…]Cheap[?…]/For:a […]/ma[…].”

Three of the five other Malkin dishes in the collection are also dated: one, from 1726, portrays a man under a compass and an inscription urging moderation; another from 1726 bears an Old Testament verse and an image of Lot’s wife; and the third, from 1730, depicts Saint George.

Among the most obvious ceramic references to everyday life are delftware shoes, which also prove excellent illustrations of the evolution of footwear fashions. Delftware shoes were associated with good luck. The earliest Longridge shoe 9Pl. XIII, left), the toe of which is inscribed ;MH.1654,” and a closely similar one with the same date and “IHE” have bows rather than the buckles found on later examples (see Pl. Xiii, right). By around 1700 inscriptions on delftware shoes are usually under the arch, and from the 1 690s onward painted ornament often imitates the popular floral chintzes that covered their wearable counterparts. The large boot shown in Plate XIII, second from left, although undated, was probably made about 1650 and is included here because of its extreme rarity. Presumably the inscription “OH.MY.HEAD” on the rim is a jocular reference to overindulgence in alcohol. Fragments of the only other known English delftware boot resemble this one in shape and some of the decoration. They were found during excavations at Platform Wharf at Rotherhithe in Southwark.

Unlike the shoes and boot, the button shown at the center of Plate XIII was actually intended to be worn. It was found in TooleyStreet in Southward, and its inscription, “T/1667,” may indicate that it was a badge proving membership in a club or perhaps it granted the wearer access to places of meeting during the year 1667. This is one of only three recorded delftware buttons. One of the others depicts a rampant lion and is inscribed “165[1?]/IH.” The other, undated and depicting a crowned queen’s head, was excavated north of the Tower of London.

The porringer shown at the left in Plate XVI postdates the button by six years but shares with it the border motif, which was popular on delftware from the 1640s. Another very similar porringer in the collection is also dated 1673 but lacks the outer ring of Chinese scrolls seen on the first example. A third 1673 porringer, which resembles the Longridge examples in profile and handle, was excavated at the site of Winchester Palace near Montague Close in Southwark. Comparable porringers and handles have been found at the Pickleherring site.

Two other delftware porringers in the collection (Pl. XVI, center and right) have a different more rounded profile. The one of 1727 in the center shares the style and placement o the inscription, handle ornament, reserve border, and some of the elements of the reserves with a porringer dated 1739 in another collection. Based on their decoration, both porringers were probably made in London. The porringer at the right in Plate XVI, dated 1731, has a lobed border of a type found on London and Liverpool delftwares, some with dates in the 1720s and 1730s. Somewhat surprisingly, the border also occurs on the latest known dated delftware porringer—of 1765—which is also in the Longridge Collection.

The Staffordshire slipware porringer with a relief-molded handle in Plate XVI (second from left) is a rare instance of the form in slipware bearing a date. The earliest known dated slipware porringers are two sgraffito-decorated ones dated 1669 from Barnstaple, one depicting a lion and the other a flower in the interior. The earliest Staffordshire example may be a trailed-slipware two-handled porringer dated 16781 depicting a cock.

Comparable to the porringers in size and presumably use is the piggin dated 1699 shown in Plate XVI, second from right. Slipware with cream-colored trailing against a dark slip ground was eventually produced at seceral potting centers, but the early date on this example probably indicates it is from Staffordshire. Light-on-dark slipware decoration also appears on the low cup dated 1700 shown at the left in Plate XV. Much the same type of ornament is found on drinking vessels and a chamber pot from the 1690s, excavated near the Sadler Pottery in Burslem, and on two mugs dated 1690 and 1694 with combed tulips and vertical banding.

Also attributable to Staffordshire is the large drinking cup dated 1688, shown second from the left in Plate XV. It is one of three such cups. All dated 1688, that are unusual because they only have initials around the rim rather than “THE BEST IS NOT TOO GOOD FOR YOU,” which is more commonly found above flowers on the form. Stylistic similarities and the fact that the initials “WS” and “RF” appear on some cups with the slogan made between 1688 and 1689 may indicate that both types were produced by the same potters.

The earliest dated piece of combed Staffordshire slipware may be a two-handled, cylindrical posset pot dated 1671 in the Longridge Collection. The two combed mugs shown in Plate XV (third and fourth from left), which are dated 1690 and 1711, respectively, are part of a group of such mugs bearing dates between 1679 and 1726. Initials are most common on mugs of this type, but other inscriptions do appear.

The large Staffordshire slipware cup dated 1761 at the right in Plate XV shows a departure from traditional motifs and decorating methods in favor of crisp, engine-turned designs. Dated cups of this form with closely related dice or basket-weave ornament range from 1759 to 1766. Other vessels with engine-turned ornament have been excavated at American colonial sites.

The stunning delftware puzzle jug and punch bowl shown in Plate XVII help to complete the comparatively full circle we have created, moving from early design inspirations from Chinese porcelain, to neoclassical and other European influences, and finally back to the Orient. On the jug and bowl, the brilliant palette, delicate painting style, and ornament are derived from Japanese kakiemon porcelain. The jug nears the so-called banded-hedge motif also found on English and Continental porcelain. The punch blow is decorated with pheasants and large flowering plants and on the interior introduces European motifs by depicting an owl and the rhyme “SINCE DRINKING HAS POWER, TO GIVE US RELIEF, COME FILL UP THE BOWL, & A POX ON ALL FRIEF. IF THAT WON’T DO, WE’LL HAVE SUCH ANOTHER, SO WE’LL PROCEED, FROM ONE BOWL TO [THE] OTHER.” Such playful combinations of humor with elegant and traditional designs make English delftware and slipware continually fascinating.

A fully illustrated, two volume catalogue of the Longridge Collection, written by Leslie B. Grigsby with contributions by Michael Archer, Margaret Macfarlane, and Jonathan Horne, will be published by Jonathan Horne in late 1999 or early 2000.


LESLIE B. GRIGSBY has recently been appointed the curator of ceramics and glass at the Winterthur Museum. Winterthur, Delaware.