In a little over fifty years’ existence, Gray’s Pottery supplied many different ceramic products to markets at home and abroad. The company launched innovative designs, it led some markets, notably in lustre ware, and it responded to fashion as befits any forward-thinking business. It is therefore not surprising that Gray’s Pottery products come in a wide variety of styles (Illustration 1). This makes it impossible to define the company’s house-style in a few words. Even its byword ‘Hand-painted’, especially apt for its products of the 1920s and 30s (Illustration 2), is not universally applicable in the last decade of the company’s existence, where progressively little or no handwork was to be seen.
Based on pattern number research, it can be estimated that Gray’s Pottery produced of the order of 19,000 different patterns. Many are easily identified as being unique but some are variations of a specific theme: perhaps using subtly different colourways, using a different edge-line or using a matt rather than a shiny glaze. Occasionally a pattern was re-launched many years after the initial offering and the same design can then have two numbers.
Few patterns had names. Of those that did, some were included as part of the marks within or alongside the backstamp eg Golden Catkin, Hampton and Guelder Rose (Illustration 3), others were used as a general reference eg Tree, Magnolia and Zebra. See the sub-section detailing names as part of this main section.
On a practical point, collectors and researchers must be aware that often it can be extremely difficult to read a pattern number on the base of a pot. Generally speaking, the paintresses were paid piece-work and therefore they took the minimum time needed to paint anything that was not particularly important to be seen. If a mark is unclear, consider all the possible options of what it may be – by way of example, look carefully at any figure ‘4’ that you see – it could be a ‘7’ – and vice-versa (Illustration 4). Hand-painted pattern numbers are usually accompanied by the painter’s mark (this detail will be added to the site in the future). Almost without exception, such marks are added after the pattern number and, usually, just below, to the right. This helps when trying to decipher a number which can look valid both ways – eg 8166 could be read as 9918.
As the full pattern listing develops, there will be many gaps. We therefore invite anyone with items of Gray’s Pottery, particularly designs not yet logged on the site, to get in touch. The idea is that you, the collector or researcher, can add your pottery picture(s) to the site. The only condition is that pictures must be of a high quality, preferably include something to easily gauge the item’s size (eg by using a penny coin or a ruler) and that the sender must accept that his/her name will be added as a caption (eg. Cup and saucer by kind permission of So-and-so). In the fullness of time the site should replace the lost pattern books! In the meantime, where suitable pots have not been readily available, some images are scanned from written material, including e-bay listings.