Pilkington's Lancastrian Pottery & Tiles

Pilkington’s was a manufacturer of tiles, vases and bowls, based in Clifton, Greater Manchester, England. It was established in 1892 at Clifton Junction, alongside Fletcher's Canal. The company employed talented designers, the most famous of whom was Charles Voysey. Production of art pottery stopped at the end of the 1930s, although tile production continued. Pilkington's Group Plc occupy the site today.

In 1889 the Clifton and Kersley Coal Company sank a pair of pit shafts with the intention of working the coal seams lying next to the geological feature known as the Pendleton Fault. However, work became increasingly difficult due to the excessive quantity of water. When it became clear that the work would not produce coal, the four Pilkington brothers decided to use the marl that had been encountered to make glazed bricks.  But, the marl was found to be unsuitable for this purpose.

By chance, the secretary of the coal company knew William Burton, a chemist working for Josiah Wedgwood and Sons. Burton tested the marl and suggested that a more commercial venture would be to make tiles. Decorative tiles were at that time becoming quite fashionable and they were in high demand. The site of the proposed factory had many advantages. It was close to Clifton Junction railway station and next to Fletcher's Canal . There was abundant coal nearby in the local Wet Earth Colliery, a short distance away along the same canal.

By 1903 the factory had developed an opalescent ceramic glaze called Lancastrian. The name came from the county of Lancashire where the factory was sited. It became popular in Pilkington's Lancastrian line of pottery. A later glaze took its name from Manchester, the Cunian glaze. Other famous glazes were used, e.g. sunstone, eggshell, fiery crystalline, aventurine, merged and curdled glazes. Glazes of different textures were also produced. These "fruit skin" glazes had surfaces like orange peel or apricot.

The pottery's work was exhibited at the Franco-British Exhibition of 1908 in London.

William Burton (1863–1941)

William Burton was a chemist with the Wedgwood Company at the Etruria Works in Stoke-on-Trent. He had an extensive knowledge of the ceramics industry. It was he who suggested that the red clay and marl found at Clifton was suitable for production of ceramic tiles. Decorative tiling was becoming a popular trend at the time, and represented a long term commercial proposition. Burton oversaw the production of fine pottery in the style of ancient Persian and Chinese potters. He employed fine artists and commissioned work from some of the top designers of the time. Burton was a friend of H. G. Wells and was inspired by the Arts & Crafts Movement, and in particular, the workings of William Morris and John Ruskin. He chose artists and designers that shared this inspiration. The Lancastrian Pottery works became high quality examples of the Arts & Crafts Movement.

John Chambers (1869–1945

Burton invited John Chambers to join him in the running of the Pilkington's Tile & Pottery Company. Chambers was often responsible for designs produced in what became known as the 'Persian style'. He was head of the architectural pottery department throughout his time with the company.

Royal Lancastrian Glazes

High lustre glaze finishes were produced from 1906. They are particularly associated with the designer Gordon Forsyth, who joined the company in the same year. The name 'Lancastrian' was used for the new ware due to the location in the county of Lancashire. Later on, 'Cunian' glazes were named after the site's proximity to Manchester. Glazes of different textures were used. Some of the more famous glazes used by the Royal Lancastrian Pottery Company included sunstone, eggshell, crystalline and aventurine. One of the most notable, Lancastrian Lustre, was exhibited at the Franco-British Exhibition of 1908.

In 1913 King George V and Queen Mary visited Lord Derby, in whose home several Lancastrian vases were proudly displayed. It was then that permission was granted for the royal warrant to be used. The firm became Pilkington's Royal Lancastrian Pottery Company.
 

bowl by Walter Crane and William S. Mycock for Pilkingtons. 1932

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