Rockingham Pottery

Stoneware pitcher with cobalt fruit decoration attributed to J.D. Heatwole and Joseph Silber of Rockingham County, Virginia

p4A ItemID E8885239
A Bennington pottery Rockingham glaze Ben Franklin toby pither with boot handle, impressed Lyman, Fenton & Co. 1849

p4A ItemID E8884560
A Bennington pottery Rockingham glaze figure paperweight depicting a recumbent spaniel, rectangular form

p4A ItemID E8884559
A rare Rockingham pottery glaze "U 983" threadless insulator, 1848 to 1860

p4A ItemID E8884319

Rockingham Pottery

Brownish glazed Rockingham pottery originated in England, where it was named after the Marquis of Rockingham, who produced it at his Swinton pottery.

Essentially Rockingham is yellow ware that is streaked or dappled with a lustrous manganese brown glaze; some is tortoise-shell or spattered yellow. The brown color is part of the glaze itself, which was spattered on the fired clay body. Variations in color were achieved by applying the glaze more heavily in some spots, thinning it in others, and by allowing it to streak. The glazing process permitted random and accidental effects; consequently, no two pieces of Rockingham ware are alike. Early Rockingham had what was called a “flint” glaze. Later, a color-fleck glaze was developed in Bennington, Vermont by Christopher Webber Fenton.

Bennington Rockingham ware was first produced at the Norton pottery circa 1845 during the period when it was owned by Julius Norton (son of the founder, Captain John Norton) and Christopher Fenton, his brother-in-law. Eventually Fenton split from Norton (circa 1849) and founded his own firm, the US Pottery Company, where most of the Bennington Rockingham ware was produced. The firm dissolved in 1858.

Because the Bennington potteries were the first to copy the English Rockingham process, and produced the highest quality wares, there is a tendency to label all brown or spatter-glazed pottery as “Bennington.” This is incorrect and only pottery made in Bennington, Vermont should be so identified. The similar products of other potteries should be identified as “American Rockingham”. At Bennington, at least until 1856, the wares were exceptionally fine in finish because a double glaze technique was used. A glossy underglaze was applied to the clay piece. After an initial firing, the brown Rockingham glaze was spattered on and the piece was fired again. The result was a final glaze effect of extraordinary depth and brilliance.

More than one hundred potteries made American Rockingham type wares, particularly in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland, often producing wares not up to Bennington standards. Collectors should, for instance, be wary of dull brownish finishes, particulary in small items like creamers. These finishes resulted from dipping the wares rather than the more expensive and time-consuming firing.


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