The Burmantofts Pottery was set up in 1845 in the Burmantofts district of Leeds by William Wilcock and John Lassey. The two men originally bought the site intending to mine it for coal, but when they found clay in 1858 they changed to making utility items such as bricks and pipes. When John Lassey died in 1858 his wife Margaret carried on in his place, and the company became known as Wilcock & Co. Margaret sold out to John Holroyd in 1863, and the company eventually passed to John’s younger son James who started the production of ‘architectural faience’ such as large vases; the new products were a success, and in 1888 the company changed its name to ‘The Burmantofts Company’ and opened a showroom in London.
Although the company is commonly referred to as ‘Burmantofts Pottery’ it only bore the name ‘Burmantofts’ for a very short space of time, as in 1889 it merged with five other Yorkshire companies to form the Leeds Fireclay Company. In 1904 when sales of art pottery began to fall, the company reverted to the production of large architectural pieces. It finally ceased production in 1957.
Burmantofts pottery attracts a strong interest at auction and it remains very collectable. Vases tend to be the most desirable pieces, as they’re both practical and decorative. Early vases are typically quite plain with a distinctive bulbous shape and long slender neck. Towards the end of the 19th century more ambitious glazes and decoration were used along with more ornate designs, and these can be of greater interest to the right collector. As with all pottery, the value of the individual item is largely dependent on the age, condition and rarity. Any damage reduces value considerably, but good, clean examples with no chips or cracks are in demand. Any pottery marks add to the value, such as the ‘Lefico’ marks found on some twentieth century pieces for ‘Leeds Fireclay Company.
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