A look at the design, market and legacy of Victorian pottery

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Majolica of Scotland's Belfield Pottery


Prestonpans has been a center of pottery production in Scotland since the 1730's. A home to several major pottery families including the Gordons, Cadells and Watsons, the area's access to train and water transportation as well as its large deposits of clay made it an ideal location for the manufacture of pottery. Charles Belfield, a skilled potter who had moved up the ranks in the business, moved his family to the area to work at the Gordon Pottery in the 1830's. By 1839 he was advertising in local trade journals and by 1846 was fully established as an independent retailer under the name of Charles Belfield and Son. In 1847 he incorporated as Charles Belfield & Co. Initially he dealt in wholesale pottery sales with the majority of his inventory coming from what remained of the bankrupt Prestonpan Watson Pottery. In time Belfield moved into manufacture and invented a system for the manufacture of drainpipe that brought fame and fortune to the company. As the business grew Belfield began producing a wide variety of pottery wares, from sanitary wares for everyday use to Rockingham to majolica.

Factory workers at Belfield Pottery c. 1905

Belfield & Co. registered their first majolica designs in 1872. These initial designs were a response to the Asian influence then dominating design throughout the West. The majority of these designs utilized bamboo motifs, sometimes glazed in full color majolica but sometimes just glazed in Rockingham, solid green or white. The use of color in these was selective with many glazed in mottled earth tones with small details such as ties in blue or yellow. Hollowware interiors were usually glazed in a deep majolica pink.

The company produced cuspidors, jardinieres, tea wares and cheese bells. Serving trays of various shapes, baskets and compotes were produced using leaf themes in solid green and multicolor.

Belfield registered teapot design

Belfield registered design

Belfield registered design

Belfield registered majolica design of bamboo

Belfield registered cuspidor design

Belfield registered design

Belfield registered design is a variation of an earlier one.

Belfield registered design using overlapping leaf forms. 


Belfield bamboo jug

Belfield registered jardiniere design

Belfield registered plate design

The company also produced a number of unregistered designs in majolica, some of them adaptations of designs created by larger potteries such as Wedgwood, Copeland and George Jones. 


Belfield copy of a Wedgwood teapot design.
The company catalog lists 20 different teapot designs.

Belfield Pierced basket with underplate

Pair of Belfield plates

Belfield adaptation of George Jones "Hops" jug series.





Though only part of their wares were marked their design catalogs have survived which allow us to attribute many designs to the company.

Oval Belfield mark

Double crescent Belfield mark

Belfield scroll mark

Belfield catalog page

We do not know when majolica production ceased at Belfield but we assume it was around the same time as most British firms–the first decade of the 20th Century. The company itself closed in 1939 at the onset of WW2. 

The company left a legacy as one of the most successful pottery enterprises in Scotland and the most successful pottery in Prestonpans, having survived three generations under the ownership of the Belfield family.

Belfield Pottery c. 1939

2 comments:

  1. Great blog. Fascinating. Love the way they made the most of the coloured lead glazes running into each other. Never seen that mark before. Just when you think you've seen it all... the magic of majolica...

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