Shorter and Son (Ltd)


Location and period of operation:

Shorter and Son Ltd




* following the take over in 1964 by Fieldings (Crown Devon) the Shorter business was moved to the Fielding's Whieldon Road site and operated as a division of Crown Devon Ltd until 1974. Ware was generally marked with both Crown Devon and Shorter.


Earthenware and Majolica manufacturer at Copeland Street, Stoke, Stoke-on-Trent


  • Arthur Shorter had earlier been a partner in Shorter, Bettelley, Millward & Co. In 1878 Bettelley and Millward withdrew and Shorter was in partnership with James Boulton (the '& Co').

  • Arthur had two sons - the youngest John Guy Shorter (usually known as Guy) and the older Arthur Colley Austin Shorter (usually known as Colley)

  • In 1900 Guy Shorter became manager - the partnership of Shorter and Son probably dates from this time. It is not certain when James Boulton withdrew from the business but by 1906 the company was Shorter & Son.

  • The Shorter family had interests in and later acquired the pottery companies of A. J. Wilkinson  and Newport Pottery 

  • 1926 - The father Arthur Shorter died. Over the next few years his two sons, Guy and Colley, developed their products along more adventurous lines.

  • 1932 - After various others, Harry L. Steele was appointed manager, a position he was to hold for the next 30 years.

  • In 1933 the business was incorporated as Shorter and Son Ltd with the brothers Guy and Colley as directors and Harry L. Steele as the Director-in-Charge.

  • WWII Shorter and Son Ltd. remained in production throughout the war

  • 1940 - After the death of his first wife, Colley married Clarice Cliff who became Artistic Director of the group of potteries.

  • 1950 - John B. Shorter, son of Guy Shorter, joined the company and was soon appointed as sales director.
    Shorters flourished through the following decade, producing popular new lines and reintroducing some of their old ones.

  • The 1960s saw stiffer competition which, together with Colley’s ill-health in 1961, caused the firm to falter.

  • In 1963 part of the Copeland Street factory was demolished for the A500 road development scheme. 
    This, plus the expense of conversion to smokeless firing, led the directors to accept an offer for the business from S. Fielding and Co. the owners of the Crown Devon name.  

  • Shorter & Son then operated from Fielding’s Sutherland Street factory under the management of John B. Shorter who continued with the new owners until his retirement in 1972. Shorter & Son Ltd. was still listed as a subsidiary of Crown Devon Ltd. in 1971

  • In 1964 Colley Shorter died. Clarice Cliff-Shorter disposed of the family shares in Wilkinsons and Newport to the neighbouring Midwinter Co. who wanted to expand production.


Previously:  Shorter & Boulton  

Subsequently:   taken over by S. Fielding & Co




Shorter and Clarice Cliff

"The pottery firm which later became Shorter and Son was first set up by Arthur Shorter in 1878 with a partner James Boulton in Stoke on Trent. Their products were solidly in the main-stream of Victorian taste - majolica wares of all types: jugs, bowls, flower pots and tableware, predominated.

In 1891 Arthur’s brother-in-law A. J. Wilkinson died in an accident. Arthur Shorter was asked to manage the pottery Wilkinson had established in Burslem in 1885. A few years later he bought the firm and in 1898 Arthur’s son Colley joined him. His younger son Guy, who became manager at Shorter's in 1900, joined his father and Colley at Wilkinson's in 1905. The two factories worked in close co-operation, advertising and exhibiting jointly.

Colley and Guy were made directors of Wilkinsons in 1916, the same year that Clarice Cliff, aged 17, started work there as a decorator. In 1920 the family acquired the Newport Pottery, also in Burslem, later famous for its production of Clarice Cliff’s "Bizarre" ware. 

In 1925 Colley Shorter, much impressed by Clarice’s work, provided her with her own studio next to his office. He also sent her on a modern design course at the Royal College of Art and a trip to Paris to observe the arts scene there. Allowed to experiment with old Newport Pottery shapes, she produced her new bold geometric designs, so expressive of the Art Deco age. Colley was a consummate salesman and it was he who conceived the idea of personalising her designs with her signature, thus launching one of the 20th century’s design legends. 

In 1926 Arthur Shorter died and over the next few years his sons felt freer to develop their firms’ products along more adventurous lines. The Shorter factory itself, still the most traditional in its output, felt the wind of change. In their book ‘The Shorter Connection’, Gordon and Irene Hopwood explore in detail the extent to which the creativity of Clarice Cliff was channelled into Shorter products in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s.

Shorter’s received a further creative boost in the 1930’s from the employment of the designer Mabel Leigh, who in two short years with them produced an extensive and exciting range of ‘ Period Pottery’. This was based on ethnic designs from around the Mediterranean, Africa and Central America. Even though she left the firm in 1935, the designs had such appeal they continued to be produced for years afterwards.

In 1940, after the death of his first wife, Colley married Clarice Cliff who became Artistic Director of the group of potteries. Shorter’s flourished through the following two decades, producing popular new lines and re-producing some of their old ones. Running into stiffer competition in the 1960’s and with the loss of Colley’s participation, retiring due to ill-health in 1961, to die in 1963, the firm began to falter.

Clarice Cliff-Shorter disposed of the family shares in Wilkinson and Newport and so control passed to the Midwinter Company. Shorter’s were effectively taken over by Crown Devon in 1964 and their distinctive identity was finally lost with the retirement of the last family member John, Guy’s son in 1972."

Ref: ‘The Shorter Connection’ by Gordon & Irene Hopwood, published by Richard Dennis




Pre-1920 Shorter ware was typical Edwardian majolica ware, jardinieres, plant stands, umbrella holders, bulb bowls, jugs, vases, etc and undistinguished domestic earthenware, novelty lines and ornamental earthenware.

From the 1920s onward, Shorter & Sons specialized in the manufacture of ornamental and novelty earthenware. 

To quote an article in the Pottery Gazette (March 1941):

‘There are literally thousands of high-quality earthenware novelty lines covering all table adjuncts and every conceivable household pottery novelty—cleverly modelled and effectively decorated’.

The novelties included Toby Jugs, tobacco jars, ash trays, sugars, creams, cruets, butter dishes, posy holders , and a host of other household items and many of these, especially the Toby Jugs, were still in production in the 1960s.




cabbage leaf jug 


Neptune toby jug 

this example produced by Shorter & Son pre 1963
Toby Jug ware continued to be made when the
company became a subsidiary of Crown Devon in 1963

after 1963 ware was marked with both Shorter & Crown Devon 



Vase in the Kashan pattern
designed by Mabel Leigh in the early 1930s



Sunray Pottery 

Serving/trinket dish from the Galaxy range

"Galaxy, marketed in 1960, consists of asymmetric shapes based on a wavy-edged leaf design. There is a great variety in the size and overall shape of each piece. A single colourful embossed flower decorates the pastel background which is shaded in two colour combinations fo mauve, green and peach."

The Shorter Connection - Irene and Gordon Hopwood



figurines in the style of what is known as a “Pew Group”

Probably produced in the 1930-50 period. 

Shorter produced Toby jugs, character jugs and figurines 
throughout most of their existence.

This example imitates 18th/19th C Staffordshire figurines (hence the “Old Staffordshire”), often produced with a flat back to stand on the mantlepiece or hung on the wall.

Wikipedia article on Pew Group

Genuine Old Staffordshire

cast in number 738





photos courtesy: Bruce Hamilton 


Fish tableware 
'a wavy-edged hors d'oeuvre dish with a fish-shaped sauce bowl'  

photos courtesy: Janine Soetens

Shorter & Son Ltd
  • It was in the late 1920s that Shorters introduced on of their most consistently best-selling lines, Fish Ware. Early sets comprised of a large serving plate and six medium sized plates which were matt glazed in deep cream or ivory, sometimes with the tail and fins emphasised in pale green or turquoise. The range was gradually extended. 

  • A reference in the Pottery Gazette in 1935 records that a Fish Set in "matt grey glaze, ornamented in brown" was purchased by the Queen Mother, then the Duchess of York. The following year the range was extended to include a sauce boat with stand, a cover dish and an extra-large platter known as a "Pike".

  • The Fish Ware range was extended considerable and, by 1950, included a curved crescent salad dish, and circular plates in two sizes. A salad bowl with servers, a wavy-edged hors d'oeuvre dish with a fish-shaped sauce pot were later additions, to be followed in 1957 by a double serving dish in which two fish confront each other nose to nose and a pair of comical fish on a wavy tray dispense salt and pepper.

  • The latest addition to the range was a double dish in which the fish swim side by side. 

  • A high glaze and unusual colour combinations in turquoise, mauve, grey, green or yellow, simetimes striped, are typical of the 1950s Fish Ware. 

The Shorter Connection - Irene and Gordon Hopwood





Marks used on ware for identification:

Shorter & Son Ltd trade names include ’Batavia Ware’ and ‘Sunray Pottery’. 
Most of the Shorter marks are utilitarian - virtually all ware was marked with 
a printed ‘Shorter & Son Ltd, Stoke-on-Trent, England’ or similar wording.

Batavia Ware
Shorter & Son

c. 1914-36

the original company of 
Shorter, Bettelley, Millward & Co
was recorded as being at the 
Batavia Works

Sunray Pottery
Shorter & Son

c. 1936-40

Sunray Pottery

c. 1940+


Handpainted by
Shorter & Son
Staffordshire England 

Shorter & Son

c. 1905 - 33 

Genuine Staffordshire 
Shorter & Son Ltd

marks with 'Ltd' are dated 1933+


Made in England
Crown Devon


Toby Jug ware continued to be made when the
company became a subsidiary of Crown Devon in 1963

after 1963 ware was marked with both Shorter & Crown Devon 


Shorter & Son works, Copeland Street, Stoke-on-Trent

May 1963

Photographer: Bert Bentley
Image courtesy of Stoke-on-Trent Ciry Archives

Exploring the Potteries



bottle kilns to the rear of Shorter & Son works

March 1965

The photograph shows the wharf on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Wharf Street in Stoke. To the left is a railway embankment.

The buildings to the right face onto Copeland Street and the bottle ovens belong to Shorter & Son Pottery. 

- click for more information on the three factories
owned by the Shorter family


Questions, comments, contributions? email: Steve Birks