NEWPORT POTTERY CO.
Earthenware manufacturer at Newport Lane, Burslem. The Newport Pottery Co. Ltd was
purchased in 1920 by the Shorter family, owners of the adjacent A. J. Wilkinson Ltd’s
Royal Staffordshire Pottery, and used by its new owners for the manufacture of simple,
inexpensive domestic ware and hotelware. From c.1927, the pottery became the base
for the decorating shop and, later, the design studio used by Clarice Cliff to develop
‘Bizarre’ ware and the other shapes and patterns for which she is now well known.
In 1941 the Newport Pottery business was concentrated with the other Shorter factories
at the Royal Staffordshire Pottery and the Newport Pottery buildings diverted to
war-time purposes. The site was demolished shortly after the end of the war and the
newport Pottery Co. Ltd subsumed into the other Shorter factories.
Clarice Cliff joined the firm of A. J. Wilkinson as an apprentice lithographer in
1916 and rose to be the head designer and eventual owner of the company following
the death of her husband Arthur Colley Shorter in 1961. Numerous books cover her
life and work. She was both a modeller of shapes and a pattern designer and from
late-1927 to 1936 the studio at the Newport Pottery produced an array of novel shapes
and patterns. Remarkably, this enormous creativity was condensed into a relatively
short period of about 10 years from the launch of the ‘Bizarre’ range in 1927. Other
decorative styles followed but Bizarre was the first, the most prolific and the longest
Post-1945, a small hand painting shop was re-established at Wilkinson’s Royal Staffordshire
Pottery and production of some of the popular Clarice Cliff designs such as Crocus
and Rhodanthe continued on a small scale, with Clarice Cliff shapes and patterns
appear with a Royal Staffordshire mark. In the 1950’s Cliff worked with the new,
younger, modellers and designers employed at A. J. Wilkinson including Peggy Davis,
Eric Grindley and Eric Elliott, even so, the innovation of the 1930’s was never recaptured.
Arthur Colley Shorter died in 1961 and in 1964 Clarice Cliff-Shorter sold A. J. Wilkinson
Ltd and the Newport Pottery Co. Ltd to W. R. Midwinter Ltd.
The simple ‘Bizarre’ mark introduced in 1927-28 was phased out in 1936 to be replaced
by a more general ‘Clarice Cliff’ signature widely used on wares from the Newport
and Royal Staffordshire Potteries. The change also signalled a more conservative
style as the strident patterns and extreme shapes of the period from 1928-1933 were
replaced with more sober designs and a softer palette.
Between 1936 and 1939 designs were gradually simplified and Clarice Cliff took less
direct interest in the modelling and decoration. In the 1990s Wedgwood re-issued
many of the classic Clarice Cliff shapes and patterns as limited edition collectors’
wares. Manufacture of the reproductions ceased in 2002 and they have since become
collectible in their own right.
© Mike Perry 2010
There are numerous books and web sites devoted to the life of Clarice Cliff and her
influence on English ceramic design.