Histories of UK potters and pottery manufacturers

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© Michael Perry 2011. Contact

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Last updated: 1st August 2011

PRATT (F. & R. PRATT & CO. LTD)

c.1818–1967?

Earthenware manufacturer at the Fenton Potteries, High St, Fenton (to c.1920?) and then at other factories in the Staffordshire Potteries. The business of brothers (?) Felix Edward Pratt (1813-1894) and Richard Pratt was founded in the early 19th century and the company was to become an important manufacturer of domestic earthenware and polychrome transfer printed pot lids. The company was acquired by H. T. Robinson, probably in 1916, and from 1920 it was a subsidiary of Robinson’s Cauldon Potteries Ltd operating from that company’s Cauldon Place Works.

F. & R. Pratt & Co. was one of the subsidiaries acquired by Harrison & Son (Hanley) Ltd when they purchased Cauldon Potteries Ltd from its bankruptcy in 1933. The F. & R. Pratt & Co. business operated from the Harrison’s Crescent Pottery (George Jones & Sons Ltd) from 1936 until 1958 when the Pratt name and intellectual property were acquired by E. Brain & Co. Ltd. In 1967 Wedgwood purchased the E. Brain & Co. Ltd business acquiring, in the process, the right to the Pratt name and patterns.

In the 19th century, the Pratt name was associated with the fine, usually multi-coloured, transfer printed engravings used to decorate the lids of earthenware pots used for food, pharmaceutical products and toiletries. The business also produced domestic earthenware including relief moulded earthenware (especially jugs) and tableware with underglaze, multi-coloured decoration (‘Prattware’). Terracotta and parian ware were other wares, and Godden (1988) notes that there are examples of mid-19th century porcelain printed with Pratt multi-colour underglaze prints, however, these may have been bought-in ware decorated by the company.

Whilst Felix Pratt was the commercial driving force behind the business, the artist was a Jesse Austin who joined Pratt in the early-1840. He was an accomplished watercolour artist and engraver and over nearly 40 years, the business produced over 550 poly chrome prints used to decorate the now well known pot lids. Pratt’s first under-glaze, polychrome pot lid was made in 1847 and was a scene ‘Grace before Meals’. Austin’s subject included royalty, famous people, city scenes – there are eleven views of London – and this portrayal of the life and times of Victorian England is one of the reasons for the lid’s popularity today. Austin also made minature watercolour copies of famous paintings and these too appear on pot lids and Prattware.

Pratt Ware jug, Grecian Key pattern, 1910-1920.Although the pot lids have become well known, the engravings were also used on the containers themselves, on plates and on other domestic earthenware manufactured by the business and it is this good-quality domestic pottery that is termed ‘Prattware’. So good were the engravings that the pot lids and Prattware rapidly became a collectible and the first exhibition was apparently held in 1897 only three years after Felix Pratt’s death. Cauldon Potteries Ltd continued to issue reproduction pot lids under the F. & R. Pratt name using the original Jesse Austin engravings and the practice was continued up to the 1960s by the various owners of the Pratt name. In 1976 Coalport (as part of the Wedgwood Group) reproduced a Pratt engraving as decoration on a limited edition Christmas plate. Similar plates were made each year until at least 1979.

Collecting the Pratt polychrome pot lids became very fashionable in the 1920s and the interest has continued to the present day. Hundreds of thousands were manufactured, but of those that remain the majority are in poor or indifferent condition. Undamaged pot lids with crisp, clear prints are now rarely seen and are expensive – and this has encouraged copyists and repairers into the market. There is a Pot Lid Collectors Society.

Early marks consist of the Pratt name and or initials in various forms including ‘F & R P’, ‘F. & R. Pratt’, and F. & R. P. & Co. (from circa 1840) and F. & R. Pratt & Co. An unusual late-19th or early 20th century mark is the naked figure of a discus thrower, sometimes appearing without reference to the Pratt name. Post-1920, marks may include ‘Royal Cauldon’ as part of the mark.

Reference

Ball, A.(1980). The Price Guide to Pot-Lids and other Underglaze Multi-colour Prints on Ware. (2nd Edition). Antique Collectors’ Club.

Clarke, H. G. (1960). The Pictorial Pot Lid Book. Courier Press.

Dale, R. (1978). The Price Guide to Black & White Pot Lids. Antique Collectors’ Club.

Lewis, J. & Lewis, G. (1993). Pratt Ware – An Introduction. Shire Books. ISBN: 9780747802204

Lewis, J. & Lewis, G. (2005). PRATT WARE – English and Scottish Relief Decorated and Underglaze Coloured Earthenware 1780-1840, Antique Collector’s Club, England, 1984/1993.

Williams-Wood, C. (1972). Staffordshire Pot Lids and their Potters. Faber & Faber.

On the Web

transferwarecollectorsclub.org/

This is the site of the Transferware Collectors Club and covers British underglaze transfer printed ware in general including Prattware, blue & white ware, etc.

 

© Mike Perry 2010