Jackfield

Jackfield is a small village on the south bank of the River Severn, in the Ironbridge Gorge in Shropshire, England.  According to a local webpage (www.jackfieldfestival.com), mining and pottery manufacture were well established there as early as the mid-15th century.  From what I have been able to glean from the web, Jackfield has two main claims to fame in pottery, one being that it is a noted center for decorative wall and floor tiles (there is a Jackfield Tile Museum), and the second a glossy black glaze which is what characterizes these cow creamers.  The Glass and Pottery Sellers Association Newsletter of June 2005 notes:

“Jackfield wares originated in the town of Jackfield, in Shropshire, England, in 1740 to 1780. The original earthenware was a thin-walled gray to purplish-black clay, and covered in a glossy black lead glaze. It was also known as jet ware, blackware, or japanned ware, after the Japanese black lacquer pieces. In addition to the goods made in Jackfield, it was also produced by Thomas Whieldon in Staffordshire, Wedgwood, and others. The pieces made by Whieldon have a more reddish colored body. Shards of this pottery found in Maryland and Florida have led historians to possible early English settlements where little other documentation exists.”

Both in the UK antique shops that I have visited and on eBay, the term Jackfield seems to be applied to earthenware cow creamers with the shiny black glaze, that are quite similar in many cases to the other ‘Staffordshire’ ones in the sense of having a lid and usually being on an oval base. They presumably date from the late 19c or early 20c, i.e., the Victorian era, or at least are sold as such.  I have a feeling that some of mine are earlier (and likely some much later!), but have really no way of sorting most them either by date or by locale of manufacture.  Per usual, I’d appreciate any further information anyone can provide on the ones in my collection, or on ‘Jackfield’ cow creamers in general.

While the one in the first section below seems (based on my shopping in England as well as what apprears frequently on eBay) to be the 'classic' and most common version of a Jackfield cow creamer, they do come in an assortmant of shapes, and a whole lot of variants within each of those themes. All however seem to have more or less oval bases, relatively simple lids, and gold decorations although those have frequently been rubbed off in whole or part through use. I should also repeat an earlier note on price: They were rather dear and somewhat scarce in (50 GBP and up) in English antique stores when I lived there in the mid 90's, once ebay kicked in the value has plummeted simply because there are so many of them. Seems like everyone's grandmother or great grandmother had one, and the modern generation has little fondness for such keepsakes. There are generally dozens for offer on ebay at any given time.

Two final notes: First, I photographed all of these against a light yellow background, but had to really fiddle with some of them in photoshop to get the gold gilding and writing to show. Thus sone backgrounds look really washed out. Second, as a reminder, if you click on any of the thumbnails you will get a larger picture.

Classic Jackfield cow creamer

This is an example of the classic Jackfield cow creamer form that seems to be most common: wide open mouth, large horns curved up-and-in that seem to come out of the ears, a rounded and somewhat subdued udder, and an oval base with a flat top.  They usually (unless it’s been rubbed off) have gold gilding on the horns and ears, around the mouth, eyes, tail tip and rim of both base and lid; plus sets of three gold slashes (almost like the top of a fleur-de-lis) liberally around the body.  As noted in the introduction, for those actually made in Jackfield the clay, which is usually visible on the bottom of the lid and occasionally under the base, is a dark brownish- or blackish- purple.

Bat-eared Jackfild cow creamer

Here is a very different and fairly common version – ears and horns to the side in a sort of bat-wing shape, long teats coming straight out of the body, and gold dots rather than slashes.  I bought this beautiful pair from a Toronto dealer at the Baltimore Antiques Fair in 1999, and one of them bore a British Antique Dealer’s label that stated “Certified produced prior to 1847”.

Three Bat-eared Jackfield cow creamers

Here are three more examples of this shape creamer (the gilding doesn’t show well), with minor variations. I rather like this form. I was excited to get my first one from a small antique shop in the English countryside, and paid 110 GBP for it. I remember the dealer's wife asking him if he really wanted to part with it. That could have been part of a sales pitch, although I had already agreed to buy it so I tend to think she rather liked it herself. Now, if I had only known at the time what ebay was going to bring in the way of prices...

Thin Jackfield cow creamers

This is a third type - thinner, with smaller ears and horns. These are much less elegant than the previous two types and likely arose to meet growing demand at lower cost. There is much less gilding on these.

 Thin Jackfield cow creamer Gilded thin Jackfield cow creamer

Here are two other versions of the 'thin' type - one with somewhat longer horns and ears (at least the one that's showing - the other is stunted) and a fancy version with sprinkled gold gilt on the body.

Gilt brown thin Staffordshire cow creamers in same mold as Jackfilds Brown thin straffordshires in same mold as Jackfields

These four brown creamers, two with a lot of gold gilt and two plain, appear to be from the same mold as the tnin gilded black Jackfield just above. They are shown on the Staffordshire page, but repeated here for comparison. Since the potteries in the town of Jackfield generally didn't produce items in this color or glaze as far as I have been able to discern, I'd guess that all of this type were made in Staffordshire - but then that's simply a guess.

Repaired Jackfield cow creamers

Here's a fourth type. Creamers from this and similar molds are often found in black and white or or brown and white, or with blue transfer prints. But once a mold is available, it's frequently used for many purposes so it should be no surprise that they were also fashioned in the popular black Jackfield or jet glaze. Plus they seem to be made from the typical Jackfild grey-black clay. The pair in the right photo came together and were sold with significant damage (thus were very inexpensive). I restored them - one just to the lid and the other to both the lid and the upper lip.  They came out pretty well for an amateur. At one time they had gold writing on the left side – “A Present from Pothyport” as best I can make out from the remaining faint traces, although I can’t find a town by that name so I'm pretty sure I've got it wrong.

Jackfield souvenir cow creamer from Abertillery1 Jackfield souvenir cow creamer from Abertillery2

Jackfield creamers in what I'm calling the classic form apparently were popular souvenirs – presumably starting during the Victorian era.  They bear in gold script “A Present From …” on one side, and the triple slash marks on the other.  The one shown here is from Abertillery. Wikipedia tells us that Abertillery is Welsh for mouth of the River Tyleri. It’s the largest town of the Ebbw Fach valley in the historic county of Monmouthshire, Wales, now part of the Blaenau Gwent County Borough administrative area. The surrounding landscape borders the Brecon Beacons National Park and the Blaenavon World heritage Site. Formerly a major coal mining centre, the Abertillery area was transformed in the 1990s using EU and other funding to return to a greener environment.

Jackfield souvenir cow creamer from Penzance Jackfield souvenir cow creamer from Teignmouth

Here are two more classic Jackfield souvenir cows: one from Penzance with faded gold, and one from Teignmouth. Per Wikipedia, Penzance is the most westerly major town as well as a civil parish and port in Cornwall, in the very far southwest of England. Situated in the shelter of Mount's Bay, the town faces south-east onto the English Channel, is bordered to the west by the fishing port of Newlyn, to the north by the civil parish of Madron and to the east by the civil parish of Ludgvan. ‘Pennsans’ means "holy headland" in the Cornish language and refers to the location of a chapel nowadays called St Anthony's that is said to have stood over a thousand years ago on the headland to the west of what became Penzance Harbour. The first mention of the name Pensans is in the Assize Roll of 1284, and it was granted various royal charters from 1512 onwards and incorporated on 9 May 1614. Teignmouth is a large seaside town, fishing port and civil parish in the English county of Devon, situated on the north bank of the estuary mouth of the River Teign about 12 miles south of Exeter. In 1690, it was the last place in England to be invaded by a foreign power. From the 1800s onwards, the town rapidly grew in size from a fishing port associated with the Newfoundland cod industry to a fashionable resort of some note in Georgian times, with further expansion after the opening of the South Devon Railway in 1846. Today its port still operates and the town remains a popular seaside holiday location.

Jackfield souvenir cow creamer from Skegness Jackfield souvenir cow creamer from The Potteries

On the left is one from Skegness, and on the right one from The Potteries. Skegness is a seaside town and civil parish in the East Lindsey district of Lincolnshire, England, on the Lincolnshire coast of the North Sea. It was primarily a fishing village and small port before the arrival of the railway in 1875. In 1908, the Great Northern Railway commissioned a “Skegness is so Bracing” poster to advertise excursions to the resort, featuring the Jolly Fisherman who helped to put Skegness on the map and is now famous. The world's first Butlin's holiday resort opened in Skegness in 1936, and it remains a popular tourist venue. There are other cow creamer momentos from Skegness on the Advertising and Souvenirs page. It's very popular. You can learn all about “The Potteries” – the center of English china and earthenware production - in the introduction to the Staffordshire page and from their superb website, www.thepotteries.com. I have a souvenir ‘kent’ style creamer made for sale at the famous Stoke-on-Trent Museum and Art Gallery, and i wonder if this Jackfield version was similarly made for them – if so, it’s likely quite modern and of course would be molded, glazed, and gilded in the classic fashion.

Jackfield souvenir cow creamer from Goldthorpe, side Jackfield souvenir cow creamer from Goldthorpe, front

This is a very unusually shaped Jackfield - it's the only one I've seen with this form of base, and the cow seems to be leaning forward and actually appears quite fierce due to the shaping of the head. It has the normel 3-slash gold decorations on the right, but until I looked closely appeared to be blank on the left. I then discovered that it at one time read "A present from Goldthorpe", but the gold is completely gone, leaving only a very dim outline. Wikipedia tells us that Goldthorpe , a South Yorkshire village in the metropolitan borough of Barnsley, in ancient times was a small mediaval farming village. It later became a major coal miniing area until the closure of the mines in the 1980s, since when it has been 'deprived'. Not the best place for a holiday to be remembered, at least not recently. The lid on this creamer had been broken and reglued, and had a chip that I tried somewhat unsuccessfully to restore. But it had the great advantage of an extremely low price and it is unique, at least for my collection.

Souvenir cow creamer from Aberystwyth

This creamer, like the brown ones up the page, could and perhaps should go on the Staffordshire page but I decided to put it here in spite of the Rockingham or treacle glaze, as an example of one that’s nearly identical in shape to the classic souvenir black Jackfield cows like those above, and that bears a similar marking: “A Present from Aberystwyth”. Aberystwyth, literally "Mouth of the Ystwyth" is an ancient and somewhat isolated market town, administrative centre, and holiday resort in Ceredigion, Wales. It has also been a major Welsh educational centre since the establishment of a university college there in 1872. Aberystwyth has a pier and a seafront which stretches from Constitution Hill, at the north end of the Promenade, to the mouth of the harbour at the south, taking in two separate beach stretches divided by a castle. Whether this creamer is really from one of the Jackfield potteries I have no way of knowing – and of course molds were passed around or copied quite a bit.

Jackfield cow creamer variant

Did I really need another Jackfield cow? This is my 32nd…but then I hadn’t bought one for ~3 years, plus this one is in very good condition, and it is a bit different.  Its base and body (including small udder and distinct teats, as well as the gold decoration) appear to be identical to the ‘Present’ cows shown above. However the head is different – smaller ears, shortened face with wide open mouth, and horns curled straight forward. Plus, since there are so many of these Jackfield cows available these days – lots of folks trying to offload great-grandma’s stuff – the price was eminently reasonable.

Jackfield cow creamer with loop on lid Classic Jackfield cow creamer with speckles

Here are examples of variations on the classic form - one with a loop on the lid, and the other with white speckles. I have seen other forms of lids but only this one with speckles. I have no idea if they were intentional or if it got caught in a paint spitting contest. Both of them have raised but poorly defined 'flowers' on the tops of the bases, which to me implies that they are likely later versions since these types of bases are fairly common on many of the 20c Kent style creamers. The one with the ringed lid also has very different gilding, just some spots on the rumps and sholders, and its coatring is quite rough. Not the highest quality cow by any means.

Jackfield cow creamer with horns pointed forward Jackfield cow creamer with horns up Jackfield cow creamer variant

Three more variants - two close to the classic form, and the third shorter with a different head, small horns and ears, and a bit of sprinlked gold gilt in several places.I believe it has a replacement lid, and I can't tell what kind of clay it is made from.

Jackfield Scottish Highland cow creamer

Here’s an unusual one with a textured coat and a differently shaped base, but more or less the same general body form and gold decoration (some has rubbed off over the years). I believe it is intended to represent a shaggy Scottish highland cow. I have seen a version in brown, but it wasn't in good enough condition for me to be interested.

Jackfield glaze 'Kent' style cow creamers Small Jackfield glaze cow creamer

To conclude this page, here are three creamers of very different style but with Jackfield glaze. The two on the left are what I have referred to as 'Kent' style (there are a bunch on the Staffordshure opage), but bearing traditional Jackfield gold decortions. The one with the base has the raised flower which is typical of this form of cow creamer. As noted elsewhere, this style of creamer was and remains quite popular and widely produced. I don't know if these two came from a pottery in Staffordshire or are actually from Jackfield, but since they are made from the purplish black clay, I will assume the latter until corrected. On the right is a cute little guy without a base, and a still different form of body.