Earthenware manufacturer at Copeland St, Stoke. The Shorter business was established
by Arthur Shorter in about 1872 as a partnership with James Bolton. Although from
a ‘railways’ family, Arthur Shorter was apprenticed as a china painter at Mintons
under the renowned Leon Arnoux, before starting his own china decorating business
in the 1860s and finally forming the manufacturing partnership with James Boulton
in about 1872.
In 1891 Arthur Shorter absented himself from the business to manage of the Burslem
company established by his brother-in-law A. J. Wilkinson (following the latter’s
accidental death), and from 1891 to 1900 the Shorter & Bolton concern was run by
James Bolton (1891-97) and then by his son William Bolton from 1897 to 1900.
In 1900 Arthur Shorter’s younger son John Guy Shorter became the manager and the
partnership of Shorter & Son probably dates from this time. In 1905 John Shorter
also left to join his father and elder brother Arthur C. A. Shorter at A. J. Wilkinson
Ltd. The Shorter business had various managers from 1905, but in 1932 Harry L. Steele
was appointed manager, a position he was to hold for the next 30 years. Arthur Shorter
died in 1926 and in 1933 the business was incorporated as Shorter & Son Ltd with
brothers Arthur ‘Colley’ Austin Shorter and John Guy Shorter, as Directors and Harry
L. Steele as the Director-in-Charge.
Shorter & Son Ltd remained in production throughout the Second World War and in 1950
John B. Shorter, son of Guy Shorter, joined the company and was soon after appointed
as sales director.
The death of Arthur Colley Shorter in early 1964 spelled the end for the Shorter
companies. In 1963, faced with loss of part of the Copeland St factory to a road
development scheme and the expense needed to convert to smokeless firing to conform
to the Clean Air Act, the decision was made to accept an offer for the business from
S. Fielding & Co. Ltd the owners of the Crown Devon name. From early 1964 Shorter
& Son Ltd operated from Fielding’s Sutherland St factory under the management of
John B. Shorter who continued with the new owners until his retirement in 1972. Shorter
& Son Ltd was still listed as a subsidiary of Crown Devon Ltd in 1971. The other
Shorter family companies A. J. Wilkinson Ltd and the Newport Pottery Co. Ltd were
sold to W. R. Midwinter Ltd by Colley Shorter’s widow Clarice Cliff-Shorter, in 1964.
The pre-1920 Shorter ware was typical Edwardian majolica ware, jardinieres, plant
stands, umbrella holders, bulb bowls, jugs, vases, etc and undistinguished domestic
earthenware, novelty lines and ornamental earthenware.
From the 1920s onward, Shorter & Sons Ltd specialized in the manufacture of ornamental
and novelty earthenware. To quote an article in the Pottery Gazette (March 1941):
‘There are literally thousands of high-quality earthenware novelty lines covering
all table adjuncts and every conceivable household pottery novelty—cleverly modelled
and effectively decorated’.
The novelties included Toby Jugs, tobacco jars, ash trays, sugars, creams, cruets,
butter dishes, posy holders , and a host of other household items and many of these,
especially the Toby Jugs, were still in production in the 1960s.
Following the death of Arthur Shorter in 1926 the burgeoning influence of Clarice
Cliff began to influence the design of products from all three companies in the Shorter
group and there is some attractive art deco-style Shorter tableware and table accessories.
In addition to the Clarice Cliff influence, Mabel Leigh designed for Shorter & Son
from 1933 to 1935 and ‘Period Pottery’ based on ethnic designs from the Mediterranean,
Africa and Central America dates from this period.
In the 1950s and 1960s, in addition to the fancy earthenware, Shorter & Son Ltd was
a successful and prolific manufactured good quality domestic earthenware and of note
from this period are the company’s Cottage Ware, Fishware, oven-to table ware and
Shorter & Son Ltd trade names include ’Batavia Ware’ and ‘Sunray Pottery’. The Shorter
marks are utilitarian: virtually all ware was marked with a printed ‘Shorter & Son
Ltd, Stoke-on-Trent, England’ or similar wording. There are a number of illustrative
marks including those used for Batavia Ware and ‘Sunray Pottery’.
The diversity and quality of the Shorter wares is probably under-appreciated.
Hopwood, I, & Hopwood, G. (1992). The Shorter Connection. Richard Dennis.
McDonald, B. (2002). Catalogue of Shorter & Son Toby and Character Jugs 1917-1970.
Published by Bernard McDonald, ISBN-13 978-0954408602.
On the Web
This website is, to quote, ‘a portal for anyone, anywhere with an interest in the
work of the Shorter pottery companies’. There is a forum and the capacity for members
to post images.