William Adams – Blue and White China

Blue-white-china-shelfIt is strange, but my Grandmother died over 20 years ago and I’ve wrapped and unwrapped her blue and white china at least seven times since then as I’ve moved around. And, until now I’d not properly examined it.


It is from the company of William Adams and the printed mark and registration number (clearly decipherable, 623294) dates from about 1913.

This Pattern was introduced by William Adams in 1780 being a copy of a Chinese & one of the first of its style produced in English pottery.

William Adams
William Adams pottery mark – 1913 +

This pattern was called ‘Chinese Bird’ and continued to be popular through the 1920s and 1930s. It consists of pictorial lozenge panels featuring either asiatic birds or oriental gentlemen surrounded by a blue and white mosaic style pattern. The origin of this pattern of decoration and its longevity is proudly stamped on the bottom of the base of each piece. A kind of promotional strapline, a little puff and a glimpse of 19th-century marketing as mass production took off.

Chinese Gentleman blue and white china
The Chinese Gentleman

The Adams family of potters had been active working with the kilns of Staffordshire probably since 1650, but by the beginning of the twentieth century ‘William Adams’ was a brand. The original William Adams (1745-1805) had worked for Josiah Wedgwood during the eighteenth century and then successfully launched his own company William Adams, of Greengate, Tunstall, Staffordshire. This business was passed on to his son in 1805, but then sold out of the family to John Meir another Tunstall potter in 1822.

William Adams 'Chinese Bird'
Some surviving William Adams ‘Chinese Bird’ pieces from my Grandmother’s collection.

The name does not end there as there were other cousins and relations, one Edward Adams, and another three William Adams who made Staffordshire ceramics in the Potteries during the 19th century. W. Adams, Adams, Adams & Co, Adams Warranted Staffordshire, W Adams & Sons, W A & S, Wm Adams & Co, ADAMS, W Adams & Co Tunstall were used through the 19th and 20th centuries until the business became part of the Wedgwood Group in 1966.

blue and white china collection
Blue and white china a popular choice for over 200 years for English collectors.

And, spool forwards to December 2016 and I’ve worked the blue and white look to create a hand painted silk scarf (now sold, but other scarves available).


Author: agnesashe

Artisan, blogger and passionate East Anglian working from home.

11 thoughts on “William Adams – Blue and White China”

    1. Thank you – it’s just a few lucky survivors plus a couple of birthday gifts from my daughter. Oddly, my mother wasn’t a collector so stuff was passed straight to me. Each time she moved to a different place she almost started with a clean slate! She was never a great one for looking back.

  1. Seems so strange to me, not to use it, or to think “we don’t have time” for this sort of thing any more. I inherited a large set from my grandmother, too. I also obsessively collect it on eBay. I have an enormous collection (though you have some spectacular rare pieces I don’t own). We eat on it several nights a week. Little that I own gives me as much joy as my grandmother’s beautiful set of dishes. You can use it – it’s even dishwasher safe!

    1. How lovely – I only use the mugs for flowers as I don’t have enough to make a single place setting. I do, however, have some Foley from a great-grandmother on the other side of the family which actually includes plates!!! – often used for tea and cake.

  2. Je possède aussi deux vases hexagonaux ,identiques,20 cm de haut avec les mêmes références sous l’embase 623294;cela est peut être le numéro de licence ou brevet commercial d’exploitation
    Plutôt qu’un type particulier de poterie dans la marque William ADAMS.

  3. I have a 3 gentleman plate or “ Chinese bird “ I have seen it called . But I cannot find any information on it . It is called septagon …or heptagon in shape . It’s number is 623294 from 1913 I believe . But I can’t find any information on a dish of this shape …can anyone help?

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