Thursday, 3 February 2011
Anybody know what this is? I haven't a clue, though it is another piece of Burmantofts pottery, with its colourful turquoise glaze and unusual pierced design. It looks lovely against the stone floor of the 1853 Gallery in Salts Mill - though I think many visitors pass it by without even noticing it.
The history of the Burmantofts pottery is interesting. It began as a small coal-mining and brick-making business in 1842 in the Burmantofts area of Leeds, run by two young men: William Wilcock and John Lassey. They discovered fireclay in their mine and began using it to make sanitary pipes and chimney pots. John Lassey died young and his share of the business was eventually sold to John Holroyd and then to his son Ernest. When William Wilcock also died, Ernest's brother James Holroyd became the general manager. He gradually developed the business, starting to produce decorative tiles and pottery including eventually high-temperature faience (glazed terracotta) architectural pottery and the 'Art Pottery' for which Burmantofts became nationally renowned. Trade prospered until 1904 when fashions suddenly changed and manufacture of terracotta pottery ceased. The business continued with other products until 1957.
Some of the Burmantofts ware is intricately decorated like the vase I showed yesterday. Other pieces are in a single bright (lead) colour and glaze, with intricate moulding and raised lines. Still others have stylised Art Nouveau and Arts & Crafts designs: curvy stems and flowers, leaves, peacocks and fish. It's highly collectable these days, with even small pieces fetching hundreds of pounds at auction.
As I said yesterday, the Silver family have an enviable collection displayed in Salts Mill. The Leeds museums (including the Abbey House Museum at Kirkstall) also have collections, and some buildings in Leeds, such as the University, have Burmantofts ceramic decoration incorporated into their architecture.