Driven by the Glaze

Driven by the Glaze


'Having reduced the scientific and mechanical sides of the process to something like order and method, it is our earnest endeavour to use the beautiful results that have been placed in our hands in such a way as to produce a new English pottery as artistic and beautiful as that of the middle ages.'


So wrote William Burton, General Manager of Pilkington's Tile & Pottery Company, in 1907. Alongside his brother Joseph, William Burton was responsible for the aesthetically innovative and scientifically sophisticated glazes which made Pilkington's an international name.

Though Burton looked to the rich ceramic history of Europe, the Orient and the Middle East for inspiration, he used the best of modern chemisty to turn his ideas into reality in the kiln, extending, as Burton himself claimed, the possibilities 'beyond anything that had hitherto been known'. He was joined by some of the finest chemists, ceramic artists and pot-throwers of the day, who had followed the charismatic Burton from Wedgewood at Stoke-on-Trent to Pilkington's at Salford. In 1895, Lewis F. Day described the winning formula Burton embodied: he was 'that rara avis amongst pottery managers ... a man of science with strong artistic sympathies'.

The centre case of the John Chamber's Ceramic Room holds a display of the beautiful glazes which are - alongside his contribution to ceramic scholarship and commitment to social reform in the factory - Burton's legacy: a 'new English pottery' for a new scientific age.