Skip to content

Rockingham Pottery

March 4, 2017

As you know, Lucy in my Dusty Deals Mysteries series owns an antique shop – Dusty Deals. AND one of Lucy’s favorite obsessions is pottery… all kinds of pottery. I don’t know where she got that… okay, maybe I too have a bit of an addiction to pottery,  or did until money and space ran short.

One type of pottery that both of us love is Rockingham.

If you frequent antique shops, flea markets or antique auctions, I’m sure you’ve seen it. It’s brown or speckled brown or speckled yellow and brown.


Former Swinton Kiln

The original Rockingham was English, made in around 1785 by Swinton Pottery in Yorkshire. They made brown dinner sets with gilt embellishments. It was creatively called Brown China. The brown glaze used on it though is where the name Rockingham came from. The owner of Swinton named it after a patron, the Marquis of Rockingham. The Swinton works closed in 1842, but the brown glaze and its name lived on.

The glaze got its color mainly by the addition of manganese. After firing, the glaze was applied by dipping the piece, splattering the glaze on, or brushing the glaze on. Sponging was also used, but this came later. And there is a bit of disagreement in antique circles on whether dipped pieces are Rockingham or brownware.

David Henderson of the Jersey City Pottery (New Jersey) gets credit for making the first Rockingham pottery in the United States. This was around 1820. In a short 15 years, all the big players in pottery in the U.S. were making some Rockingham. This means as a collector, you can find Rockingham all over the U.S. and most likely from your favorite pottery works. There was even a pottery known for it in Missouri, although sadly not to my knowledge Wisconsin or Montana, the other two states I have called home.


Here are a few of my pieces. Two spittoons, a bull that I’m guessing was sold holding something like syrup, and a figural cream pitcher. 

In the above picture you can see a few of my personal pieces. I have a number of spittoons. Don’t ask me why. Maybe because I can remember sitting in my great uncle’s dark living room and him spitting across the room into the one next to me. Disturbing today, but fascinating as a five-year-old.

The shell-adorned spittoon on the left has a more consistent brown glaze. I have found a similar, though smaller spittoon, credited to Harker pottery in Ohio sometime before 1879. The spittoon on the right has a glaze that’s been poured over the top. It is unmarked and I don’t really have any other information on it, but it’s fairly large and has a bit of a fancy look. Maybe a bit more masculine than the shells. I’m guessing if you had to have a spittoon in your parlor, you wanted it to be as pretty as possible… and not be tippable. That is definitely something these models have over the more commonly known brass spittoons.

The bull was a gift from my parents. They bought it at some antique shop or another. It has a round hole in its head which leads me to believe it contained syrup or something similar for sale. (I have a log-cabin shaped piece of pottery that was definitely made to hold syrup for sale.)


Larger images of cream pitcher and bull. 


Concave bottom of my Toby mug

The cream pitcher is what is known as a Toby mug for Sir Toby Belch. Toby mugs were common in the U.S. after 1850. Mine is similar to a design manufactured by Bennington pottery in Bennington, Vermont, except it has a very concave bottom. (see at right) Apparently, the Bennington Tobys had flat bottoms.

I have gotten most of my knowledge of Rockingham from the Collector’s Guide to Rockingham: The Enduring Ware: Identification & Values by Mary Brewer. It’s an easy to read reference that I recommend although the values are a bit out of date. It’s mainly on history of the pottery though, so I don’t see that as an issue.

Do you know and love Rockingham? Have information of your own to share or more information on one of my pieces? Please post!






No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: