Found in a box of 19th century engravings and other ephemera from a Staffordshire deceased estate was a folder of papers relating to the Burslem firms of AJ Wilkinson and Newport Pottery.
Of particular note was a series of letters and contracts exchanged between owner Arthur Colley Shorter and designers including Nancy Catford (who produced animal models for Gray’s Pottery and toby jugs for Enoch Wedgwood) and Dame Laura Knight (whose Circus pattern tablewares were the highlight of the Artists in Industry project of 1934). An agreement between AJ Wilkinson and Knight listed the pottery designs for which she was to receive royalties.
A second handwritten agreement on Newport Pottery headed paper dated February 28, 1927, was signed by Colley Shorter and Clarice Cliff. In it the two parties agree to extend their professional relationship for a further five years (the word ‘three’ was crossed out and amended).
This was an important moment. The Newport Pottery, an earthenware manufacturer at Newport Lane in Burslem next to AJ Wilkinson, had been purchased by the Shorter family in 1920 and hitherto used for the manufacture of inexpensive domestic and hotel wares. However, from 1927-36 it became the decorating shop for the new Art Deco Bizarre range and the studio of the firm’s head designer.
Cliff would marry Colley Shorter in 1940 and inherited the various Shorter family businesses on his death in 1961.
Estimated at £80-120 at the auction on November 27, this contract and the other papers were bought by a UK collector on the phone at £2000 (plus 15% buyer’s premium).