Staffordshire pottery cradle, c.1820

Miniature pottery cradles were a popular form of wedding gift throughout the UK during the late 17th to mid-19th century. The not-too-subtle message to the newlyweds was to encourage fertility. This humble example, measuring 3″ high by 3-3/4″ long, is made from yellow glazed pottery and decorated with an incised circle pattern. It was made in Staffordshire, England, in the early 1800s. Perhaps after the young couple took the hint of the cradle’s implied message and had a child, the little darling grew up and one day broke the cradle. But one can’t blame the child who simply thought the cradle was a toy to be played with and not a symbol of its own mere existence. Distraught over their broken gift, the couple took the two halves to a china mender who repaired the cradle using two 3/4″ metal staples. Although the cradle is back in one piece and suitable for displaying, the obtrusive scars bear witness to the unfortunate event.





This grouping has similar cradles with molded babies in swaddling, rarer than my empty one.


Photo courtesy of John Howard

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7 Responses to “Staffordshire pottery cradle, c.1820”

  1. Deborah Lockwood says:

    How perfectly. Charming! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Larry Terricone says:

    Andrew, as long as you have been posting your finds, this is my favorite by far. It is so unique, so whimsical. I would trade any of my make doos for that one piece.

  3. Helena Adams says:

    Thanks for this, very interesting. I collect English pottery and one of my best friends is from Stoke-on- Trent! Hope all is well…

  4. Aren’t they the cutest! Thanks for posting them.

  5. joy says:

    so timely considering the big event of the day!!!! has anyone thought to give kate and william a cradle????

  6. Helen says:

    That’s lovely – never heard of pottery cradles – I’ll look out for them now.

  7. imogen88 says:

    I hadn’t ever heard of these either, which is one of the reasons I visit your site, because it’s always interesting. I wonder if the colours related to anything symbolic? Would there have been a baby that went in there, or were some just made without a baby? Fascinating.

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