Stoke-on-Trent - photo of the week

contents: 2008 photos

click for

Thomas Toft Slipware Plate

Thomas Toft Slipware Plate, manufactured c.1680


A "priceless" 17th Century artwork is going on display after spending the last 30 years under a farmer's bed.

The slipware charger, a large dish designed by the potter Thomas Toft in Burslem, Staffordshire, has not been seen by the public since the 1890s.

The piece of pottery has been donated to the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, in Stoke-on-Trent, and will now go on display for the first time in over a 118 years.

The piece is a slipware charger, a large dish, and is signed by the potter Thomas Toft. The dish dates back to 1680 and is one of only 40 worldwide signed by Toft.

Unlike all other Toft pieces, the dish has remained in private hands for generations. The donors, who wish to remain anonymous, are from a Shropshire farming family.

The dish used to be displayed over the fireplace in the family's home, but has spent the last 30 years under the farmer's bed for safe-keeping!

Miranda Goodby, Ceramics Collections Officer, said: "We are so very thrilled to receive this most rare and generous gift.

"This is so very, very rare and museums being given pottery or art of this quality just does not usually happen.

"The dish came into the possession of a man called John Morton and when he died in 1888, his three daughters inherited it as part of his estate. Two of the daughters wanted to sell it, such was the value, but one of the sisters, Jane, would not sell as it was family heirloom. She decided to keep it as her share of the estate."

"In the 1890's it went on display at an exhibition in Shrewsbury and that is the only time the public have ever had chance to see it."

Miranda added: "It has been handed down over time and the most recent owners have been two brothers, farmers in Shropshire. They have been under pressure to sell, and it is worth a lot of money. But they wanted to abide by their grandmothers' wishes and never cash in.

"They have no immediate family to pass it on to, so they have generously decided to give it to us. It is very hard to put a value on this. To the museum it is priceless."

The Toft is the first to be displayed at the Museum for 64 years

The Fleur de Lys decorated dish will further enhance the museum's extensive ceramics collection, recently described by the Antique Roadshow's Eric Knowles as, 'one of the best in the world.'

Councillor Hazel Lyth, Portfolio Holder for Enterprise and Culture for Stoke-on-Trent City Council, said: "This is excellent news for the Museum and the people of the city.

"Thomas Toft was a local potter and to have such a rare piece of pottery donated to one of the city's museums is fantastic, and can only add to what is one of the finest collections in the world."

Thomas Toft is the best known of the 17th century Staffordshire slipware potters.He made his dishes in Burslem and designs attributed to him include mermaids, unicorns, and pelicans.

He also created dishes featuring King Charles II and his wife Queen Catherine of Braganza, and numerous coats of arms.

A cross-hatched rim was fairly typical of the style and has been copied up until the 20th century. Very little is known about Toft's life.
It is believed he was married in 1663 and was buried in Stoke on December 3 1689.

Slipware is a kind of coarse earthenware decorated with a coloured clay and water mixture of creamlike consistency called slip.


May 2008

see more on Toft