What are Pot Lids?

Strasbourg street scene - pot lid in a frame (photo by answerfinder CC-BY)

Strasbourg street scene - pot lid in a frame (photo by answerfinder CC-BY)

Pot Lids, or to give them their proper title “under glaze multicoloured printing in ceramic wares”, have been collected from the very first time they were made in the mid-Victorian period.

The term pot lids is a generic term. Initially it meant lids that went on pots which contained all manner of products: bear’s grease, ointments, toothpaste, food pastes and potted meats, but later it also included other ceramic wares such as plates, cups and saucers, jugs, tea-pots, trinket boxes and dishes. For modern collectors, pot lids are the most popular type to collect as they need little room to display them.

In 1760, a process for printing monochrome on ceramic was invented. This process allowed producers to put a description of their product on the pot lids either in words or pictorially, and in 1845 a process of printing colour on ceramics was invented. Very quickly the range of products expanded and pictures quickly overtook words as the principal decoration on the pot lid. Indeed, manufacturers now found that very detailed images could be produced.

The three main producers were F & R Pratt and Co., of Stoke on Trent, Ridgemay, and Mayer. Pratt & Co became so synonymous with multicoloured printing on ceramic wares that it also became known as Pratt-ware.

The pictures and designs on the pot lids were many and varied. Some were based on famous paintings or contemporary prints. Events such as the Crimean War and The Great Exhibition, flowers and animals, portraits of the Queen and famous people, genre scenes, moral subjects, and sports and pastimes were also featured.

The modern collector of the pot lid can buy them from Ebay, antique shops or even car boot sales for between £15 and £6000 depending on their rarity or whether they are monochrome or colour. The prices were very high in the 1970s and 80s, but their popularity has dropped since then and so have the prices. Early collectors often threw the pot away so it is unusual to find a both pot and lid together. Some collectors have resorted to digging up old Victorian rubbish heaps to find lids, but some discovered this way are often damaged and of poor quality. Also the collector must be on guard for reproductions.

The image above shows a lid produced by Pratt & Co. circa 1860-1870, titled Strasbourg. It was produced for Crosse and Blackwell for their ‘Strasbourg paste’.

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