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Maritime Tales – the Cream of Liverpool

10 April 2007 by stepheng

photo of a man looking into a glass case of cream coloured jugs

Me admiring the ware. If you look carefully you can see the tower of Bidston Hill and the flags I mentioned. Image courtesy of the Liverpool Daily Post & Echo.

The handling of antique and historic china and pottery has to be done with great care, so is something to be avoided by me, Stephen Guy, who has been known to break quite a few things at home.

Exciting seafaring times when Liverpool was growing into one of the world’s greatest ports are recalled by the images on pottery produced in the town. During the 1700s Liverpool had many factories making all manner of dishes, bowls, jugs and mugs which often featured nautical subjects. Most were made for export and archaeologists excavating sites in America often find broken pieces.

There are fascinating pottery collections on display at Merseyside Maritime Museum including fine examples of Liverpool creamware.  In the 1750s Liverpool became the world’s first centre for printing decoration on pottery and one of the first places in Britain to make porcelain. Warehouses and docks replaced the factories but the famous Herculaneum Pottery founded in Toxteth in 1796 survived until 1841. Creamware is fine cream-coloured earthenware made in England in the 18th century. Liverpool had links with the legendary Josiah Wedgwood who sent his creamware to the town to be decorated with transfer printing, developed in Liverpool about 1754.

Among items on display are mugs and beakers showing a remarkable sight from the early 1800s – the signal flags that once fluttered on Bidston Hill, Wirral. Flags were used to tell the Liverpool docks and merchants when ships were sighted. These commemorative mugs must have been very popular – all the images are similar and list whose flags are on display.

One large jug remembers a gallant boy’s death with the words: “Sacred to the memory of Robert Charlton Junior who gallantly fell in action near the straits of Sunda on board the ship Jefferson of Philadelphia early in the year 1800 in the 15th year of his age whose gallant conduct would have done honor to age and experience.”

Other jugs show ships in full sail and others tell funny stories such as Jemmy’s Return, a popular ballad of the time. It shows Jemmy the sailor with his girlfriend on a quayside, with ships and a comic verse.

Another has a furious sea battle with the inscription: “A representation of the glorious defeat of the French fleet of (sic) Brest by Earl Howe June 1st 1794.”

More about Liverpool pottery next week.

A new Maritime Tale appears every Saturday in the Liverpool Echo.

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