The Little Teapot That Could

Brown Betty teapots ready to be fired a second time.
Dipped in the traditional Rockingham glaze and stacked in a kiln, Brown Betty teapots are ready to be fired a second time. (Photography by Trish Davis, courtesy of Adderley Ceramics, Ltd.)

In the early years, Brown Betty teapots were thrown on a potter’s wheel, and the handle and spout were added afterward. Today, they are made using the slipcasting method, in which a suspension of clay in water (called slip) is poured into a mold. Once the teapot is set, it is removed from the mold and left to dry naturally. The piece is then fettled (smoothed) and fired in a kiln the first time.

The teapot, now in biscuit form, is dipped into the Rockingham glaze and, once again, left to dry naturally. (The dipped pots are a pretty lavender color.) The teapot is then footwiped to remove any glaze from the bottom and is fired a second time to create the glossy chocolate-syrup-like surface that distinguishes Brown Bettys.

Over the centuries, various Stoke-on-Trent companies have made Brown Betty teapots. It’s still possible to find vintage teapots from the1940s and 1950s, bearing names such as Sadler or Alcock, Lindley & Bloore (both companies have since gone out of business), for sale in antiques shops or for auction on eBay.

If you’re looking to purchase a new Brown Betty teapot, two Staffordshire companies still make these charming heirlooms—Cauldon Ceramics, Ltd., and Adderley Ceramics Ltd. Cauldon owner Zamir Shaikh estimates that his kilns turn out 150 Brown Bettys each day. That’s more than 37,500 teapots each year.

1 COMMENT

  1. A couple of decades ago I inherited my grand mother’s Gibson & Sons red-ware tea pot. Recently I passed it on to my cousin, Trenna, who is named for grand mother and am now without a tea pot. I greatly admire the Staffordshire Royal Albert pots: particularly the English Rose, Old English Rose, and Confetti designs. I have looked at similar tea pots (all made in China) and find the lids don’t fit all that well and they don’t seem to have the visual appeal of the Royal Albert pots I see on the internet. I have tried without success to find comparisons between the English and Chinese pots other than price. What are the differences and are the English pots worth the price difference?

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