U - V - W


UCHETER Uttoxeter. A town with a race course and a biscuit factory, south of Stoke, on the way to Derby.

UNBREAKABLE POTTERY Impossible! No such thing! It is a well known and indisputable fact that pottery is useless if you drop it.
Sylvac Rabbit - broken, useless!

UNDERCUT Fault in mouldmaking which causes the cast pot to get stuck in the mould. The undercut prevents extraction of the pot from its mould, unless the clay has shrunk enough, during drying, to allow it to come free of the undercut.

UNDER FIRED Fault. The term which indicates that the piece has not been fired sufficiently to give the desired properties. May be too low a temperature was achieved in one part of the oven and the fireman didn't spot it. Insufficient heat work.

UNDERGLAZE DECORATION Type of decoration. Colours or patterns applied to the surface of biscuit ware prior to the application of the glaze. (Eg: transfer printing.) It is hardened on by firing in a kiln before the glaze is applied. Then it is glost fired. Because the decoration is completely covered by the clear glaze, it is extremely durable.

UNDERGLAZE DECORATOR Occupation. Decorating department. Most usually female. Applies decoration underglaze.

UNDERGLAZE PAINTING Process. Freehand painting the complete design onto biscuit ware. The piece is the glazed and fired.  Also adding colour, by hand, to the decoration already applied to an underglaze print which has previously been hardened on. The piece will then be glazed and fired again to glost temperatures.

UNDERGLAZE TRANSFER PRINT Type of applied decoration using special ceramic underglaze colours. These are usually a mixture of metallic oxide pigment and flux. The colours are applied to the biscuit pot then fired in a hardening-on kiln. Glaze is then applied and the piece fired again. The decoration, being covered in glaze, is extremely durable, more durable than on-glaze decoration. Josiah Spode I is credited with having perfected the technique of underglaze printing in blue on earthenware in about 1784. Additional underglaze colours were not to be successfully produced until nearly forty years later.

Underglaze decorating from engraved copper prints.
Wedgwood, Barlaston. 1970. photo : by the author

Prior to this, colour printing other than blue was restricted. Colour was achieved by overglaze enamel decoration or hand coloured blue, brown or black prints. Black, purple and ochre were available but were not popular colours for ceramic decoration. It was only after much experimentation that new, mainly chrome based, colours were introduced that could withstand the high temperature glost firing required for underglaze decoration.

Another description ::: Underglaze colour printing

Josiah Spode I is credited with having perfected the technique of underglaze printing in blue on earthenware in about 1784. 

Additional underglaze colours were not successfully produced until nearly forty years later. Prior to this, colour printing other than blue was restricted. Colour was achieved by overglaze enamel decoration or hand coloured blue, brown or black prints. Black, purple and ochre were available but were not popular colours for ceramic decoration. 

It was only after much experimentation that new, mainly chrome-based, colours were introduced that could withstand the high temperature glost firing required for underglaze decoration. The new colours 'bonded' less well with the glaze than the blue; this meant that the appearance was less translucent and luscious but at the same time it led to a sharper image. Chrome Green which contains no cobalt gives a particularly sharp image as can be seen in the clarity of detail on items decorated with the Byron Views pattern. It was the most successful colour after blue. Chrome Green produced by the use of iron chromate, was introduced in c1822 followed by a series of other colours including brown, puce, orange and a blue-grey known as Paynes Grey. 

A common colour, particularly for sheet patterns is a khaki green known as 'Pigmuck Green' (for obvious reasons!), it is thought to have been made from the dregs of other unused printing colours. 

Underglaze pink was introduced around 1833 by adding a small amount of tin oxide to iron chromate; early examples are rare but the colour has been reintroduced several times in the history of the company.

Tumbledown Dick pattern on Marble sheet c1823

Spode was responsible for the first two-colour printing technique. The process, which was introduced around 1824 involved the use of a resist substance known as 'ackey' (the Potteries term for sticky and dirty). This protected a hardened-on print before applying an all-over sheet pattern. This allowed an image to be placed within a printed background of another colour. Tumbledown Dick on Marble Sheet is a classic example of this technique.

Many more dinner plates were made than any other shape but printed patterns can be seen on all shapes of table ware as well as toilet ware including leg baths, foot baths, chamber pots and bidets. Dessert wares were more often handpainted and gilded as they were subjected to less wear. Underglaze decoration for dinnerwares was popular because the design was protected under the glaze from damage the sharp steel cutlery of the time.

Trade Winds, a 20th Century Spode pattern is produced by underglaze printing. Click here> for more information.

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UP BONK Dialect. Up hill. Opposite to 'dine bonk' which is obviously down hill!

UPDRAUGHT BOTTLE OVEN The simplest and most common type of bottle oven in the heyday of the pottery industry.

Updraught bottle oven diagram and external view
Bottle Oven - updraught.
Cross section diagram and external 
Drawing and photo: Terry Woolliscroft Collection

The updraught oven consists of an inner chamber, the oven itself (with a domed roof called the crown) in which the pottery ware is placed and fired.  The oven is enclosed by an outer chamber called the hovel. The hovel acts as a chimney, taking away the products of combustion, creating draught and protecting the inside from the weather and uneven draughts. Sometimes the hovel became part of the factory workshops. Entry to the inside of the oven is through a doorway called the wicket. During firing the wicket is sealed with brickwork and daubed with clay to become the clamminsFiremouths, situated around the outside of the oven at ground level, are connected to brick flues and bags (small chimneys) on the inside of the oven. These carry the intense heat from the coal burning in the firemouths to the ware inside. The flues converge at the centre of the domed floor of the oven called the well hole. The heat rises up through the setting and then out through the top of the oven and up its chimney, or stack. At its peak the oven for the firing of biscuit ware could reach temperatures of over 1200 C. This updraught bottle oven could be used for firing both biscuit and glost ware.  More types of bottle oven here>

UPDRAUGHT STACK BOTTLE OVEN  This type of bottle oven has its chimney built directly onto the shoulder of the crown of the oven. This design was sometimes known as 'close-coupled'. The updraught stack oven has no separate hovel. This is the form developed when a series or row of ovens were grouped together in a workshop, the chimneys rising through the roof of the building.  These ovens were solid and compact but they tended to be difficult to repair since the chimney rose directly from the crown. (What does the owner do if a fault appears in the structure of the firing chamber? He might have had to knock the whole lot down and start all over.) These ovens also took longer to cool. More types of bottle oven here>

Updraught stack oven. Cross section.
The chimney was built directly onto the shoulder
of the crown of the oven
Drawing: Terry Woolliscroft Collection

UPDRAUGHT SKELETON BOTTLE OVEN  This design of bottle oven became very popular in the early 20th Century because it seemed to combine all the best qualities of the different types of updraught oven which were current at the time. It was simple in design and construction, relatively simple to operate, easy to repair and gave satisfactory results. At first sight this type looks similar to an updraught stack oven. But it is constructed differently. The updraught skeleton oven tended to be preferred by potbank owners since it was less expensive to maintain. Work could be easily carried out on the firing chamber without affecting the hovel chimney. In an updraught skeleton oven the chimney is built up from ground level, very close to but completely separate from, the firing chamber. The gap between the two structures is about the width of a building brick. The freestanding firing chamber could be maintained, or even demolished  and rebuilt, leaving the hovel chimney untouched. This variant, just as the updraught stack oven, could be built in a row in a workshop, the chimneys rising through the roof. 
More types of bottle oven here>

Updraught skeleton oven.
Note the narrow gap (about a brick's width)
between the firing chamber and the hovel chimney.
Drawing: Terry Woolliscroft Collection  2019

UPDRAUGHT HOB-MOUTHED BOTTLE OVEN A bottle oven with and older design of firing chamber, largely superseded in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  The firemouths of these ovens were built out by up to 2 feet from the firing chamber side walls to create a hob or shelf above them.  Coal was shovelled though a square hole in the hob and down onto the firebed below. The hole was covered, when baiting had finished, by a slab of fireclay. This method of baiting was regarded as 'old fashioned' by some but it did have the distinct advantage that cold air was prevented from rushing into the firing chamber flues (unlike a firemouth with opening front doors which did allow cold air to be sucked into the interior). A hob-mouthed oven could be an updraught stack type, or an updraught skeleton type. More types of bottle oven here>

Fireman attending the hob-mouth of a bottle oven
Photo: Unknown source Date: probably 1950s

Updraught bottle oven types - summary. This graphic shows the differences between hovelstack, and skeleton bottle ovens.

UP ANLEY DUCK  Difficult to define this, but a Potteries-born local will know! ANLEY is one of the six Potteries Towns.  There is a habit amongst Potteries people to drop the h as it appears at the beginning of words.  

USE (PRONOUNCED YOOSE as in GOOSE) Dialect. "Thay hadstna use be like this!"

UTCHETER A place name. Also UCHETER. Actually, Uttoxeter. A town just south of The Potteries.

UVVER NUN NOVEL Potteries dialect for Oven and Hovel. A bottle oven. A kiln.

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VERGE Particular type of decoration towards the edge of flatware.

VERGE One of three names given to describe the parts of flatware (plates, saucers dishes etc)
  • Edge - The outermost part of the piece.
  • Rim - The part between the edge and the verge. May be used for the placing of salt or mustard.
  • Verge - The part creating the slope between the rim and the centre of the flatware. 
Interestingly, after WW2 the depth of the verge was increased to cope with the American habit of only using a fork to eat and needing something to push the food against. Many thanks go to Andy Finney for sending me this snippet. 

Parts of flatware

VERMICULITE  Material.  Geological name given to a group of hydrated laminar minerals which are aluminium-iron-magnesium silicates, resembling mica in appearance. Rock and other impurities are removed from the crude ore which is then crushed and sorted into sizes. Vermiculite is a safe inert material and is light in colour. Insulating.  Used as grog in tunnel oven troughs.

VERTICAL PUG or PUG MILL or PUGMILL Equipment. Machine. Clay end. Sliphouse. A machine which replaced the process of wedging (or slapping, the older word for it) to prepare the 'plastic' clay for use. Robust blades, rotating within a steel drum or barrel, chop up the clay and force it forwards through a perforated grid into a de-airing vacuum chamber (like a mincing machine). From there it is consolidated and forced along a tapering barrel to be extruded through a die as a roll of clay having uniform plasticity. May be horizontal or vertical.

Vertical pug mill. Wedgwood 1960s
Vertical pug mill. Wedgwood 1960s

VESSEL BASIN Sanitaryware.  Sometimes called the lay-on basin. This basin is the simplest form of washbasin since it is designed to simply sit on a counter top, on furniture or on a shelf.  The basin has a central waste outlet and sometimes comes with no overflow. Taps are either fitted to the basin or are designed to be freestanding on the furniture.  Lay-on or vessel basins can be described as “minimalist” and ultra-modern.

VIBRO MACHINE Ovens department. Biscuit Warehouse. A large vibrating steel bowl, supported on springs, lined with rubber and containing ceramic chips.  The vibrations cause a rotation of the chips. Biscuit ware, earthenware or china, flatware or holloware, is placed in the bowl.  The ware is rubbed by the vibrating ceramic chips as it moves around the bowl clockwise. The ware is smoothed and polished as it is is rubbed vigourously.

Boulton Vibro-energy machine. Awaiting refurb and recommisioning.

VIBRO OPERATOR Occupation. Ovens department. Biscuit Warehouse. Person who first loads and then empties a Vibro Machine.  This smooths the edges of biscuit fired ware ready for glost selecting then glazing.

VISCOSITY The measure of a fluid's resistance to gradual deformation by shear stress or tensile stress. For liquids, it corresponds to the informal concept of "thickness". So for example, clay slip has a much higher viscosity than water. (Many thanks go to Jayne Packer for sending me this word, Oct 2015)

VITREOUS CHINA Type of pottery with a particular recipe and requiring particular firing conditions. Hotel ware or bathroom ware. Extremely durable. Very hard material. Non porous. Glass like but not see-through.

VITREOUS Not porous. Glass-like but not see through.

VITRIFIED HOTELWARE Type of pottery with a particular recipe and requiring particular firing conditions to create a vitreous (non porous) body with high strength for use in the catering industry where heavy use and constant rough handling occurs. As well as a high strength body careful design of the profile of the individual pieces will assist in resistance of chipping.

VITRIFIED WARE Pottery is said to be vitrified when it has been so thoroughly fired as to fuse the material into a dense, hard mass. Desirable for certain classes of ware, such as those used for hotels and institutions, where hard usage has to be sustained. Vitrified pottery is usually made in double or treble thickness and with rolled edges, a further safeguard against chipping.

VITRINA Brand name of a particular pottery body manufactured by Twyfords Ltd - sanitaryware. Non porous. Discontinued.

VITROMANT Brand name of a particular type of pottery made by Twyfords Ltd. of Stoke-on-Trent, sanitaryware manufacturers. Non porous.

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WAD or WAD CLAY Particular type of clay material used during the process.  Extruded strips or rods of soft fireclay used to create a seal between each saggar in a bung. Also helps to straighten and level saggars in a bung to prevent toppling. Made from fireclay or saggar marl. 

WAD BOX Equipment. Device used for the extrusion of cylindrical lengths of fireclay, or saggar marl, wads.These were used as soft, spacer cushions between the individual saggars being placed in a bung in the bottle oven. See immediately below.

WAD CLAY Material used during the firing process. A rope-like strip of plastic clay. Used as a cushion between saggars when they are placed together, one on top of an other, in a bung, in the oven. In addition to the effect of levelling the bung, wads also seal the uneven joint between the saggars, thus preventing smoke and fumes from the the fires coming into contact with the ware during firing. Made from fireclay or saggar marl specially formulated with its own body recipe to create wad. Contains a finer grog than saggar making clay. Wad should not crack, split or fly off during firing since it could spoil the ware (particularly glost ware). 

In 1820, the recipe was recorded as follows:   
  • 2 Barrows full Nockings from Common Slip House.  
  • 1 Barrow Full Tough Tom.

WADMAN The maker of wads.

WAGGLER Equipment. May be specific to Wedgwood. Sometimes called a teaser. Used in figuremaking. Specially-made metal tool with flat springy ends. Used by figuremakers to lift clay 'relief' forms from the porous figure mould. Figures being the applied raised clay ornaments decoration on Jasper ware. See the process herehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Vi5mg5iH88

WAIT Dialect. White

WAKES WICK Dialect. Holiday time. Hoorah!  Time to get away. A trip to Blackpool perhaps.

Wakes Week

WALES Dialect. Need grace occasionally, to keep them spinning. Also near Rhyl.

WALL VASE Vase with a flat back, made to hang on a wall.

WANKY Dialect. Weak. Tired. Mard

WANNA Dialect. Was not!

WARE Pottery products. A general and an overall 'catch-all' term for pieces of pottery.

WARE BASKET  Equipment. Woven wicker ware baskets were used in all departments in a pottery factory to move pots from process to process.

WARE BOARD Equipment. Used in most departments of the potbank. About 6 feet long, 9 inches wide and an inch deep. Made of good quality pine. Simply a board with rounded corners to carry ware about the potbank. Carried on one shoulder and supported with one hand, requiring some balancing skill. Sometimes called a work board.

Carrying a potter's ware board

WARE BOARD WASHING MACHINE Equipment. Machine designed to wash ware boards. Consisting of two rotating brushes in the centre of the machine which pulls in each dirty ware board, sprays it with water and passes it through the brushes to clean off dirt. Dirt is an enemy in a potbank.

Ware board washing machine
On show at Gladstone Pottery Museum, Longton   Date: 2018

WARE CLEANER Occupation. Biscuit warehouse. Person who cleans the accumulated dust from biscuit ware which had stored for some time in the biscuit warehouse. Ware needs to be dust and dirt free before being dipped with glaze otherwise it could result in the fired piece being covered in black spots, making it faulty.

WAREHOUSE Department in the potbank. Biscuit warehouse, glost warehouse, finished warehouse.

Warehouse for sanitaryware at Twyfords, Cliffe Vale
Date: 1900

WAREHOUSE in the 18th Century - 'a more dignified word for shop'.

Josiah Wedgwood's London warehouse 

WARE PASS Occasional sale of seconds product at knock-down prices to the work force. Not universally used. Probably only heard at a Wedgwood potbank.

WARE TRAY Equipment. FOUR types - wooden, wire, plastic, cardboard. Smaller and more manageable than a ware basket.
  • 1) Early 20th Century. Wooden. Large, shallow, quite heavy and difficult-to-handle wooden tray. About 30 inches square and 6 inches deep. Stackable. Full of splinters! Good for storing and carrying small holloware, flatware and fancies.

Ware trays - wooden. Original

Ware trays - wooden, in use
Frame capture from the 1947 film 'Five Towns'
Many thanks to Phil Rowley for help in sourcing this pic

The photo, below, shows newly-made wooden ware trays for use at Gladstone Pottery Museum in Longton, Stoke-on-Trent. Made by the volunteers and named for the volunteers.
Ware trays - wooden. Replica
Newly made by volunteers for Gladstone Pottery Museum, Longton
Photo: Courtesy Phil Rowley Collection  Date Dec 2019

  • 2) Mid 20th Century. Wire. Plastic 'powder coated', wire ware trays introduced as cheaper and lighter weight alternative to the wooden ware tray. Rather flimsy and easily damaged and distorted. These became rusty when the plastic coat was damaged and this was detrimental to the pottery ware stored inside. Short lived.

Ware trays - wire

Ware trays - wire
Plastic coated wire trays in use in a packing house
See bottom left of photo

  • 3) Late 20th Century. All plastic. Some were made exactly the same size as the original wooden tray. Some slightly smaller than wooden or wire. Entirely plastic ware trays were introduced to replace the wire trays which were easily damaged and didn't last long.

Ware trays - all plastic

Ware tray - all plastic
On display at Gladstone Pottery Museum, Longton
Photo: Courtesy Phil Rowley Collection  Date: Dec 2019

  • 4) Late 20th Century. All cardboard. Double wall corrugated cardboard. Fold flat. Invented in late 1970s by a company called 'CarryCare' which was established to revolutionise pottery distribution in the UK. Stackable to low height. Easily damaged.

Ware trays - corrugated cardboard

WARVING and WARVED Pottery fault. Warped

WASHBANDING Decoration. Application of colour by brush or spray gun, either in a wide band or all over the glazed ware.

British Standard washbasin.
This is a real LAVATORY
but known in the sanitaryware trade as a TABLE
Confusing isn't it? 

WASH and WASHING Preparation of a fired saggar before it was used in a glost oven. The inside walls were covered in glaze to stop the saggar 'sucking' glaze from the products being fired within it. The top rim, inside bottom and outside bottom edge were coated in either slop flint, slop alumina or slop bone to stop saggars in a bung sticking together during firing.

WASHER OFF Occupation. In the print shop (transfer printing) of the decorating department or in the glazing department. The person who washes away the tissue paper leaving a colour pattern on the ware.

WASHING OFF Process. Removing the printing tissue paper after the print has been applied and rubbed down onto the ware.

WASHING OFF Process. Removing unfired glaze from biscuit ware. This is usually done when there has been a quality problem with the raw glaze before firing.

WASH BANDING Type of applied decoration. Onglaze. Thin layer of colour applied over a large area with a wide brush called sometimes, a pencil.

WASH BANDER Occupation. Decorating department. the person who uses a wide bristle brush (sometimes known as a pencil) to apply a broad band of enamel colour (the wash band) to the glazed pottery piece as decoration.

WAST?  Dialect.  Were you?

WASTER Faulty pottery. Very badly faulty. "Very greatly badly faulty!" Similar to lump. Worse than seconds. Usually thrown away (sent to the shord ruck) or sold for export.

WATER ABSORPTION A measure of the amount of water a pot can absorb, by soaking it under specific conditions.

WATERSLIDE Process. Decorating technique - a name which may be peculiar to the Spode Factory in the late 20th C. Used to apply designs to glost or biscuit ware. Alternative names are "litho", "transfer print" or "decal". But transfer printing is actually an entirely different process.  The waterslide (litho) comprises three layers: 1) the backing paper on which the design is printed by screen printing or lithography, 2) the colour (image) layer which comprises the decorative design; 3) the cover coat, a clear or tinted protective layer which holds the colour in place as it is removed from the backing paper and place on the ware. This cover coat burns away in the firing process.

WATER SMOKING The period, during firing, where the last of the 'mechanical water' in a pottery body and glaze is released. Usually a firing will be taken to the boiling point of water and held there for the amount of time necessary to remove all the water (the 'water smoking soak'). The degree to which the drying process has removed most of the water determines soak time needed at boiling point, but also the temperature at which the water smoking soak can be conducted.

WAX RESIST Decorating technique. Patterns or designs are created by brushing a wax medium over an area of clay, slip, or glaze to resist the final glaze application when the wax is dry.

WC Sanitaryware. Water Closet. WC. A toilet. First known WC - 1592, invented by Sir John Harington, godson of Queen Elizabeth 1st. Not a lavatory. A lavatory is actually, technically speaking, a washbasin. Which in itself is not a sink. See toilet.

WEATHERING Process. Clay is stored outside before use (in a claybank) to allow the weather (rain) to leech out the soluble salts from the clay mass prior to use.

WEDGER Occupation. Mill and slip house or potting dept. The job of wedging the clay was done by the wedger. Large lumps of clay were raised above the persons head and then thrown down onto another lump, on the bench, with great force. This action was repeated several times. The action had the effect of driving out air bubbles in the clay making it more consistent and ready for the thrower to use. The job was usually done by a young boy or girl and the weight of the clay they had to manoevre was up to 15 kilos or 30 pounds. Today the job is done mechanically by a pug mill.

WEDGING Process. A large, heavy, lump of clay is repeatedly thrown down, with great force from above head height, onto another lump on the bench. Between each action the combined lump is cut through with wire (like cheese wire) and turned. This repeated action has the effect of driving out air in the clay, making it more uniform, consistent, and 'plastic' ready for the thrower to use. The job is exhausting. Today, on a potbank, the job is done mechanically by a pug mill. Also known in earlier times as slapping.

A wedger, wedging

Gabriel Nichols wedging wild clay 
used for pottery & tiles at William Blyth

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WEDGWOOD Trade name for Josiah Wedgwood and Sons Ltd. Not, though, for Enoch Wedgewood of Tunstall, spelt with an e. Confusing for some. isn't it?

WEDGWOOD - SAVE WEDGWOOD. Sept 2014. The Wedgwood Collection, one of the most important industrial archives in the world and a unique record of 250 years of British art, is under threat of being separated and sold off. The Art Fund has the opportunity to buy it for the nation, if it can raise the final £2.74m of the £15.75m fundraising target by 30 November 2014. The public appeal has been launched to save the collection, which is being sold to pay off the ceramics firm's pension bill. The collection has 80,000 works of art, ceramics and pattern books, covering 250 years of history.

WEDGE WOOD Door stop. Not pottery. Wood. In the shape of a wedge. Keeps doors open.

Wedge Wood

WENCH A lady, or not. It depends! If not she may be a voluptuous female woman of the opposite sex, usually with a firey temper, and usually seen around taverns pubs, clubs and bars.

WELL Sometimes called the ashpit or the essole. The space beneath the firebars in the bottle oven's firemouth. Ashes from the burning coal above drop into the well which is then scraped out at intervals during the firing of the oven.

WELL HOLE Part of a bottle oven. The hole in the centre of the upwardly sloping floor of a bottle oven. All the underfloor flues from the firemouth are connected to the well hole. During firing saggars, with their bases removed, were stacked in a bung over the well hole to create the pipe bung in the centre of the setting.

WELL HOLE PIPES Part of a bottle oven, in the centre of the base of the oven. Another name for a pipe bung made with saggars with no bottom. Placed over the well hole to carry flames on hot gasses up the centre of the oven after placing and during firing.

WELLYGOGS Wellingtons. Essential footware in the sliphouse.

WERRIT Potteries dialect. Worry. Myther. 'Dunna werrit, duck.'  Don't worry!

WESH  - wash! 

WETTING The habit of paintresses to lick their pencils (potter's name for a brush) before dipping into coloured enamel prior to painting a glost pot. A bad habit since the foul chemicals thus imbibed may cause serious health problems.

WETTING AGENT A substance which when added to a liquid reduces its surface tension and causes the liquid to wet (cover) surfaces more efficiently.

WHAT SNOW similar to SNOW OUT or STIRRED OUT Dialect. Nothing at all to do with the weather. Part of a greeting - "do you know anything?"  Many thanks to David Broadhurst for suggesting this term for inclusion March 2016

WHAVING Process. A word not used often in a Potteries potbank. Dr. Plot described whaving in 1686 as an improved method of drying clay pots when the weather was bad - "When the potter has wrought the clay either into hollow or flat ware, they are set abroad to dry in fine weather, but by the fire in foule, turning  them as they see occasion, which they call wharving."


The Great Wheel
The Spode thrower's wheel at Gladstone Pottery Museum,
Longton, Stoke-on-Trent

WHEEL BOY Occupation. Potting shop. Thrower's assistant. Job for a young lad who turns the huge wheel for the thrower.

WHEEL GIRL Same as above but opposite sex. Obviously.

WHEEL TURNER Occupation. Potting shop. Thrower's assistant. Job for a young lad or girl who turns the huge wheel for the thrower.

WHIRLER Equipment. Tool. Used throughout the factory by modellers, mould makers, casters and more. But mainly in the decorating shops. The general name given to a small rotating table top supported on a tripod.

WHIRLER Pottery fault. Whirler is the exact opposite to HUMPER. A pottery flatware fault, refering to a plate with a bowed base so that it doesn't sit flat on a table but spins or whirls around. Giddy making.  Causes gravy to accumulate in a pool in the middle of the plate.

WHIRLERING Process. Casting. Clay End. Sometimes, to prevent wreathing, plaster of Paris moulds are spun on a whirler (revolving turntable) while they are being filled with slip.

WHITE GRANITE Type of pottery.  Name given to a kind of stoneware.

WHITING Material. Finely ground chalk. Used as a source of lime in pottery bodies and glazes.

WHITEWARE Type of pottery with a particular recipe and requiring particular firing conditions. The overall name to pots made from a white firing clay body. Earthenware or china.

WICK as in NECKS WICK.  Dialect. (I love this one!) Week as in Next Week.

WICKET Part of a bottle oven. The open entrance used by placers and drawers to go into the oven with saggars to fill or empty it. High enough to allow a placer, balancing a saggar on his head, to enter the oven. (Sometimes incorrectly called the clammins, or clammins arch.) The open doorway to the bottle oven which is bricked up and sealed with clay at the start of the firing process. When the wicket was temporarily bricked up and sealed with clay and sand, it became the clammins.

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WIFF Smell. Pong. Stink. Not very pleasant.

WILLOW PATTERN Applied decoration. One of the most famous patterns in the pottery industry. Nearly always printed in blue, the pattern is of a pseudo-Chinese design and was first engraved by Thomas Monton in about 1780 and used by Caughley Pottery, of Shropshire, England. There are many variations of this pattern. Still used today.

WILKINSON OVEN Type of bottle oven. Downdraught. Patented 1890.

WINGS Part of rearing during placing. The empty space in the sides of a saggar after the first row of flatware pottery had been reared. It was usually filled just a few reared plates or saucers.

WINNING Getting clay out of the ground. China clay in Cornwall is washed from the hill side with high pressure water hoses. Ball clay from Devon and Dorset is either open-mined (using large mechanical diggers to extract huge lumps of it from the ground) or deep-mined (where it is mined somewhat like coal in cramped tunnels.)

WOE Dialect.  As in BRICK WOE

WORST SECONDS - Sometimes called WORSER SECONDS - Slightly more imperfect than SECONDS. Then there was a DEGREE WORSER which was worse that WORST SECONDS. Or even WORSER WORSER. But not THIRDS, just yet.

WOOD FIRING Process. Traditional method of firing using wood - compared with modern kilns and factory production using coal, gas or electricity. Studio potters in the 20th century revived the art of wood-fired kilns which give interesting and lively surface effects. In a properly designed kiln wood is capable of delivering high temperatures so it is possible to make stoneware and porcelain. Subjects the ware to a lot of ash and smoke and this affects its appearance. It is possible to fire pieces without glaze and the products of combustion of the wood will deliver enough fluxes to fuse the surface of the clay in a glaze-like manner.

WOODWOOL Material. Used in the packing shed. Straw-like shredded waste wood. Delivered in bales to the potbank to be used as packing material.

Woodwool - shredded pine wood,
shredded into fine strips.
A most excellent packing material which replaced straw

WOOLLISCROFT-RHEAD, GEORGE, 1855-1920 Trained in painting by Ford Madox Brown, the most important and individual artist to be associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. A painter, etcher and designer of stained glass and ceramics, George Woolliscroft-Rhead belonged to the mainstream of the Arts and Crafts movement. He was the elder brother of Frederick and Louis Rhead with whom he collaborated as an illustrator. George Woolliscroft-Rhead learned the technique of etching under the tutelage of Alphonse Legros and was elected a member of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers in 1883. In later years he taught at Putney School of Art from 1896 and subsequently became director of Southwark Polytechnic Institute.

Portrait of a gent in a smock

 ANOTHER BIOGRAPHY::   A talented pottery painter, etcher, illustrator and art teacher. He was an apprentice at Minton's acquiring the skills of pottery painting under W. S. Coleman . In 1871 Minton Art Pottery Studio was set up in Kensington Gore, London under the directorship of Coleman. George went to join him there as pottery painter. The studio was destroyed by fire in 1875. In 1877 George won a scholarship to the South Kensington School of Art where he was awarded a Certificate in Art Teaching in 1880. He spent time travelling Europe before settling permanently in London. In 1898 he was co-illustrator of Idylls of the King with his brother Louis. He also wrote several books on subjects such as etching, pottery, costume and the history of the fan. Perhaps he is best known as the designer of Queen Mary's coronation fan in 1911.

WOOLLISCROFT, TERRY Author of this, the Potbank Dictionary, which was launched in January 1976, and regularly updated. @woollisox

WOOLLISCROFT TILES Brand of pottery tiles - and a great name too! Long established in Stoke (actually in Etruria, a region of Stoke-on-Trent) and moved to Dorset. George Woolliscroft & Son started making tiles in around 1884, concentrating on floor tiles from 1910. In 2000 Pilkington’s Tiles took the company over and the floor tile range became Dorset Woolliscroft.

WOM Dialect. Home

WOM IT Dialect. "Go home!"

WOPPIT DialectWasp. Stinging insect.

WORKING MOULD Equipment. Casting shop. The plaster of Paris mould from which pottery is cast during the casting process.

WORST SECONDS Faulty pot. A grade of pottery. More faulty and worse than seconds, similar to thirds, but not quite as bad as lump which is actually pretty awful. Possibly. Probably. (The dialect would be woss seconds).

The description or classification of the quality of pottery ware - the eight (or more) grades of pottery quality:
  • EXTRA BEST - Better than best quality. First first quality? But still not perfect perfect - see BEST.
  • BEST - First quality pottery. Good ware. Sometimes called FIRSTS. But there is no such thing as a perfect pot since every piece will always have some sort of slight blemish - this is the very nature of pottery.
  • BEST SECOND - Not bad enough to be a SECOND and not good enough to be best.
  • SECONDS - Imperfect pottery. Not BEST and not THIRDS or LUMP! Slightly blemished or faulty and sold at a slight discount.
  • WORST SECONDS - Sometimes called WORSER SECONDS. Slightly more imperfect than SECONDS. Then there was a DEGREE WORSER which was worse than WORST SECONDS. Or even WORSER WORSER. But not THIRDS, just yet.
  • THIRDS - This signifies that the ware is well below the usual BEST standard, and not even good enough to fall within the description of SECONDS. But better than LUMP. The ware was/is still marketable, however, and was sold to hawkers or market stall holders for sale on the 'stones'. Badly twisted ware, crooked holloware, nipped ware and whirler plates fall into this category.
  • LUMP - Massively faulty pottery. So bad that it is worse than WORSER SECONDS. Or even THIRDS. This is almost, but not quite, the lowest quality of ware that leaves any potbank, and usually it is ware that has just managed to escape being deliberately smashed. Whilst there may have been possibilities in some china shops of disposing of SECONDS, or even THIRDS the risk of dealing in LUMP is "too great to be incurred lightheartedly." Top-end, high-grade potbanks see to it that LUMP is sent to the shraff tip, "in spite of the fact that enquiries were freely received from the poorer districts or export for mixed grades of lump."  Usually, about 100 years later,  lump re-appears on TV shows as 'rare and valuable.'  That’s irony!
  • PITCHER Worse than lump. To be thrown away. Broken. Useless. But strangely saleable, at a price, in some quarters!
Also note this additional description of faulty pot: CRACK CRACKED and SOUND CRACKED Pottery which was found to be cracked after its glost firing was usually scrapped as useless. It was described as LUMP or PITCHER and usually sent to the shraff tip. However, some entrepreneurs in the industry were able to make money from selling cracked pottery - depending on how cracked it really was! Here, to explain is a quote from Brian Milner. He was one of those entrepreneurs in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. "We used to buy China teacups from Ridgways. These were termed "crack cracked" and "sound cracked". I am not kidding. They were [packed] 40 dozen in a teachest and we used to buy about 12 chests every 2 weeks. We would sound every one of the "crack cracked" and find a lot of sound ones which we used to decorate and we were still able to sell the really cracked to market men."

WOSS Dialect. Worse.  "bad in bed and woss up."

WOST Dialect. Were you?  "Wost at th' Stoke match Satdee?" Not to be confused as the past tense of woss, it isn't.

WREATHING Pottery body fault. Sometimes occurs on the inside of cast whiteware. Appears as a lines or corrugations or raised crescents. Caused by incorrect deflocculation of the clay slip or too slow casting.

WRIGHTS PIE (Rite Spies) Nourishment. Potter's favourite local meat and potato pie.  "It was 1926, the year of the great depression, the year Queen Elizabeth II was born, the year Walt Disney Studios was formed and like many people who changed history, John James Wright, ‘The Workers Caterer’, was inspired to produce good wholesome food at a price the local Potteries people could afford. He sourced the best local ingredients from markets and abattoirs and carried the goods on his shoulders for two miles to his terraced house kitchen where he and his wife created some of the finest pies around. John was renowned for his good honest simple approach to food and through his shared passion for baking, passed down through three generations, ensure his values and key principles live on."

Wrights Meat and Potato pie - RITES SPIES

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WRISTER Kiln Furniture. Part of a bottle oven. Particular shape of scotch which was the width of a human wrist. Excellent description for use by placers working in a team to describe exactly what is required.

WROSTLE  Dialect.  Wrestle.

WUN Dialect Will!

WUNNA Dialect. Won't.  Definately will not!

WUT Dialect. Will you?

WUTNER Dialect. Would not. As in Shutner, Wutner, Conner. Or "won't you?"  Similar to WUT

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