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[AC] Mead Art Museum at Amherst College; [HC] Hampshire College Art Gallery;
[HD] Historic Deerfield; [MH] Mount Holyoke College Art Museum; [MH SK] The Joseph Allen Skinner Museum at Mount Holyoke College; [SC] Smith College Museum of Art; [UM] University Museum of Contemporary Art at UMASS Amherst


Maker(s):Lancaster Delftware Pottery (possibly)
Culture:English (1754-1786)
Date Made:ca. 1770
Type:Food Service
Materials:ceramic: tin-glazed earthenware (delftware) with cobalt blue decoration
Place Made:Great Britain: Lancashire, Lancaster or London
Accession Number:  HD 2022.13
Credit Line:Museum Collections Fund

Lancaster or London delftware (tin glazed earthenware - a type of earthenware covered with a tin-lead glaze, often in imitation of Chinese porcelain) is not very well known in scholarly and collecting circles. Lancaster is a city in northwest England, in the county of Lancashire and located on the Lune River - not far from the Atlantic Ocean. The pottery was operated for more than 30 years in the second half of the 18th century (1754-c. 1781-1796), but all memory of the pottery was entirely forgotten in Lancaster, even though the pothouse itself stood until the 1940s. The city histories even fail to mention it. News of increasing trade wealth experienced by northern cities, such as Whitehaven and Glasgow, encouraged the Lancaster Port Commissioners to invest significant funds into a new, deep water harbor for ocean-going vessels in the mid-18th century. In 1754, the newly established Lancaster delftware pottery, operated by John Breakbane, a grocer, and William Charnley, a merchant, sought to sell their earthenwares in exchange for sugar, rum, and tobacco in the American colonies and West Indies. When in operation, the Lancaster delftware manufactory focused almost exclusively on plates, bowls, and mugs, basic forms desirable for colonists' tables. Unfortunately difficulties such as the silting of the port, devastating hurricanes in the West Indies, and competition from fashionable creamware hit the Lancaster delftware business hard, causing its closure sometime after the death of John Breakbane in 1781. In 2007 as part of a redevelopment scheme, an archaeological excavation took place on the former St. Georges Quay area in Lancaster. The Northern Ceramic Society funded additional archaeological work in 2008. Finds included kiln furniture, biscuit ware (once fired, unglazed ware), and glazed ware with blue and polychrome decoration. A wide range of blue and white decorated plates, punch bowls, and mugs were found. One particular plate pattern has been identified and appears to be unique to the site - borders of geometric patterned leaves separated by parallel brush strokes, often having an ochre rim. Historic Deerfield does not have an example of Lancaster delftware in the collection. There is evidence that Lancaster delftware bowl fragments have been found at James Getty Workshop and Kitchen at Colonial Williamsburg, but undoubtedly more will be found with time. Given the Connecticut River Valley's connections with the West Indies, it is possible that some shards will be found here.

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