thepotteries.org

Ironstone

 

Ironstone is a type of stoneware introduced in England early in the 19th century by the North Staffordshire potters who were looking for a substitute for porcelain that could be mass-produced for the cheaper market. The result of their experiments was a dense, hard, durable stoneware that came to be known by several names e.g.: semiporcelain, opaque porcelain, English porcelain, stone china, new stone -all of which were used to describe essentially the same product.

There is no iron in ironstone - it was so named because of its durability. 

 


Mason & Co Patent Iron Stone China fireplace
produced in 8 pieces - made in a Cantonese style pattern

date: 1825-37 
 

 


China Chimney Piece
Mason & Co. Patentees Staffordshire Potteries
 Patent Iron Stone China

These Royal Arms are pre Queen Victoria (1837)
- click for more -

 

Ironstone - key dates:


1800: The first successful manufacture of ironstone was achieved in 1800 by William Turner of the Lane End potteries at Longton, Stoke-on-Trent. 

1805: In 1805 Turner sold his patent to Josiah Spode who called his bluish gray wares stone china and new stone. "which he exported in immense quantities to France and other countries"

1813: A patent was granted to Charles James Mason of Lane Delph for the manufacture of "English porcelain", a white ware that he marketed as Mason's Ironstone China. 
Mason used a mixture of Cornwall clay, ironstone slag, flint and blue oxide of cobalt to produce a hard, opaque, bluish white pottery that had a smooth, glossy finish after glazing and firing.

1827: Other other potteries began experimenting with this new process, and by the time that Masonís patent expired in 1827, many other potters had developed theirown  individual formulas to get similar results. 

1842: James Edwards marketed the first white ironstone china in America.

1850s: In the late 1850s ironstone ware was started to be made in the US but it was not until the 1870s and 1880s that a larger number of American potters were producing ironstone. 

 

There were many 19thC North Staffordshire manufacturers of Ironstone 

Various names were used such as 'Ironstone China'; 'Royal Patent Ironstone'; 'Ironstone', 'Royal Ironstone' -these usually didn't have any particular significance, each potter was often just trying to differentiate themselves from other manufacturers. 

Many marks incorporate the Royal Arms - some potters had a Royal Warrant and were entitled to display the arms. 
Some potters used the arms even if they did not hold a warrant. The Merchandise Marks Act of 1887 made it illegal for companies to falsely claim that they had a Royal Warrant. The unauthorised use of the arms
still continue after this date. 

 


Ironstone China
J & G Meakin

- J & G Meakin -

pre: 1890


Prince of Wales
Royal
Patent Ironstone
Burgess & Goddard

- Burgess & Goddard -

c. 1840s-90s


J M & B
Ironstone

Indian Tree is the pattern name

- John Meir & Son -

c. 1837-90

 


 

Examples of the use of the name 'Paris White Ironstone'  

There was nothing special about this type of ironstone - the potters
thought that a 'Parisian' connection sounded more sophisticated. 

 


Patent
Paris White Ironstone
J. R.

- John Ridgway -

c. 1830-55


Walley
Paris White 
Ironstone China
(impressed)

- Edward Walley -

c. 1845-55


Paris White Ironstone
Wedgwood & Co 

(impressed)

The registration diamond gives a date for the registration of the pattern as 17the September 1867

 - Wedgwood & Co -

 


'Pearl China - Ironstone China'  


W.B. & Co
Pearl China
Fenton 

PW
Ironstone China
W B & Co 

c.1839-60

Both of these printed and impressed marks appear on the same platter. The ware was likely made for the American market (hence the eagle on the top of the printed mark)

The PW on the impressed mark is likely for PEARL WARE (a trade name - used by a number of potters)

- William Barker & Co -

 


 

Decorated ironstone

The earliest ironstone items were decorated, many with hand painted oriental designs or transfer patterns in an attempt to copy Chinese porcelain cheaply.

Although transfer ware was much less expensive than imported dinner ware, the dishes lacked the delicacy of the Chinese porcelain. Transfer designs covered the entire surface of each item to mask the flaws in the thick, heavy "stone china" beneath.

 

White ironstone china

In the 1840's, the English North Staffordshire potters began exporting the undecorated wares to the American and Canadian markets. The English potters discovered that the "Colonies" preferred the unfussy plain and durable china. 

Development of patterns

Because much English ironstone was exported to the US, American names were often used for patterns, including Columbia, New York, Virginia, Union, Potomac and Atlantic.


example of an American place name used as the pattern name
the impressed mark reads:
John Meir & Son
Washington Shape 

- John Meir & Son -


Because items made of ironstone were thick and heavy, the shape of the dishes became important. In the 1840s, James Edwards, John Ridgway and the Mayer Brothers introduced all white, beautifully glazed dinner ware with angular shapes that deviated from the gentle curves that had been traditionally used. In 1844, John Ridgway & Co. patented a design called "Classic Gothic," a hexagonal shape with crown finials and scrolled arches. Other potteries offered variations on the "gothic" design during the 1840s.

Classical and ribbed patterns remained popular between 1850 and 1880. In 1851, Thomas and Richard Boote introduced an octagon shape, combining sharply angled outlines with softly curved or oval handles. T.R. Boote also produced the "Sydenham" shape in 1853, similar to the "Octagon" design, but more ornate and detailed. Another pattern, "Square Ridged," featuring scallops and ridges, was produced by several manufacturers in the 1880s. "Hexagon Sunburst" combined hexagonal shapes with rounded designs on handles. "Iona," by Powell, Bishop and Stonier, featured scalloped ridges along the bottom of traditionally shaped dishes.

Plant & leaves patterns

As Americans moved west, many patterns were based on the plants that could be found on the prairies. Fruits, grains, nuts and pods were embossed ironstone dishes. Wheat, corn and oats were used to represent the plentiful crops in the midwestern US. 

A pattern called "Corn and Oats" used ears of corn for finials on lids. Arcs of wheat decorated "Arched Wheat" by the American potter R. Cochran & Co., and a similar design called "Wheat and Hops" was produced by several English manufacturers.

Leaves were also popular during the 1850s, including oak, maple, grape and ivy. Raised vines trailed around borders and cups. Grape leaves and vines sheltered tiny, embossed bunches of grapes. Other fruits were used as well, including peaches, figs, plums, pears and berries. Flowers also decorated a lot of the mid-century ironstone. 

Lilies of the Valley, tulips, forget-me-nots and hyacinths were used individually and also combined with other flowers in patterns such as "Meadow Bouquet" by W. Baker and Co. and "Summer Garden" by George Jones.


An example of a mark from a  white ironstone dinner plate  - this mark was designed for the American market - the use of the British Royal Arms had been substituted with the American eagle and the shield with stars & stripes. 


J Meir & Son
Porcelain Opaque
(impressed)

 Pearl White Ironstone
J Meir & Son 
(printed)

 


T & R Boote
Sydenham pattern 

Wedgwood & Co

Edward Pearson
 


English white ironstone 

 


 

American ironstone china 

Until the late 19th century, most dinnerware in the US was imported. Although clay was plentiful in several areas, most of it was used to make bricks, tiles and practical utensils such as jugs and crocks. 

However, in the 1870s and 1880s, several American potters began to make white "granite ware." Most of these dishes were utilitarian. Bowls, spittoons, pitchers and milk pans were manufactured in great quantities, along with a uniquely American item called the "Daily Bread" platter that had sheaves of wheat and, in some cases, embossed mottoes around the rims.

With the steady growth of population and wealth, American potteries thrived and utilized the rich deposits of clay that were found in New Jersey, Ohio and other areas along the Atlantic seaboard. Several potteries were situated in New Jersey, including City Pottery in Trenton, which claimed to be the first in their state to manufacture "white granite."

Many potteries were also established near East Liverpool, Ohio, including Knowles, Taylor & Knowles and Homer Laughlin & Co. 

Because of its sturdiness, durability, and popularity in rural areas, it was sometimes labeled "thresherís china" or "farmerís china."

Most of the ironstone produced in the US had simpler shapes than the English imports which were still preferred by Americans. In an attempt to sell more of their wares, most American potteries did not mark their wares, and some used marks that resembled the British Royal Arms.


William Young & Sons
Trenton, New Jersey
From 1858 to 1879 their mark included the British Royal Coat of Arms

William Young was employed by John Ridgway, of Shelton, Hanley, England. Young afterwards went into business for himself and subsequently emigrated to the USA.

Ott & Brewer
Trenton, New Jersey, US

In an attempt to capitalise on the popularity of English ironstone the company named their factory "Etruria Works" (after the Etruria Works of the famous Josiah Wedgwood in Stoke-on-Trent, England)

American Potters start to use American symbols on their ware

As the quality of American made pottery increased people became more confident in purchasing American ware there was a transition from the use of the British Royal Arms to the use of the American Eagle, the Arms of the State of New Jersey.

Homer Laughlin & Co even used a mark which depicted the American Eagle attacking the English Lion

- click for more info on the British Royal Arms -

 

 


Questions, comments, contributions? email: Steve Birks