The Leeds Pottery were one of Yorkshire’s most respected ceramics firms. The company achieved widespread fame for its creamware; a glazed earthenware with a rich cream colour. Established c.1770 in Hunslet, the Leeds Pottery established healthy sales in both British and overseas markets. By 1851 the Leeds Pottery factory was among the largest in Yorkshire, employing around 400 workers. Business suffered in the later 1800s due to increased competition and the company closed in 1881.

The Drawing Books

The Leeds Pottery Drawing Books contain designs and drawings of Leeds Pottery products, all rendered in pen and ink or watercolour. The books were compiled by the Leeds Pottery for use in the factory; they acted as a product records and provided guidance for the company’s potters and decorators. There are only twelve known Drawing Books: three are in the Victoria & Albert Museum and nine are at Leeds Central Library. The nine books at Leeds were compiled over a period from c.1781 to c.1819. The Leeds collection includes four volumes depicting mixed products, known as Drawing Books 1-4. The other five volumes focus on particular product areas.

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An ornamental creamware vase, from Drawing Book No. 1

The Drawing Books are a treasure trove of information on the Leeds Pottery. The drawings and designs are tremendously diverse and attractively rendered, highlighting the incredible variety and quality of the company’s wares. The illustrated products include everyday items such plates, bowls and jugs, as well as extravagant ornamental pieces such as potpourri pots, chocolate stands and figurines. Some of the drawings show beautiful moulded pieces with intricate flowers, seashells, animals, even mermen, winged harpies and griffins. There are also eye-catching designs for decorated pieces; these feature floral patterns, geometric borders and images of people, animals, mythical or historical scenes

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A tureen labelled as ‘made for Paris’, from Drawing Book No. 1

The Pattern Books

The Leeds Pottery Pattern Books are a set of books containing engravings of the company’s wares, along with an index of product names. The books were probably used by Leeds Pottery agents for advertising and sales purposes. The majority of the engravings are based on illustrations from the Drawing Books. The Pattern Books are all different versions of one core volume – the impressively titled Designs of Sundry Articles of Queens or Cream-Colou-r’d Earthen-Ware Manufactured By Hartley, Greens, and Co. at Leeds Pottery, With a Great Variety of Other Articles. Our collection includes a first edition, dating from 1783 to 1794, and copies of an expanded second edition dating from after 1794 to c.1814. The second edition contains all the engravings from the first edition, plus an additional 85 images.

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Engravings of mixed items, from Pattern Books

The Pattern Books are fascinating for those wishing to chart the Leeds Pottery’s growth and popularity. The company’s growth period is shown by their use of foreign language indexes, which indicate healthy overseas trade. The existence of the second edition, with 85 extra products, shows that this enterprising firm was keen to meet demands for new Leedsware. Another interesting feature is the continuation of products – pieces in the original 1783 edition are still present in the c.1814 version. This shows that earlier products were still on sale around 30 years later – a testament to the firm’s lasting appeal.

An extended version of this article is available elsewhere on this site.

This article draws information from several sources; chiefly J. Griffin, The Leeds Pottery, 1770-1881. For a list of further reading, please consult our Research & Collection Guide.