CARLTON WARE: The Pottery Company with a Flair

A large collection of Carlton Ware, including various patterns such as 'Aus - photo by Invaluable

Carlton Ware was a pottery manufacturing company located in Stoke-on-Trent. This particular company is popular for its frequent, but relatively dazzling tableware, quite like the great and well-decorated fruit or leaves, and the ceramic toucans it produced as promotional items for Guinness. Carlton Ware manufactured hand-painted household pottery in lofty Art Deco styles throughout the 1920s and 1930s.

The History of Carlton Ware

James Alcock Robinson, William Herbert Robinson, and James Frederick Wiltshaw founded Carlton Ware Company in 1890 and carrying on the business activities of the company under Wiltshaw and Robinson. In 1894, Carlton Ware trademark was introduced, with the factory of the company renamed as the Carlton Works.

Carlton Works Previous Earthenware and China manufacturer at the Carlton Works, Stoke, Stoke-on-Trent – photo by Steven Birks | Geograph

However, the business between the Robinsons and Withshaw came to an end in 1911, making Wiltshaw incorporate another limited liability company known as Wiltshaw and Robinson Limited. In 1918, when James Wiltshaw died in a ghastly accident at the railway station in Stoke-on-Trent, the management of the company was vested on Frederick Cuthbert Wiltshaw, who happened to be the son of James. The company kept expanding, and in 1930, it acquired Birks, Rawlins and Co.

On 16 July 1952, Alice who was the wife of Wiltshaw was cruelly murdered while there was a robbery operation at the Estoril residence of these couples. The robbery was linked with Leslie Green, who worked as a chauffeur for the family before. He was found guilty of murder and was sentenced to death by hanging. He was eventually hanged on 23 December 1952.

It was on this note that the company was renamed Carlton Ware Limited in 1958 and was eventually sold to Arthur Wood and Sons after the death of Frederick Cuthbert Wiltshaw in 1966. The company remained viable as it was trading well until the late 1980s when it developed a serious financial crisis, which led it into receivership in 1989. All efforts made to salvage the company from its predicament and financial difficulties proved abortive.

However, Francis Joseph of the Carlton Ware Design Centre brought Carlton ware back to life in 1997. It continued to produce originality items particularly created and meant for the collectors’ market.


Carlton Ware Crested China Teapot for Gowland – photo by Etsy

Carlton Ware focused on the ornamental giftware end of the household pottery market for the major part of its career. Among its initial works are the archetypal decal and hand-painted tableware in the category of floral patterns and items enthused by Wedgwood and other valued potters. They became a supplier of crested ware for the tourist market in the early part of the 1900s.

As part of innovation and development, the company introduced new production methods where the decal and hand-painting work was incorporated into high-glaze substrates in the 1920s. A series of designs stimulated by the artwork that was discovered in the tomb of Tutankhamen was among the first of these discoveries. They were fairly believed to symbolise the commencement of the Art Deco pottery movement. Other trendy designs are the birds, stylised dragons, and a series of Oriental-motivated patterns.

Mottled Pale Blue Lustreware

Carlton ware vase, “Armand” pattern garniture, with butterfly and moth decoration – photo by The Saleroom | Lot 47

This is another exceptional product of that time. Mottled was sold under a different brand known as the Armand. In the year 1928, Carlton Ware trademark, the famous script was launched.

The Oven to Tableware

In 1929, Carlton Ware launched the maiden version of the Oven to Tableware at the more commonplace end of the market.


A new series and diverse types of Tableware were launched by Carlton Ware in the late 1930s. They have boldly imprinted floral and foliage patterns like anemone and fox-glove. This Tableware series persisted in continuous production into the 1960s, with later designs gradually simplified to trim down the high cost of hand-painting.

The Royale Brand of Carlton Ware Tableware

Carlton Ware “Vert Royale” Dish – photo by South Perth Antiques & Collectables

The introduction of this improved high-lustre tableware that was launched in 1949 was made possible due to the availability of new techniques that allowed for the utilisation of automated high-temperature kilns. The production of the Royale Table Ware brand continued into the early 1970s.

The necessity to pass on increasing labour and fuel costs critically affected the aptitude of Carlton Ware to keep manufacturing sophisticated hand-painted items and changing tastes and eventually determined the beginning of more contemporary shapes and patterns in the 1970s.

It was on this note that the company then focused more on novelty items like Walking Ware and Advertising Ware, particularly aimed at the liquor production and trade, until its downfall.