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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 1800s, i.e., the Victorian era, or at least are sold as such.  I have a feeling that some of mine are earlier, 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.

There seem to be two predominant molds for these Jackfield cows…

This one has a 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 that often has a raised flower.  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.  In this shot I’ve included one with the same shape, but a caramel-brown shiny glaze.  The clay, which is usually visible on the bottom of the lid and occasionally under the base, is a dark brownish- or blackish- purple.

This is the other relatively common mold – 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 bears a British Antique Dealer’s label that states “Certified produced prior to 1847”.

Here are three more examples of this shape creamer (the gilding doesn’t show well – it’s hard to photograph), and…

Here are some of each ‘common’ type, along with a glossy black creamer with different shape – thinner and less stylized body – and a quite flat base plate.  Note that in this picture, the cow on the right has the shape, horns/ears and gilding of the first type mold, but has a prominent udder and long teats. The horns and ears also are somewhat different than the others, its lid is rounded, and it has no raised flower on the base, so it presumably was made by a different pottery.

Here are two other variants – as well as a brown version that is very similar to them in shape.  The brown ones seem to lack gilding on the body; when it’s missing on the black ones, it’s most likely been lost from wear. 

Here again, on the right, is one of what I believe is the most typical shape for these creamers, along with one in what I have referred to as the “Kent” mold shape, and almost certainly comes from one of the Stoke-on-Trent potteries. 

These Jackfield creamers were apparently very popular as souvenirs – presumably during the Victorian era.  They bear in gold script “A Present From …” on the left side, and the triple slash marks on the right.  These three are from Skegness, Abertillery, and (right side to camera) Teignmouth (the pair are also shown in the Ads and Souveniers theme). Their mold is similar to the one on the right in the picture of four creamers – rounded lid, flat base top, and prominent udder and teats, although I have modestly (actually unintentionally) obscured them in these photos.

Here are two more from the same mold: one from Penzance with faded gold, and a very pristine one that has the greeting on the right instead of the left, and simply reads “From the Potteries”. It’s real hard to get a good picture of the gold on these, so I took these outside (albeit it was snowing that day, 5 May…)

Did I really need another Jackfield cow? This is my 32nd…but then I hadn’t bought one for ~3 years, 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.

I’m not sure I should put these creamers in this section since the style is a rather common one – see the 21st section down in Staffordshire – but the glaze and gold is definitely Jackfield, and they were made of the typical purplish-black clay. The two in the pair both had significant damage (thus were very inexpensive) which I restored – one just to the lid and the other both the lid and the upper lip.  Came out pretty well for an amateur…At one time they both has gold writing on the left side – “A Present from Pothyport” best I can make out from the remaining faint traces,  although I can’t find a town by that name.

This is another shape that comes in a variety of colorations, here in the Jackfield glaze with (mostly missing) gold trim.

 

This one is somewhat similar in shape, but has some interesting features: the surface is fairly rough, although whether from the glaze or firing I can’t tell; the base has a raised flower, but it’s very poorly defined; the gilt decorations are restricted to a few spots on the rumps and trip around the mouth and ears; and the lid has a little handle, also with a tough of gold.  It has an “X” roughly scribed into the base…perhaps a ‘second’ ? Per usual, the seller couldn’t help with any information on provenance.

Yet another minor variation on the theme – little grayish speckles all over the body, and gold dots around the fill hole and the top of the lid. 

Here’s an unusual one with a textured coat and a differently shaped base, but more or less the same body form and gold decoration (here some rubbed off over the years)

This last one is an interesting variant.  The horns and ears are similar to those on the souvenir ones, but the body and face are more streamlined and the base is fairly thin, like the one with the three vertical stripes in the 5th picture.  What makes it most unusual however is the mottled gold spray decoration all along both sides and on the forehead.