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British Industrial History

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Shorter and Son

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Shorter and Son, of Copeland Street, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire

Arthur Shorter was apprenticed as a china painter at Mintons under Leon Arnoux,

1860 Started his own china decorating business

c. 1872 or 1878 Arthur Shorter set up a pottery with James Boulton in Stoke-on-Trent. Their products were majolica wares of all types: jugs, bowls, flower pots and tableware.

1891 Arthur Shorter absented himself from the business to manage the Burslem company established by his brother-in-law A. J. Wilkinson following the latter’s accidental death. A few years later he bought the firm. In the meantime, the Shorter and Bolton concern was run by James Bolton

1897 Bolton's son, William, took over the running of the business.

1898 Arthur’s son Colley joined him at Wilkinsons

1900 Arthur Shorter’s younger son John Guy Shorter became manager - the partnership of Shorter and Son probably dates from this time.

1905 Guy joined his father and Colley at Wilkinsons. The two factories worked in close co-operation, advertising and exhibiting jointly.

1916 Colley and Guy were made directors of Wilkinsons, the same year that Clarice Cliff, aged 17, started work there as a decorator.

1920 The family acquired the Newport Pottery Co, also in Burslem, later famous for its production of Clarice Cliff’s Bizarre ware.

1925 Colley Shorter, much impressed by Clarice’s work, provided her with her own studio next to his office. He also sent her on a modern design course at the Royal College of Art and a trip to Paris to observe the arts scene there. Allowed to experiment with old Newport Pottery shapes, she produced her new bold geometric designs, so expressive of the Art Deco age. Colley was a consummate salesman and it was he who conceived the idea of personalising her designs with her signature, thus launching one of the 20th century’s design legends.

1926 Arthur Shorter died. Over the next few years his sons developed their products along more adventurous lines. The Shorter factory itself, still the more traditional in its output, felt the wind of change.

1929 Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. Manufacturers of Art Pottery, Coloured Glaze Flower Pots, Fancies, Jugs, and Toy Tea-sets. (Stand No. G.21) [1]

1930s Shorter’s received a further creative boost from the employment of the designer Mabel Leigh. Even though she left the firm in 1935, her designs had such appeal they continued to be produced for years afterwards.

1932 After various others, Harry L. Steele was appointed manager, a position he was to hold for the next 30 years.

1933 the business was incorporated as Shorter and Son Ltd with brothers Arthur and John as directors and Harry L. Steele as the Director-in-Charge.

WWII Shorter and Son Ltd remained in production throughout the war

1940 After the death of his first wife, Colley married Clarice Cliff who became Artistic Director of the group of potteries.

1947 Advert in British Industries Fair Catalogue as Exhibiting Member of the British Pottery Manufacturers' Federation of Federation House, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. Composite Exhibit. (Pottery and Glassware Section) [2]

1950 John B. Shorter, son of Guy Shorter, joined the company and was soon after appointed as sales director.

Shorter’s flourished through the following two decades, producing popular new lines and re-producing some of their old ones.

1960s Stiffer competition, together with Colley’s ill-health in 1961, caused the firm to falter.

1963 Part of the Copeland St factory was taken for a road development scheme; this plus the expense of conversion to smokeless firing led the directors to accept an offer for the business from S. Fielding and Co, the owners of the Crown Devon name.

1964 Colley Shorter died in early 1964. Clarice Cliff-Shorter disposed of the family shares in Wilkinsons and Newport to the neighbouring Midwinter Co who wanted to expand production.

1964 S. Fielding and Co acquired Shorter and Son which then operated from Fielding’s Sutherland St. factory under the management of John B. Shorter.

1972 Shorter's distinctive identity was finally lost with the retirement of the last family member John, Guy’s son.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  • Pottery History [1]
  • [2] Decorative Antiques Website