William Greatbatch and the ‘Prodigal’ teapot

William-Greatbatch-Staffs-1770Can you imagine pouring your afternoon tea from one of these fascinating teapots? Here we have three delightful quaint teapots that form a little series decorated with scenes from the parable of the Prodigal Son. A parable that has been visually rendered in various forms over the centuries usually as a serious composition in heavy oils which makes these vibrant, slightly racy images from the 18th century so refreshing. These creamware teapots were made by William Greatbatch and can be found in The Twining Teapot Gallery at the Norwich Castle Museum.

William Greatbatch prodigal son
William Greatbatch creamware teapot and lid
circa 1770-82
This is a cylindrical form teapot with leaf-capped spout and ear-shaped strap handle, printed and enamelled on the front with The Prodigal Son Receives his Patrimony, the reverse with The Prodigal Son’s Departure, between moulded fretwork to the rims. Stands about 5 inches tall.

Creamware was popular through the 1760s to the 1780s as it was a more affordable earthenware version of fashionable, ‘high society’ porcelain. The development of creamware is a fine example of the mid-eighteenth-century technological drive improving pottery technique and glazing skills to achieve a commercial advantage. Creamware was successfully exported to Europe with English factory catalogues translated into German, Dutch, French and Spanish.

William Greatbatch (1735-1813) was one of the talented potters working with creamware. He was a prolific designer and maker of potters’ moulds during the second half of the 18th century. He ran his own pottery in Staffordshire and sometimes worked for Josiah Wedgwood (1730-1795). These teapots show pictures that have been transfer-printed and coloured with enamels to decorate the thinly potted earthenware. The images are printed onto the teapot that has been covered with a creamy coloured lead glaze. Alternatively, light creamware items were simply embellished with a pithy verse.

Ralph Wedgwood
Ralph Wedgwood teapot with transfer-printed text in black.
1789-96
Probably made at Hill Pottery Burslem, Staffordshire.
Impressed WEDGWOOD & CO. mark 1789-96

Author: agnesashe

Artisan, blogger and passionate East Anglian working from home.

8 thoughts on “William Greatbatch and the ‘Prodigal’ teapot”

  1. Interesting post and yet another museum I’d Enjoy visiting. If Greatbatch was a potter, was Wedgewood also a potter or more than that? Covered in a lead glaze and then used to drink from…think I’ll pass on that afternoon tea.

    1. Josiah Wedgwood – I’m such a fan, he was a brilliant chap, clever, creative and a canny businessman. He was a member of Birmingham’s Lunar Society (18th century philosophers and scientists) and was elected to the Royal Society. His descendants include Ralph Vaughan Williams and some scientist chap called Charles Darwin! Have to admit that 18th century is one of my periods though I don’t actually personally like the formal art of the times. However, the material culture and the Enlightenment context makes for a fascinating area to investigate.

      Re: your post and Ikea’s Granny eating Wolf unfortunately it appealed to my sense of black humour and made me laugh – me bad!. Didn’t want to offend your other comment makers so refrained from posting. Seriously though Bruno Bettelheim in ‘The Uses of Enchantment’ puts forwards some thought-provoking ideas regarding the ferocious nature of some fairy tales and the responses of children. And, interestingly, Maria Montessori was strident about not introducing the fictional world to the under threes not even Disney. We live in rich and diverse times.

      1. You know such interesting things – glad I asked about Wedgwood sounds like an interesting fellow. Good for you on my Ikea post – I actually meant it more tongue in cheek than it seems to have been taken! I always remember my granddaughter’s favourite animated film – ‘Finding Nemo’ – in the first 5 minutes a barracuda eats his mom and brothers and sisters and leaves him disabled and his dad traumatized …used to fast forward through that part when she was young!!

      2. Ah yes, the trauma of the orphaned ones my mother was still pitying poor old Bambi into her seventies. I don’t think it is possible to know the extent of the reach of drama with highly imaginative young children, handle with care I guess.

  2. I’ve just discovered William Greatbatch as part of my family tree – seemingly 7th Great Grandfather. I’d love to know anything more you know about him? I’m yet to find any likeness of him and I presume one doesn’t exist.

    1. How lovely to be descended from such a talented, inspirational and creative man. So far I have only found one monograph about him, “William Greatbatch: A Staffordshire Potter” by David Barker published in 1991. However, I also have several books about Josiah Wedgwood and they all mention Greatbatch’s contributions to the Wedgwood innovative, ceramic project.

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