L - M


LACTOLIAN WARE Name of a particular type of product introduced by C. J. Noke who joined the the Doulton Company in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, in 1889. Initially he was a modeller but later became Doulton Art Director. He helped to establish the Burslem factory as a world leader in both style, technology and scale of production. Noke introduced Luscian Ware, Lactolian Ware or enamelled pottery decorated in Art Nouveau style in about1900.

LAGS or LAGGY  Opposite to foggy but not misty. Definitely last.  'Bags eye goo laggy' meaning 'let me go last.'

LAMP Equipment. Portable lighting used to illuminate the inside of a bottle oven during setting or drawing. Sometimes made of metal - specially designed and constructed - with a spout from which emerged a 'tow wick'. A thick oil known as torch oil was used to soak the wick which was set alight.

LAMP Hit hard in a fight.

Poorly potter. Worse poorly than 'off side.' If the potter is really laid up then he might be 'bad in bed and woss up.'

LARM KILL BONK Dialect.  Lime Kiln Bank. A very steep hill between Bucknall and Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent. Dodgy in the winter.

LAST BOTTLE OVEN FIRING  Longton, Stoke-on-Trent, England. 1978.  The last ever firing with coal of a traditional Potteries bottle oven. Organised by Gladstone Pottery Museum. Took place at the factory of Hudson and Middleton (Longton) Ltd.

See how it was done here>

Author of the Potbank Dictionary, Terry Woolliscroft, baits a firemouth
at the Last Bottle Oven Firing in the Potteries 1978.
Alfred Clough, who managed the firing, looks on.
BBC Radio Stoke Gallery of images here>

LATE WOOD Dialect. Lightwood.  A residential area south of Longton, Stoke-on-Trent.

Equipment. Machine. Potting department.

LATHE TREADER Occupation. Potting department. Male or female. Uses legs to treddle and create rotary motion on the lathe.

LAVATORY Sanitaryware. The correct trade name for a washbasin. Not a toilet. A term not used so much today (1990s onward). In the very early days of sanitaryware manufacture a lavatory was sometimes called a table.

Lavatory or Table, 1960

Now this is messy, complicated and a tad confusing, so bear with me!  
  • In the good old days, in the UK sanitaryware industry, sanitary pottery casters and warehouse packers, called a WASHBASIN a TABLE. But why? Well, in the late 1800s when large WASHBASINS were designed to stand on legs rather than a single column pedestal (as is common in the UK today, 2015) the washbasin looked like a TABLE. 
  • But actually, the correct word, in those days, for a WASHBASIN or TABLE was LAVATORY. The word LAVATORY is derived from the Latin word LAVARE, meaning 'to wash.' 
  • Nowadays, a TOILET is often mistakenly called a LAVATORY since this is regarded as polite. But technically, it is incorrect. 
  • Of course, while it would be correct to wash your hands in a LAVATORY or WASHBASIN or SINK (see below) it would be odd to wash your hands in a TOILET, or worse still, to do something 'exceptional' in a LAVATORY, WASHBASIN or SINK.

LAV or LAVVY Toilet | WC | Loo | Euphemism | John | Crapper | Dunny | Shit house | Karzy | Privy | Jackes | Ajakes | House of Office | Bog | Netty | Vin | Latrine | Facility | Throne | Thunderbox |  Porcelain,  Appointment with the  |  Porcelain, point percy at the  |  Pan  |

"A useful contrivance, the purpose of which requires no explanation" 
GEORGE JENNINGS, 1877 - English sanitary engineer and plumber who invented the first public flush toilets.

LAVVY FACTORY Where the most the most fundamental of pots are made, in The Potteries.

Twyfords Cliffe Vale Factory 1920
Converted to dwellings in 2007
Shelton New Road, Stoke on Trent, England

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LAWN Equipment. Sliphouse. A sieve. Fine mesh or screen of up to 180s mesh used during the cleaning of pottery slip after blunging.  Usually made of phosphor bronze. The vibrating  mesh takes out the over-sized particles in the slip. Earthenware usually has a coarser mesh than bone china. The material left behind in the lawn is called knottings or knockings.

LAY ON BASIN Sanitaryware.  Sometimes called the vessel basin. This basin is the simplest form of washbasin since it is designed to simply sit on top of a counter, 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.

LEAD Material used during the process. Glaze making.

LEAD GLAZE Material. Lead glaze is a glaze in which lead oxide (a metal ore) is the main fluxing agent; included to reduce the melting point of the glaze. Lead glaze matures at relatively low temperatures and produces high gloss and brilliance but must always be fired in an oxidising atmosphere if it is not to darken during firing. Lead has been used to make glass for more than 3,000 years. About 2,000 years ago potters adapted it to make glaze suitable for pottery

LEADLESS GLAZE Material. Glaze which contains no lead.  Generally glazes which fuse at kiln temperatures above 1250°C in order to get the required gloss. No so satisfactory as leaded glazes they tend to be less brilliant when used and fired under the same conditions.

LEAD HOUSE A room on a potbank, close to the dipping house, but set aside specifically for the storage of glaze tubs or arcs. Lead glaze - once common since it gives a wonderful glossy surface during firing - was found to be harmful. It was kept away in the lead house.

LEAD POISONING Before lead was banned as an ingredient of glaze the people who worked with it in the potbanks were open to serious health problems: disease of the digestive system, muscle paralysis, particularly in the hands, epilepsy, ulceration of the gums, where a blue line would form (seen as a warning symptom), miscarriages and pregnancy problems. Lead-poisoning meant that glaze dippers could die early.  Dippers often used their bare hands to dip wares into the liquid glaze and absorbed lead through their skin. Dry glaze on the dipped ware and mixing raw materials for glazes also meant that there was poisonous airborne dust around that could be inhaled. It was not until 1878 that the law banned women and children from working with white lead and into the 1890s before the dangers of lead were fully regulated. Alternative glaze materials were needed.

LEAD SOLUBILITY A measure of the solubility of lead glazes, in particular in diluted hydrochloric acid. 

LEAN CLAY Component of pottery body recipe. A clay with very low plasticity. The opposite is fat clay. Lean clay which is deficient in plasticity is difficult to handle and work. Lean clays can be more desirable in some circumstances  since they tend to have a lower shrinkage.

LEATHER HARD Partially dried clay where all the wet to dry shrinkage is mostly complete. Sometimes called cheese hard.   
  • Soft-leather-hard ideal for forming, joining, thick slip-decorating.  
  • Medium-leather-hard good for thin slip-decorating, joining, incising, carving, piercing.  
  • Hard-leather-hard good for thin slip-decorating, carving, scraping.

LICK RUSS OWE SOATS Dialect. Sweets.

LIGGER Dialect. Liar.

LIME Material. Mineral. A white caustic alkaline substance consisting of calcium oxide, obtained by heating limestone.

LINE Decoration to the edge of flatware or holloware.

LINER Occupation. Mainly female. Decorating shop. Paints narrow lines in pottery enamel colour, gold, or platinum and other materials and metal oxides onto tableware and ornamental wares as part of their decoration.

Royal Doulton tableware in the pattern called Anthea.
The 'line' decoration is created by lining in Platinum.

LINER Equipment. Tool. Decorating department. A pencil (potters name for a small painting brush) with the bristles special chamfered to allow lining in colour or gold.

LINER A roughly-thrown clay cylinder which forms the start of a cup-making process. The cylinder is created by the thrower from a pre-measured ball of clay. The cylinder is then placed inside an empty cup-mould and another potter smooths the cylinder with their fingers onto the sides of the mould to create the final shape of the cup. Difficult to describe! But this short movie should help - you can see the process near the start of the film. (Note : a development of this process was the cup jolley which eliminates the need for a thrower to create the liner)

LINING Process. Application of a narrow line of ceramic colour to the edge of a piece of pottery to form part of its decoration. Lining should not be confused with banding which is the application of a wider band of colour, or with gilding which is lining in gold.

LIQUID GOLD Material used during the decorating process. Decoration. Applied gold which is comparatively inexpensive since it doesn't need burnishing to brightness. Sometimes called bright gold. The term ''liquid'' is intended to distinguish it from the more expensive 'best gold which is the true precious metal dissolved in a medium which, when fired away, leaves behind the pure mineral gold fixed to the ware. Liquid gold is really a cheaper substitute, and therefore has not the life and durability of the best or burnished gold.

LITHARGE Material used during the glazing process. Lead Oxide PbO. No allowed today. Also called Lead Monoxide, Plumbous Oxide & Yellow oxide. A yellowish or reddish, odourless, heavy, earthy, water-insoluble, solid. Used also in the manufacture of Lead Stabilisers (Lead Steareates), lead glass, paints, enamels, and inks.


LITHOGRAPHY The process of multi-coloured decoration. Decorating department. "means of applying coloured designs to pottery by the simple application of a transfer. Usually the decorations are applied ON the glaze. UNDER the glaze lithographs are, however, steadily being developed. Lithography, as a means of pottery decoration, is viewed with favour principally in the mass-production potteries where speed of output is an important consideration."  Definition from The Pottery and Glass Trade Review Directory and Diary, 1935.

There are two types of litho decoration:

 LITHO 1 Introduced around 1880
'The designs were printed by lithography and so the transfers became known as 'lithographs'. The ware had to be coated with a varnish-like size and the transfer placed colour-side down onto it, rubbed on, and the paper sponged off.'  Definition by Robert Copeland, Historical Consultant, Spode Ltd., 1980

 LITHO 2 Introduced in the 1920s and 30s.
 Decorative designs applied to glost ware (inglaze or onglaze) or biscuit ware (underglaze). Most usually onglaze. Not to be confused with transfer printing which is an entirely different process. In this more recent type of litho, the design is printed onto special paper comprising of three specific parts: 
  • 1) The carrier layer. The backing paper. A special water-absorbent paper, coated during its manufacture with a very thin water-soluble skin. 
  • 2) The coloured image layer. The multi-coloured decorative design is applied to the backing paper by either lithography or by the silk-screen process.
  • 3) The covercoat layer. This is a very thin, transparent, flexible plastic coating which completely covers the design and holds the coloured design in place. The covercoat is often brightly coloured to assist the lithographer when placing the decoration into position on the pot.
Process: These litho sheets can be stored for some time until required. When decorating begins the backing paper is soaked in water until the covercoat, complete with its decoration, begins to float free. It is then slid from the backing paper and manoeuvred into position on the pottery. Water and air bubbles are then squeezed out from under the covercoat with a rubber kidney-shaped squeegee. This is delicate work - all air bubbles must be removed and the litho must be rubbed gently into position, free of creases. The covercoat burns away during firing leaving the coloured decoration fired and permanently fixed to the pot.
Litho is also known locally as 'slide litho', 'water slide' or 'water slide litho'. In North America, these are called decalcomanias or decals.


'Litho' decoration explained
filmed at Middleport Pottery, Stoke-on-Trent

LITHOGRAPHER Occupation. Decorating department. The male or female who applies lithos to pottery.

Pam Jones – lithographer 
Stafford shape coffee pot
Applying 'water slide' gold detail
Spode factory in Stoke-on-Trent, England. c1980

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LITHOPHANE An etched or moulded artwork in very thin, translucent, porcelain or bone china. Can only be seen clearly when back lit. It is a design or scene in intaglio that appears in grey tones.

LITTLERS BLUE Colour. Rich royal blue.

LIVERING Pottery body problem, but not a fault since a pot hasn't yet been created. Livering in slip appears like jelly. The surface of the slip looks like wet liver. Caused by incorrect defloculation.

LOBBY Food for the hungry potter. A delicious and nourishing and thin but lumpy soup full of carrots, parsnips, potatoes, onions and mate (meat). The meat may be lamb if you live in the north of the Potteries and beef (bayf or bafe) if you live in the south. Also containing dumplings, sometimes but not always. Perhaps. It depends on the chef!

The Potters' Cook Book
Compiled by Hannah Staton in 1977
Drawings by Bill Morris, Printed by Keates Ltd., Hanley, Stoke on Trent   

What is Lobby? Food for the hungry potter!
Lobby Mug - fine English bone china.
Illustration on one side, description on the other.
Made in Stoke-on-Trent
Available to purchase from the manufacturer

LOCKBACK Undercut indentations on the backs of dust-pressed tiles which helped to ‘lock’ the tiles more firmly to the cement to which they were fixed.  Some firms, including T. & R. Boote and H. & R. Johnson, took out patents for their particular type of lockback.

LONDON SINK Domestic sink manufactured from fireclay with a similar shape to a Belfast sink, but this time without an overflow.

London Sink. No overflow. 1934

LONG FLAME COAL High bituminous coal, have a high quantity of gaseous ingredients which enable flames to reach the height of the inside of a bottle oven. Pottery districts were located on coalfields where this type of Black Band coal was plentiful.

LONKTON A potters' pronunciation for LONGTON.  The southern most town of the six towns (not Arnold Bennett's five towns) which make up the Potteries of Stoke-on-Trent.

LOO Sanitaryware. Toilet, not Lavatory. Several theories exist about the origin of this word but the most popular, is that it is derived from the cry of 'gardyloo' - from the French 'regardez l'eau' meaning 'watch out for the water'. The warning was shouted when a full chamber pot was emptied from upstairs into the street below, showering passers by with all sorts of unpleasant 'stuff.'

LOOKED OVER  Process. In the greenhouse. Inspection of green ware to look for faults, blemishes, imperfections in the green clay product.

LOOKER OVER or LOOKER OVERER Occupation. An inspector. The person who does the looking over (!) See above.

LOOP LINE The rail track which, before The Beeching Cuts of the 1960s, connected the main towns of Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England. The Potteries Loop Line was a railway line that ran through the heart of the city. It was built by the North Staffordshire Railway off its main line (nowadays referred to as the Manchester branch of the West Coast Main Line via Stoke). It was opened in many short sections due to the cost of railway construction during the 1870s. The line throughout was sanctioned but the NSR felt that the line would be unimportant enough to abandon part way though its construction. This upset residents of the towns through which the line was planned to pass and they eventually petitioned parliament to force the completion of the route.

LOW CUP A low height, wide, cup much favoured in hot countries.

LOW SOL GLAZE Material used in the process. Low Solubility Glaze. Defined by the Pottery Health Regulations as a glaze which does not release more than 5% of it's dry weight of soluble lead, when subjected to a specified test using hydrochloric acid.

LOZZUK or LOSSOCK or  LOZERK Dialect. After a hard day's work on the potbank you need a well deserved rest, slumping into a nearby cosy chair. But after a while you might slump further, even slouch. This is unsupported laziness. A good slovenly lozzuk.

LUMP Faulty pottery. So bad that lump is worse than seconds. Or even worst seconds or thirds. So it's really, really faulty. Worse than WORSER SECONDS.  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 selling SECONDS, or even THIRDS the risk of dealing in LUMP is "too great to be incurred lightheartedly." The good, top-end, high-grade potbanks see to it that LUMP is sent to the shraff tip, (also known as the shord ruck) "in spite of the fact that enquiries were freely received from the poorer districts or from export markets for mixed grades of lump."  Usually, about 100 years later, lump re-appears on TV shows as 'rare and valuable.'  That’s irony!

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 - Really 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 selling 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 poor districts or export markets 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!

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."

LUMPING Process during the firing of a bottle oven. Loading coal on to the firemouths at the start of the firing cycle, before kindling. The word is probably derived from the lumps (large lumps) of coal which were put into the firemouths first. Coal 'nuts' were then put on top of the lumps and finally 'slack'. In this way a good fire had been built. Important, therefore, to get this process right!

LUSCIAN WARE Name of a particular type of product produced by Doulton by Mr. C. J. Noke who joined the the Doulton Company in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, in 1889. Initially he was a modeller but later became Art Director. He helped to establish the Burslem factory as a world leader in both style, technology and scale of production. Noke introduced Luscian Ware, Lactolian Ware or enamelled pottery and the delicate Titanian range.

LUSTRE Type of applied decoration. A thin deposit of metal on pottery
giving it a metallic or iridescent sheen. Metallic oxides form the colourful iridescent surface decoration during firing in a kiln starved of oxygen. The colour develops in this "reducing atmosphere." From the Middle East before 900 AD.

LUSTREWARE Pottery with a rich iridescent sheen used as a decorative effect, achieved by depositing a thin film of metal derived from metallic salts mixed with the glaze on the surface and firing in a reducing (low-oxygen) atmosphere. Ruby lustre, derived from copper sulphate, is the most common but other colours including gold, green and blue can be achieved through the use of different metal salts.

LUTE and LUTEING Joining two clay surfaces, parts of a pot, together with slip. The individual surfaces are usually scratched with a tool before the slip is applied to aid adhesion. The process of joining two halves of a press moulded holloware piece. 

LUTING Process. 18th century word for sticking up. Joining unfired parts of a vessel using slip as the "adhesive."

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MAGNETTING Passing slip over magnets to extract iron impurities which would later cause brown specking in the finished fired pottery. "Where electric magnets are not used it is advisable for the slip to pass at least 12 dozen (144) magnets, which should be washed every hour [when in use] because once a magnet is charged with iron it is impossible for it to extract anymore." From:  PRACTICAL TREATISE ON THE MANUFACTURE OF POTTERY by John Gater, Consultant Potter, 1921

JUMBO CUP Very large bowl-like cup with handle.

MALL  Also MAWL or MAU or MOW Equipment. The special tool used by a saggar maker and a saggar maker's bottom knocker to flatten saggar clay into a slab. Like a large wooden lollypop-shaped mallet. Oak. Kept in submerged in water when not in use to stop saggar marl sticking to it during use.

MAIOLICA Type of pottery. Fine earthenware with coloured decoration on an opaque white tin glaze, originating in Italy during the Renaissance. Tin-glazed earthenware that was popular from the 1400s to the 1600s. Maiolica can be distinguished by a white background that contrasts with the brilliant earth-tone pigments painted onto it. The tin glaze is a chemical mixture that acts as a base for paint by fixing it to the surface, giving maiolica pottery its unique white background. The presence of tin in a glaze makes it less likely to run or blur when the painted ceramic piece is fired in a kiln.  Easily confused with MAJOLICA.

Faenza maiolica istoriato dish with depiction of judgment of Paris 1527
Pic: Courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum

MAJOLICA Type of pottery. Used in the 19th Century to describe earthenware decorated with bright and richly coloured glazes. Frequently relief decorated and naturalistic in style. First introduced by Minton in 1851 at London's Great Exhibition. Fired at high temperature. Majolica was made during the Victorian era 1851 to 1900. (Excellent website describing Majolica and Maiolica  here> )

Majolica teapot

MAKER Occupation. Potting department. A potter or a caster who makes pots. Sometimes the pots can be really large and heavy clay products such as fireclay baths, sinks or urinals. Sometimes they can be really small pots such as muffins.

MANGLE (MANGLE DRYER) Equipment. Type of large (sometimes very large) drying cupboard or tower. Pottery ware is placed on shelves supported on two endless chains in a vertical shaft provided with steam-pipes or other source of heat. The ware is introduced through an opening at a convenient level, and on turning a handle are moved forward until another shelf is brought to the opening. When dry, the ware is removed through a similar opening at the opposite side of the chamber.  The chief advantages of a mangle dryer are: 1) there is no distant carrying of ware to the dryer 2) a larger output is obtained as the makers lose no time in carrying the wares 3) better use is made of the heat than in some other forms of  drying stoves.

Large mangle drying tower
Middleport Pottery
Photo: unknown source  Date: Approx 2018

Drying mangle
Loading and off loading
Photo: unknown source Date: 1950s

MAN OF FIRE aka SPIRIT OF FIRE One of the Potteries' most impressive statues. Designed by the London sculptor David Wynne. He spent some time in the Potteries looking for inspiration and he said "..it hit me that the sculpture must have something to do with the great fires which dominate the life of the Potteries..."  The statue is made of anodised aluminium. 35 feet high and 28 feet wide, it weighs 1.25 tons.

Man of Fire
(But not Jack Frost!)

MAO-DUP Clogged, as in a drain if you pour clay slip down it!

MARBLED STONEWARE Two or more coloured stoneware clays partially blended together (by wedging) to resemble marble or agate.

MARD  or MARDY Dialect. Spoilt! Male or female. Child or adult. Or dog. Or cat. Completely over 'fussed'. May also be Nesh! May also be a moody old sod.

MARD ARSE Dialect. Very spoilt person. Lazy. Man flu? Nesh? A mard arse is easily sneeped!

MARRA Dialect. Potters word. Friend, buddy - a term of endearment. (Word courtesy of Stephen Knapper, 9 March 2014).

MARRED See Mard. Also spoilt by a surface blemish or firecrack, perhaps.

MARRED Disfigured. Spoilt. Spoiled.

MARL Material used during the process. Saggar marl.

MAR LOWAL Take clay out of the ground in huge quantities and what do you end up with ? Yes, a mar lowl.

Marl Hole - short documentary - don't go near the marl hole

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MAR LADY Dialect. The wife (or girlfriend). 'Er in doors.' Term of endearment.

MAR MATE Dialect. The friend.  But not that love or hate it food substance which is spread on toast.

MAR WEE Dialect. Potteries done good!

Robbie Williams, a Stokie, My Way

MASHIN Dialect. Courting. Going out. Dating.

MASON Occupation. Works in a fireclay factory mason's shop. Uses hammer and chisel, drills, mechanical saws and other cutting tools to shape large pieces of fireclay pottery. In the case of gentlemen's urinals the mason cut and shaped huge backslabs of fireclay to create a long, joined urinal range.

MASONS IRONSTONE Type of pottery first patented in 1813.  A particular recipe and requiring particular firing conditions. Particular to Masons Pottery factory, Hanley. But manufactured also by other potters.

MASTER MOULD Equipment. Potting department. Sometimes called a Block Mould. The first mould created from the model. Precious and must be preserved.

MATCHER Occupation. Warehouse. Usually a lady, but men did it too. The matcher would ensure that the pattern or colour of all the products in one complete a dinnerset or teaset would match each other. Particularly important for very large and expensive services.

MATCHING Process. Warehouse. The process of ensuring that the decoration employed on the individual pieces in a set (dinnerset or tea set) match each other.

MATCHINGS Some specialist companies have been set up to offer a matchings service.  They sell odd pots which customers may buy to complete their dinner or tea services which may have had a piece broken in use.  These companies do well by selling over the internet.

MATE Dialect. Meat. Filling in a pace. "Pace a mate." Not mar mate. 

MATHEMATICAL TILES  Tiles with large pegs at the rear which, when nailed onto wooden laths in overlapping layers, resemble brickwork.

MATT GLAZE Type of glaze. Glaze with dull, non-reflecting, surface. No glossy shine. Used frequently by art potters. Josiah Wedgwood used it from the early 1930s.

MATURING Process. Like ageing, storing clay for a considerable period to allow it to homogenise. Moisture content will even out through the mass during ageing.

MATURING TEMPERATURE The temperature at which the body and the glaze develop to the required properties of colour, hardness, density, etc. of the pottery.

MATURING POINT  Firing point (a combination of temperature and 'soak' time) at which the body or glaze reaches it's desired condition of colour, hardness, density, etc.

MAU, MAWL, MALL or MOW Pronounced 'mo'. Equipment. The special tool used by a saggar maker and a saggar maker's bottom knocker to flatten saggar marl clay into a slab. Like a large heavy wooden mallet, shaped like a warming pan. Kept submerged in water when not in use to stop the saggar marl sticking to it during use.

Lads on a potbank, two with a mau, mawl, mall or mow

MAYTHERED Dialect. Emotion. Upset. Worked up over a situation. See Myther.

MAIZE EARLS Dialect. Infectious spots on potters. Highly infectious viral illness. Causes a range of symptoms including fever, coughing and distinctive red-brown spots.

MAZ BLUE or MAZARINE BLUE Royal blue, in intensity. Onglaze or underglaze. Based on Cobalt Oxide and flux.

MEB Abbreviation for Midlands Electricity Board. Important distributor of electrical power to the Potteries, particularly when electric kilns became more popular as the trend away from coal fired bottle ovens progressed. The MEB was formed in 1948 as part of the nationalisation of the electricity industry by the Electricity Act 1947. The company was privatised in 1990 and became Midlands Electricity plc. The new business was subsequently split up and sold several time.

MEB - Midlands Electricity Logo 1950s

MEDFEATHERS Part of a Bottle Oven. The brickwork used in building the flues and mouths in the oven. The dividing wall between two flues. Medfeathers, which form the flues and support the oven bottoms, are built four bricks high. Bricks used are firebrick and usually flat backs. They may sometimes be tapered and sometimes notched. Also known as Midfeathers.

MELDON STONE Component of pottery body recipe. Low quality China Stone. Cornish.

MEMORY Clay is said to have a memory. After the first fire, clay sometimes show signs of its processing prior to firing. It appears to have a memory. This is mostly caused by the orientation of the clay particles during the making process. In sanitaryware manufacture a well known problem is called slip-meet. The piece looks perfect before firing but after firing a distinct bulge appears at the point  where the poured slip meets to create the full cast.

METAL MARK Glaze fault. Silver cutlery or other soft metal will leave a thin smear of metal on pottery if the glaze is minutely pitted. This pitting may be inherent or may arrived over a period through constant use.

METAL RELEASE A problem which pottery can suffer from. Toxic materials, mainly metals, being released from glazes into drink and foodstuffs. Lead and cadmium are the metals of greatest concern, although testing can be extended to include others.  Regulations have existed since the late 1960s to protect consumers. Monitoring the level of metal release from glazed ware should form part of the Quality Control procedures of all reputable producers.

METAMERISM The phenomenon which occurs when colours appear to change when viewed in different types of light. So coloured objects might match perfectly in one light source (for example in fluorescent light) but not in another (say, incandescent or candle light.)

MICA Material. A waste product in china clay (kaolin) extraction. A shiny silicate mineral with a layered flakey structure, found as minute scales in granite and other rocks.

MICROLITE Brand name for shower trays produced in a fine fireclay. Twyfords and maybe others. Contains a grog of molochite.

MIDFEATHERS  See medfeathers - directly above.

MIDDEN Dump. Pile of waste, sometimes human excreta. Smelly! A mound or deposit containing shells, animal bones, and other refuse that indicates the site of a human settlement.

MIDDLEPORT POTTERY BURLEIGH WARE Trade name for a product from Burgess and Leigh Ltd., Middleport Pottery,  by the canal, Middleport, near Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent

MILL or MILL HOUSE A department in the potbank. In the sliphouse. Where the potting process starts and where the raw materials required in the ceramic body recipe are prepared. Flint is calcined and ground to fine particle size. China stone is ground.  Bone is calcined and ground. When prepared, the raw materials are stored and constantly stirred in slop form, with water, to prevent them settling out, in arks.

The Mill House

MILLER Occupation. Sliphouse. Usually male since it is heavy work. Operates the machinery which grinds and mills the component materials of the pottery body to a fine particle size.

MILLING Process. Crushing and grinding component pottery recipe materials to a fine powder. Usually with water.

MINTON OVEN Type of bottle oven. Downdraught. Patented by T W Minton No 1709 May 1873.

MITHERED  Past tense of Mither.  Dialect. A worry. 'Dunna mither me, arm ow rate, duck!'  Also Mayther. Or myther.

MOCHA CUP Small sized cup. Coffee cup

MOCHA WARE Pottery ware of the late 18th through the early 20th centuries, ornamented with colored glaze worked into branch-like patterns by drops of a diffusing agent applied while the glaze is still wet.

Mocha type ware excavated from the Spode Factory site
Stoke-on-Trent, England

MODEL The original 3D design of the pot. The pot could be as small as a teacup or as big as a toilet.
Modelling 1950
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MODELLING Process. Potting department. Creating a model using clay or Plaster of Paris. Also sometimes wax or alabaster. And for very large pieces (Eg: sanitaryware) the model may be created in high denisty foam or even wood.

Clay modelling: Before the pottery article can be produced from a mould it has first to be modelled from a mass of clay, which is gradually built up by adding or removing clay with the fingers or with wooden tools until the desired shape is realised. From the original model, block and case moulds are made, and from these working plaster moulds which have to be frequently renewed. Modelling for the pottery industry is a comparatively slow, delicate and costly.



model + 
master block - 
master case + 
working block - 
working case + 
working mould - 
clay piece +

MODELLER Occupation. Very skilled. Highly paid. Male or female. The person who interprets the designer's drawings and creates a 3-D model of the piece in either clay or plaster. Since clay shrinks during drying and firing, the modeller has to be highly skilled to expand the size of the model, by as much as 10 or 12%, so that the finished size is a true representation of the original design.

MODELLERS' TURNING TOOLS See diagram. The tools include the Borer and Frog
Turning tools

MODULUS OF ELASTICITY  The extent to which a material may be distorted under a given stress. Important in calculating glaze/body relationships.

MODULUS OF RUPTURE The resistance of  a piece of ceramic, of unit cross sectional area to an applied force. Its mechanical strength.

MOLOCHITE Material.  The grog ingredient in the Microlite (fine fireclay) shower trays. Molochite is a hard abrasion resistant alumino silicate produced by the calcination of specially selected kaolins.  Molochite is made by firing raw low-iron kaolin to very high temperatures to bring about maximum conversion of the clay crystal to crystalline mullite (usually 95%+). The latter has high mechanical stability and resistance to thermal shock.    Many thanks to Simon Howard for suggesting this word. March 2016

MONITOR Name of the high pressure water hose used to blast china clay from the sides of deep open china clay pits in Cornwall and Devon, England.

MONKEY ARM Equipment. Clay end. Found on jolleying (for holloware) and jiggering (for flatware) machines. The arm, with a profile tool bolted to its end, is brought down onto a clay ball or batt inside or on top of a rotating plaster of Paris mould. This actions spreads out the ball or batt of clay to create the shape of the cup or plate.

MONKEY MUCK Material used during the process. Sanitaryware casting. Congealed slip. Used to stick two separate pieces of clay together to form one piece. This is clay slip squeezed from an icing bag onto the rim of a still-damp clay WC prior to the flushing rim and top of the WC being placed into position.  The slip is the 'glue' which holds the base and the top together prior to glazing and firing (once-fired vitreous china).

MONTIETH Large ornamental bowl for cooling wineglasses which are suspended from the scolloped rim.

MONTMORILLONITE  Material. Clay such as bentonite. Results from the breakdown of airborne volcanic ash.  The finest particle-size of all clays.  Very high shrinkage, and generally used only as an additive to clay bodies or glazes.

MOONSTONE Type of glaze with a particular recipe and requiring particular firing conditions. Matt white surface finish. Particular to Josiah Wedgwood.

MOORSTONE Early name for Cornish Stone. Component of pottery body recipe. Same as china stone. In the UK it is found in the St.Stephen's and St.Denis districts of the St.Austell granite mass, Cornwall, South West England.

MOPPIT Moth. As opposed to WOPPIT which is a wasp.

MORED EAT ITE Knocked the saggar marl out with a mawl (pronounced mow).

MORTAR Material. Used for joining structural brickwork. May be cement mortar or Lime mortar or a mix of the two.

MORT OFF - also Morted Ware. A damp clay piece will blow apart - or mort - during firing. Moisture in the clay rapidly turns to steam and the piece explodes as the staem tries to escape. 

MORTED WARE or MORTING Pottery body fault. Well known in the days of bottle oven firing. Caused by partially dried clay pieces re-absorbing moisture before the fire. If this happens thin layers of partially re-hydrated clay when in contact with layers of dehydrated clay, flake off. Particular problem in once fired clay-glazed product. Morting is also created if a hollow section of a clay piece is not created with a small air hole. The air in the hollow section will expand during firing and if it cannot escape through the air hole will cause the clay piece to explode or mort off. 

MOTTLING Type of decoration. Sponged on or applied by roller. By hand.

MOULD The essential potter's tool for the shaping of pottery by slip casting, jiggering, jolleying or plastic clay pressing. The type of Plaster of Paris used depends on the type of mould being created or formed. The shape of the mould - whether in the positive or negative state - depended on the stage of the mould making process. In pottery manufacture the working mould was made from light and very porous Plaster of Paris.


Positive MODEL
Negative BLOCK, the Master Mould, formed from the model
Positive CASE, similar to the original model, but formed from the BLOCK
Negative WORKING MOULD formed from the CASE
The positive CAST PIECE

MOULD MAKER Occupation. Potting department. Usually a man who created working moulds from cases.

MOULDMAKING Process. Potting department. Creating the working mould from which pottery holloware can be cast or jiggered, or pottery flatware can be jolleyed. There are several different stages in the mouldmaking process.
  • Modelling A model of the desired finished piece is created in plastic clay or in Plaster of Paris. Different shapes and sizes can be modelled for holloware (jugs, teapots, cups vases, bowls etc), flatware (plates and saucers etc) and figurines. This prototype model needs to be larger ( as much as 12% larger) than the envisaged fired or finished size of the final product so as to allow for the shrinkage of the clay during drying and firing.
  • Blocking The process of producing the first or master mould. This is a precious mould and needs to be well protected and preserved since often the original model will be destroyed during the blocking process. The block can be a simple one-part mould such as for a cup for a jolley machine or a multi-part mould for casting a figurine or teapot.
  • Casing The process of making the replica of the original model using the block. The block can be 'cased' in either a hard plaster or a silicone rubber, again this maybe a simple one part case or a complicated multi-part case. Cases must be stored in pristine condition, so that new working moulds may be perfectly formed from them as the old working moulds wear out.
  • Mouldmaking working moulds From the case, the required amount of working moulds can be produced. The plaster used is lighter and less dense than that for the block and case. It is also highly porous so that water can be absorbed from the clay slip during the casting process. Once a working mould has been made, it must be dried out completely before use. Working moulds have a limited lifespan will last only for between 60 and 80 castings.  After that time the surface of the Plaster of Paris deteriorates and the fine details and seams of the mould become worn.

MOULD MAKER'S SIZE A fluid made from soft soap melted into hot water. The subsequent solution is spread with a sponge onto the surface of the mouldmaker's case to ease the removal of the set plaster mould from the case. A bit like spreading butter onto the surface of a baking tin to allow the baked cake to be removed easily.

MOULD RUNNER  (also MOWED RUNNER) Occupation. A man or a boy and sometimes a girl employed in old pottery factories. He ran between the maker (the potter) and the drying room, carrying moulds filled with clay to be dried, and returning with empty moulds for filling. Exhausting work. This was youngsters works and not for an 'owed mowed runner'.

From Clayhanger - Arnold Bennett - describing the work of the mouldrunner; the details seem to have been taken from 'When I was a Child' by "An Old Potter" (C. Shaw) first published in 1903 which is a wondereful first hand account of someone working as a child in the pottery industry.

"At the age of seven, his education being complete, he was summoned into the world...  
Darius was first taken to work by his mother. It was the winter of 1835, January. The next morning, at half-past five, Darius began his career in earnest. He was ‘mould-runner’ to a ‘muffin-maker,’ a muffin being not a comestible but a small plate, fashioned by its maker on a mould. 
The business of Darius was to run as hard as he could with the mould, and a newly, created plate adhering thereto, into the drying-stove. This ‘stove’ was a room lined with shelves, and having a red-hot stove and stove-pipe in the middle. As no man of seven could reach the upper shelves, a pair of steps was provided for Darius, and up these he had to scamper. 

Each mould with its plate had to be leaned carefully against the wall and if the soft clay of a new-born plate was damaged, Darius was knocked down. The atmosphere outside the stove was chill, but owing to the heat of the stove, Darius was obliged to work half naked. His sweat ran down his cheeks, and down his chest, and down his back, making white channels, and lastly it soaked his hair.
Darius reached home at a quarter to nine, having eaten nothing but bread all day. Somehow he had lapsed into the child again. His mother took him on her knee, and wrapped her sacking apron round his ragged clothes, and cried over him and cried into his supper of porridge, and undressed him and put him to bed. But he could not sleep easily because he was afraid of being late the next morning."

MOULD STORE (also MOWED STORE) Potting department. Where moulds (blocks, cases and working moulds) were/are stored prior to use.

MOWED Dialect. Mould. Used to create a pot by slip casting, jiggering, jolleying or pressing.

MOWED RUNNER Dialect. Occupation. Mould runner. Occupation. A man or a boy and sometimes a girl employed in old pottery factories. He ran between the maker (the potter) and the drying room, carrying moulds filled with clay to be dried, and returning with empty moulds for filling.

MOWGRUM  A mannerism.

MOWING Using the mow to flatten a large lump of saggar clay to fit the saggar maker's frame.

MOWING IN Process. Maturing new clay to make it more homogeneous.

MOW OUT or MAU OUT Dialect Saggar making. Bashing a lump of saggar marl with a mow  or mau to create a flat slab of clay for use as a saggar bottom.

MOUTH Part of a Bottle Oven. The firemouth. On average, eight firemouths were built into the oven.  It was here that coal was baited, set alight, to raise the temperature in the oven to between 1000°C and 1250°C ( sometimes as high as 1400°C) to fire the ware.

MUCKER  Friend. Mate. Buddy. Term of endearment.

MUFFLE KILN  This type of kiln was used for the firing of decorated pottery or specialist products such as once-fired sanitaryware. It was built in such a way that the flames and harmful gases of combustion were kept separate from the pottery in the setting. Flames did not directly enter the firing chamber, as in updraught and downdraught bottle ovens, but were led around the outside of the chamber by a series of flues. Thus, in and enamel kiln, the delicate colours of decorated pottery were protected.  

A decorators muffle kiln was typically a lot smaller than updraught or downdraught ovens. The temperatures reached were lower at around 850°C. This temperature made the decorated colours permanent as, without firing, the colours would easily wear or wash off. A typical muffle kiln for decorated ware is preserved at Gladstone Pottery Museum. 

Muffle kilns for firing sanitaryware at temperatures reaching over 1000C were much bigger and no examples remain in Stoke-on-Trent.

In summary, there are three types of muffle kiln:
  1. Decorating enamel muffle (sometimes just known as enamel kiln)
  2. Hardening-on muffle kiln
  3. Fireclay muffle kiln
More about the types of types of bottle oven here>

Example: An enamel muffle kiln was a lot smaller than the other types of bottle oven and temperatures reached were lower at around 850ºC.  This temperature made the decorated colours permanent (without firing, the colours would easily rub off or wash off) and did not need as high a temperature as the biscuit and glost. Also used for firing fireclay glost.  

Bottle Oven - muffle kiln Cross section diagram and external view of an oven at Gladstone Pottery Museum, Longton
Muffle kiln
Cross section diagram and external view
of the kiln at Gladstone Pottery Museum, Longton
Drawing and photo: Terry Woolliscroft Collection

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MUFFIN (American) Small domed spongy cake made with eggs and baking powder.

MUFFIN (English) Small leavened bread. Beloved by the English aristocracy particularly in the early 20th Century and served in a Muffin Dish. "In Victorian clubs the ‘correct manner’ of serving the humble muffin seems to have attained almost the significance of a religious ceremonial, if not actually a sacrament. Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, creator of Portmeirion, now in his nineties, recently recalled how in his youth "muffins would come in their heated covered silver dish along with salt cellar, china tea, cream and folded napkin, and be set down at my elbow by a club waiter still in the livery of the Regency, knee-breeches, silk stockings and buckled shoes . . . and all for no more than a shilling." From Good Things in England, 1932, by Florence White.

MUFFIN DISH Not to be confused with the small plate.

Muffin Dish

MUFFIN Pottery plate measuring 5 or 6 inches in diameter.

MUG Drinking vessel. Some potbanks thrived (still thrive) on making millions of these each year. In the 21st Century it is the vessel of choice. The teacup and saucer, although they are the stalwart of formal dining, they seem to have have had there day.

MULBERY  Material. Colour. A mixed shade of blue, derived from a cobalt base, but lighter and greyer than the ordinary underglaze blue, or cobalt blue. Mulberry is sometimes described as Canton Blue. 

MULLITE Material. Clay mineral. Refractory.  Aluminium silicate, produced artificially during various melting and firing processes.

MULTI OUTLET SanitarywareA multi-outlet WC is the term given to a WC which can be connected and used in all drain configurations.  The horizontal outlet from the WC is configured so that it can be installed, with appropriate plastic connectors, to ‘S trap’, ‘P trap’, and ‘bottom outlet’ situations.

MURRAY CURVEX MACHINE Equipment. Machine in the decorating department. Offset printing. First patented in 1951. First introduced by the Spode Company using a gelatine pad to transfer the print colour from the engraved copper plate to the pot.  Modern Murray Curvex machines (Pad printing) use a 'bomb' made from silicone rubber. 
Many thanks go to Kath and Paul Holdway for help with this description - November 2010

Murray Curvex Machine, Wedgwood, Barlaston
Photo: Terry Woolliscroft Collection  Date:1970

“In 1950  Guy Murray (d.1955) was invited by the Spode company, then under the Copeland family ownership, to develop/invent mechanised printing.  Murray urged the project to be conducted in great secrecy and a code name was used at Spode in relation to all aspects of the project. The code name was "harps". He also confined research and experiments to a permanently locked room at Spode.  

The invention was based on the bat printing process and the first major breakthrough replaced the bat with a gelatine pad of circular parabolic shape. This pad had to be resilient enough to flatten itself when pressed down on and engraved copper plate then revert to its original shape when raised off; and then had to adapt to shapes of the curves of a plate fired to the biscuit stage (i.e. underglaze printing). 

The first wares, when fired, revealed a problem that all the pattern fired away and disappeared. It was found that the oil-based colour, of the type used with underglaze transfer printing, was not compatible with gelatine. No suitable medium was then available. It was touch and go whether to continue as no solution could immediately be found. 

Two of the Spode’s young directors won the day keeping the project going and used a retired chemist as a consultant. He produced a few colours which withstood the firing.  Later two ceramic manufacturers made further developments. The ‘up and down’ movement of the machine was to be controlled by compressed air. 

By late 1953 the basic problems were solved. The concept of the 18th century flat engraved copper was retained in conjunction with the gelatine pad. The Murray Curvex printing process reduced labour costs and improved productivity. Its use became industry wide with further developments over the next 50 years. It was still in use, with further refinements and the ability to printed in several colours (multi-bump machine) at Spode towards the end of production and closure of the company in 2009. 

Murray proved difficult to work with and failed to acknowledge both individual contributions to the invention and of the Spode company, who had initiated the project and facilitated it on their factory site. The first patent application was in 1951 but instead of celebrations there were problems as Murray had not informed the Spode company of these patent applications in his own name. This was a hard lesson for the Spode company to learn. They never had the rights to this important invention to which they had contributed so much in investment of initiation of the project, their expertise, staff, research, time, facilities and costs.  However it should be recognised that this important invention of mechanised printing used industry-wide was invented at Spode.

An image of the later version of Murray Curvex known as 'multi-bump' here>

MURRAY PRINTING "...old advertising cup which demonstrates what the machines could do" Murray Curvex machines were manufactured by Service (Engineers Ltd), Cobridge, Stoke-on-Trent

Photo: Courtesy of John Willott who kindly supplied
the image via Facebook in August 2023

Photo: Courtesy of John Willott who kindly supplied
the image via Facebook in August 2023

MUSHROOM Part of a bottle oven. Piece of specially moulded saggar marl to fill the well hole.

MUSSEL GOLD An older form of prepared gold for pottery decoration. Gold leaf is rubbed with a mix of sugar (or honey) and salt to make a paste. This was then washed free of soluble material and then stored in mussel shells.

MYTHER Dialect. A worry. 'Dunna myther me, arm ow rate, duck!'  Also has the spelling of Mither or Mayther. You could also say "Dunna Wereet thee sen!"