This is one of the earliest teapots fashioned in England, possibly made at Newcastle-Under-Lyme, either by Samuel Bell at his pottery on Lower Street or by William Steers, who operated the pottery for several years after Bell died in 1744. It is six and one-quarter inches long from stem to stern and was created by blending several colored clays together on the potter’s wheel as the body was turned, a technique that creates a swirled ceramic body known as agateware because the patterns in the clay resemble the swirling patterns seen in agate stones. Early wares of this type have traditionally been ascribed to Samuel Bell’s potworks at Newcastle-Under-Lyme, partly on the basis of a patent granted to him in 1729 for a “new method . . . for making of a red marble stoneware of a gloss so beautiful as to imitate if not compare with ruby,” and partly because of the discovery of a large number of agateware shards excavated at the site of his pottery, which was not too far from Thomas Whieldon’s pottery. Of course, excavations at other sites have also produced similar shards, but the absolutely brilliant gloss on the surface of this teapot does bring Bell’s patent immediately to mind. It shines quite a bit more than most of the other redware and agateware teapots of this period “a gloss so beautiful.” Condition is quite good, but there has been some damage. There is a chip off one of the three feet and off the rim, the finial has been reattached, there are several small chips to the spout, and several patches of glaze (unseen with the lid on) have peeled off. The glaze has crazing (small cracks caused by different shrinkage rates between the glaze and the clay body). Besides that, there are original flaws—some pits in the clay and uneven glazing—all to be expected in a piece this early. It is very small, as all the early teapots are, and I don’t think it would even hold one full cup of tea. It comes from the T. Reuben Jones Collection, and has labels from the Brooke Collection and the Sharp Collection.
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