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Tuesday, 11 January 2011

The Search for an English Pottery

This small fragment is one which was discovered in the yard of No. 4 the Circus, in Bath. It’s pretty exciting, because with a little archaeological detective work we can figure out what this piece once looked like, where it was from, the sort of person who may have owned it, and when it was made.

Even with the little detail,
we can discover a lot about a piece of pottery!

This fragment has a maker’s mark, also known as a backstamp. Potters put a lot of time and energy into making their designs, and so they wouldn’t want for anyone to be able to rip off their patterns. By registering and patenting their designs, they could be legally protected if anyone else tried to use it without their permission. The marks helped to show who owned the design and when it was registered. Staffordshire potters have marked their wares since at least the 1790’s. This has the name of the maker, a pattern name and a registration number – all of these give us information.

The Swinnertons were a company formed in 1906 based in Hanley, Stoke-On-Trent. In their peak they owned six factories – three of which were teapot factories. They sold pottery with the Swinnertons name on it for almost 60 years, aiming their goods at middle class households. Today, the company is part of the Doulton group – I’m sure you’ve heard of their figurines!

The registration number on this piece, 837606, lets us know when the pattern was first made. Each registration number is unique, and kept in files at the National Archives in Kew. The numbering system was started in 1884: with over 1500 potteries in Staffordshire alone, no wonder the numbers are long! This number would have been registered in 1940.

Now, what does the actual piece look like? Since this is just a base, I couldn’t tell you if it was a saucer, a plate, or a larger dish. There also seems to be TWO patterns selling online with the name ‘luxor vellum’ and the same registration number: a plain cream, and a floral pattern. Try searching for Swinnertons “luxor vellum” 837606 on the internet, and tell us in the comments which one you think this pattern is!

Want to look up your granny’s teacups and find out more about them? Thepotteries.org (run by an amateur historian in Stoke-On-Trent) has a table of what range of numbers were registered between 1884 and 1965. It’s a good place to start!



  1. Hi, I bought a Swinnertons Luxor Vellum plate in a charity shop today. It has the same number as your fragment and it is this pattern

  2. Hey,
    Great feedback - it's one up for the poppy pattern............. Thanks for the post.

  3. i have a bowl with the same pattern and number....are they worth anything at all? :D

  4. We can't give valuations but a simple web search should answer your questions :o) RB

    1. it would seem not. thats what watchin to much antiques road show does.... :D thought i could have been sitting on a goldmine for a very brief moment.lol! thanks for the reply. :)

  5. My grandmother gave me a set of Swinnertons Luxor Vellum plate with the same number as your fragment.

  6. I just bought a set of bowls same number .. floral in ivory gold rims.

  7. AnonymousJuly 03, 2014

    I have the complete dinner set same marking but with a c at the very top. It is cream with gold edge and pink roses.

  8. A friend posted a photo of two plates bearing the same number.

  9. I have a serving platter with the same number but it also has a hand painted number 3583 on it.

  10. I found a china fragment on a beach in opua, nz. All that is showing is'winnertons' and the teapot logo.
    Also the word 'shire'
    With help from the internet I know more of its history now, so thank you very much for your blog.

  11. I have four white cereal bowls with pattern on lip of bowl no colour with same reg on bottom they were my parents that married in 1955 always remember them in the cupboard