Burleigh Ware was founded in 1851 by Hulme and Booth in Burslem, Staffordshire, the heart of British ceramic manufacturing. Fine quality earthenware was what was originally made and continued to be made when in 1862 the business was taken over by William Leigh and Frederick Burgess and the name changed to ‘Burgess and Leigh’. In 1868 the operation moved to the larger premises of Hill Pottery but continued to make a range of utility, toilet and dinner ware. Slowly as the Pottery grew and production increased, new ranges of tableware began to be made with more complex patterns cementing its reputation for fine craftsmanship.
The period of the 1920s and 30s is generally known as the golden era of Burleigh Ware with the pottery being in its most productive period and employing over 500 workers with some of the most highly skilled potters and artists of the time working for them. They expanded into brightly coloured tableware during this time with probably their most recognisable pieces today being the yellow vases with sculptural handles in the form of animals and humans. The vases were all handpainted so each one was slightly different, with the most attractive generally being the most sought after.
Designers Charles Wilkes and Ernest Bailey are credited with much of the designs of these iconic vases. They made a huge variety of animals from parrots and kingfishers to butterflies and squirrels and even dragons. Most of the animals can be picked up for very reasonable prices at auction. The human characters tend to be more sought after with the examples such as the rare guardsmen and the sporting designs of the golfer and cricketer particularly popular.
Senior Valuer Michael Dowse
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