From Bulletin 121 January 2004.


From David Scriven.

I recently acquired an underglaze blue printed earthenware mug with the following inscription painted in black in a chamfered rectangle:-

Fanny Hirst
Born June 15th

Whilst christening mugs with the name of the child and a date may not be uncommon, it is not often that you see blue transfer printed mugs being used for this purpose. It also struck me as unusual that it gave a full date rather than just a year and stated that it was the date on which the child was born.

Subsequent research revealed that Fanny Hirst was born in Hunslet, in Yorkshire. She was the fourth of seven children born to John and Fanny Hirst. Her father was the cashier in the local glassworks owned by Joshua Bowes & Son. He was also a Methodist preacher. The family lived at Hillidge Lodge, 31 Hillidge Road in Hunslet.

Hillidge Road ran southwards from Jack Lane, along which several of the Hunslet potteries were located. At the corner of Jack Lane and Hillidge Road was Allison's Pottery (also known as the Jack Lane Pottery from the 1830's). Next to that was Taylor's Pottery (known as the New Hunslet Pottery from 1839). In 1854 the Taylor's bought Allison's pottery and ran the two works as one business. Within half a mile of Hillidge Road in 1853 were, the Leathley Lane Pottery (Shackleton, Taylor & Co.) and the Leeds Pottery, then being run by Samuel Warburton and Richard Britton. A little further, but no more than a mile away, around Holbeck Moor were a further seven potteries, including the Victoria/Petty's Pottery, run as a combined business by John Mills from 1853, and the Hunslet Hall Pottery, then run by Abraham Crossley. Each of these named potteries, with the exception of Allison's (pre1854), is known or believed to have produced printed earthenware1. Could Fanny Hirst's mug have been made at one of these?

Unfortunately there are no factory marks, impressed, painted or printed, on the mug; nor is its shape easily identifiable as a product of a particular pottery, although it does bear some resemblance to a commemorative mug produced by Samuel Barker & Son at the Don Pottery in 1863 for the wedding of the Prince of Wales and Princess Alexandra, which is illustrated in Griffin (plate 277)2. The mug is 3" high and 3" in diameter. It has a moulded footrim, below an indented "waist", which stands proud of the base of the mug; and it has a regular "question-mark" shape loop handle.

The transfer print on the outside of the mug shows a large house set in parkland by the side of a lake with, perhaps, a monastery or palace on the far shore. In the foreground are three figures: a young man on a pony who is talking to a girl/woman who, from the jug she is carrying, would appear to be on her way to get some water from the nearby conduit and a boy/young man who is drinking from the conduit trough. Inside the mug, around the rim is a 1" transfer printed border with vignettes of a girl and a dog(?) outside a large house, separated by floral sprays. Along the handle is a simple border print of florets and stars within a beaded edge. The quality of the engraving and the transfer printing is not of the finest and there are several ink smudges on the base and inside the mug. So far I have not been able to identify the main print nor the borders used.

I would be very interested to know if anyone has a similar transfer printed mug, in any colour, commemorating the birth of a child; and I would appreciate any thoughts on who might have made the mug.


1 Lawrence, H. Yorkshire Pots and Potteries (David & Charles, Newton Abbot, 1974)
2 Griffin, J.D. The Don Pottery 1801-1893 (Doncaster Museum Service, 2001)