Printed British Pottery and Porcelain Timeline 1750-1900

Historical Timeline


Irish engraver John Brooks working in Birmingham unsuccessfully applied for the first patent for "printing, impressing, and reversing upon enamel and china from engraved, etched and mezzotinted plates”.  Brooks subsequently moved to Battersea, London from where in 1754 and 1755 he made two more unsuccessful patent applications for printing.


Although the origins of Staffordshire underglaze blue printed earthenware are obscure, it is clear that by 1784 the process had been perfected and by 1785 Josiah Spode had commenced commercial production.


In December 1840, Samuel Scriven visited the Staffordshire Potteries to collect evidence for a Government study of working conditions in the manufactories and their coal mines. He finished his investigation by late February and submitted his report in March of 1841. The report was published in 1843.
For details of his report click here


From 1842 ornamental or decorative designs of ceramics could be registered for copyright under a series of Acts of Parliament.  Registration protected the decorative elements of the design from being copied and manufactured without permission. The system used for registering designs changed as different Acts were introduced.
For more details on design registration click here


Great exhibition showcases plychrome printing


Thomas Battam was the Art Director for the pottery firm of Copeland in 1851 when he authored The Guide to the Great Exhibition of 1851 in which he described in detail the engraving and printing process for underglaze printing on ceramics.


The word England became a standard part of many English pottery marks from 1891.

The McKinley tariff act was passed in America in 1890 setting import duties and instituting regulations requiring all imports to America to be labelled with their country of manufacture.  The tariff acts stated:

"That on and after the first day of March, eighteen hundred and ninety-one, all articles of foreign manufacture, such as are usually or ordinarily marked, stamped, branded or labelled, and all packages containing such or other imported articles, shall, respectively, be plainly marked, stamped, branded, or labeled in legible English words, so as to indicate the country of their origin; and unless so marked, stamped or branded, or labeled they shall not be admitted to entry."

Ceramics Timeline

Earliest printing on British pottery

The earliest printing on pottery in Britain was by independent decorators who may have been associated with the enamel trade in Birmingham from about 1751 and slightly later  in Battersea, London.  In 1756 the bankruptcy sale notice of Stephen Theodore Jansssen of Battersea included “Copper-plates” and “some hundred Dozens of Stone Plates”.  The Staffordshire white salt-glazed stoneware plate shown here may have been printed at Battersea; fragments of Chinese porcelain with this printed design were found during excavations on the site. 

For more information on the earliest printing on cramics in Britain click here