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- Cornish Ware - collectible,
but no longer being made
- Cornish Ware collectibles
a colourful pastime
- By Jessamy Johnson
- On entering Shelagh Stewarts townhouse in Cobourg,
Ontario, one of the firstthings you notice is an extensive collection
of Cornish Ware.
- It ranges from the more commonplace plates, cups and bowls
to much rarer items, such as large casseroles with unusual lettering,
egg beaters, rolling pins and vinegar and sauce bottles.
- The latter items are now very difficult to find at auction
and in shops and they command high prices, whereas the more every-day
items can still be picked up for a few dollars.
- Shelagh, an artist and recently retired Ryerson School of
Fashion professor, was drawn to Cornish Ware by the simple lines
and the utility of the pieces.
- Friends had bought a house, complete with all furnishings,
in Grand Pre, Nova Scotia, and, at the back of a cupboard in
the kitchen, they found an old Cornish Ware mug that had obviously
never been used.
- These same friends remembered that Shelagh owned some pieces
of Cornish Ware and donated the mug to her. Then another friend
gave her a little casserole (unfortunately missing its lid) and
a very early spice jar.
- And so was born a new passion.
Cornish Ware was produced by the pottery T.G. Green, located
in Church Gresley, Derbyshire, England. The Derbyshire county
boasted a large number of potteries as the area was blessed with
both coal and clay in abundant supply.
- Thomas Goodwin Green bought the pottery, then named Foley
Works, from Henry Wileman in 1864.
- Green was obviously an extremely determined and hard-working
individual. He had gone to Australia to make his fortune, having
had his proposal of marriage rejected by Mary Tenniel (who, incidentally,
was the sister of the famous illustrator Sir John Tenniel). Presumably,
her only reason for turning Green down was that she had not considered
him rich enough as she was happy to accept his second proposal
of marriage on his return, a wealthy man, from Australia in 1861.
Thomas Green was determined his pottery would be modern and self-sufficient.
Not only did he design and build a new factory from scratch,
using his own bricks for the purpose, he also insisted the pottery
was independent of other suppliers.
- At T.G. Greens, all materials, glazes, and colour mixing
was done in-house. Clay was taken from local seams and blacksmiths,
fitters, joiners and artisans were employed to produce both the
china and to keep the pottery running at all times.
The pottery originally produced items for the home in yellow
and red earthenware for families who lived in the Midlands and
north of England and who were employed by the mining, textile
and engineering industries located there.
- The potterys market grew, as did the scope of its production.
Factory catalogues of the early 1900s show the potterys
huge range of wares in a variety of colours, patterns and shapes.
- The first mention
of Cornish Ware was in 1925. Legend has it the companys
south of England sales representative compared the colour of
the ware to the blue of the Cornish skies and the white
crests of the waves, which led to the name.
- This romantic notion was put to good marketing use and 1930s
promotional leaflets for retailers carried the line: Blue
of the Atlantic - White of the Cornish Clouds - Glisten of the
The blue and white design, with its crisp bands of color, complemented
the change in fashion from ornate to simple that occurred in
the 1920s and 1930s and it was immediately successful.
- In 1928, Cornish Ware won the Certificate of the Institute
of Hygiene and this same institute not only awarded Cornish Ware
its Silver Seal in 1935, but went on to give the brand further
certificates up until 1968. This illustrates the enduring popularity
of Cornish Ware during this period.
In its heyday, T.G. Green employed over 700 people and was one
of the leading manufacturers of kitchen, hospital and institution
ware, plus domestic pottery including tea and dinner services.
- Despite the economic difficulties of the Second World War,
the pottery was able to produce decorated pottery, including
Cornish, for the export markets, while the home market was restricted
to using white or yellow wares and a new range entitled Utility
- Cornish Ware is created by spraying a piece of pottery (originally
a whitish-gray colour) with a blue slip. A lathe is then used
to cut the bands. Having added handles and/or spouts, the pieces
are then fettled and fired for a second time in a kiln.
- Flatware is fired, blue bands are sprayed onto the piece
and it is then fired again. Lettering is added using transfers
(the spacing can be uneven), and unusual lettering commands higher
- Most pieces of Cornish Ware are backstamped and this gives
a rough idea as to the date of a piece. A slightly more certain
way of dating an item is through its shape (and referring back
to catalogues) though this method is not infallible.
In the 1930s, T.G. Green decided to exploit its success with
the distinctive blue of Cornish Ware and went on to produce Domino
wares (blue background with white spots); Tallyho wares (blue
background with white hunting scenes) and the Polo range (blue
background, rounded shape with white handles - this also comes
in a red slip).
One of the reasons for the potterys enduring success was
its capacity to move with the times and the fashions. The pottery
kept its finger on the design pulse and would employ creative,
- Two of the best known of these designers were a Scandinavian,
Berit Ternell, who joined in the 1950s and in the 1960s, a young
English designer called Judith Onions.
Judith Onions was brought into the company to overhaul and update
the designs. She streamlined the shapes, made them more angular
and boxy and also introduced new colors such as yellow, green,
mustard, and red. Her work was hugely popular and certainly contributed
to T.G. Greens continued success.
- In the 1970s and 1980s, two major shop chains, Marks &
Spencer and Habitat, carried their own brand of Cornish Ware
and, again, different colors were used, including pale blue,
pink and black.
Despite a commercial success that has endured over decades, competition
and taxation resulted in the company going into receivership.
The pottery has been bought and then sold by a variety of both
financial institutions, management buy-outs and competitors,
but to no avail.
- At the moment, Cornish Ware is no longer being produced and
its fans can only add to their collections by scouring collectibles
shops and auction houses.
Jessamy Johnson would like to thank Shelagh Stewart for her
help with this article and the copious cups of coffee in Cornish
Reference: Cornish Ware and Domestic Pottery by T.G. Green by
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