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Burgess & Leigh (Maker)

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The firm of Burgess and Leigh was begun by two men who were born and lived in the North Staffordshire Potteries.  Frederick Rathbone Burgess came from a family of manufacturers, his father having been in a number of partnerships, including an unsuccessful venture with Ralph Taylor and a more successful partnership with William Gibson trading as Burgess & Gibson from about 1845 to 1854. The census of 1851 lists Richard Burgess as an ‘Earthenware Manufacturer in a Firm of 2 Employing 33 Men 15 Women 13 Boys and 9 Girls”   Frederick is listed as aged 19, and employed as a ‘Potter’, presumably he was training in his father’s potworks.  At the same time, 1851, William Leigh older by 12 years, was married and was working as a ‘Clerk at Earthenware & China Manufactory’.  Both men were living in Tunstall, the most northerly of the Potteries six towns.  In this environment it is inconceivable that they did not meet and know each other professionally, if not socially. 

When the Central Pottery factory became vacant in Burslem in 1862 Frederick Rathbone Burgess and William Leigh joined forces to take over the tenancy and in the process acquired the shapes and patterns of their predecessor Thomas Hulme. The factory produced a wide range of kitchen and tableware as well as sanitary and hospital ceramics. Transfer printing was employed with completely printed patterns and printed outline designs for enamellers.  In 1868 The company moved to the Hill Pottery in Burslem, Each partner was allowed to have one son enter the business and with the move, Edmund Leigh joined the company.  Burgess and Leigh thrived and a new factory was designed and built at nearby Middleport at the side of the Trent-Mersey canal.  They vacated the Hill Pottery and moved lock stock and barrel to Middleport in March of 1889. Burgess and Leigh (Burleigh), Middleport Pottery is still in business today making printed pottery in a traditional manner, the last Staffordshire factory to do so.

For Burgess & Leigh wares in this online exhibit click here

McKeown, Julie. 2003. Burleigh: the story of a pottery : Burgess & Leigh 1851-1999, Burgess, Dorling & Leigh 1999-. Shepton Beauchamp, England: Richard Dennis.