26 Feb 2021


September 20, 2013 - Filed under: Della Robbia Pottery — Mandy

The Della Robbia Pottery was a ceramic factory founded in 1894 in Birkenhead, England.

The business was started by Harold Steward Rathbone and Conrad Gustave D’huc Dressler (1856-1940). Rathbone, son of a wealthy local business man, Philip Rathbone, had been a pupil of Ford Maddox Brown, who was one of the founders of the Arts & Crafts Movement. Dressler was a sculptor, potter and also inventor of the continuous firing tunnel kiln. Giovanni CarloValentino Manzini also joined the pottery in early 1894, leaving to establish his own pottery, the minerva art ware manufacturers in Hanley in July 1895. Manzini returned to the pottery in June 1898, staying until its closure in 1906

The pottery was established as a true Arts & Crafts pottery on the lines advocated by William Morris, using local labour and raw materials such as local red clay from Moreton, Wirral. The pottery had lustrous lead glazes and often used patterns of interweaving plants, typical of art nouveau, with heraldic and Islamic motifs.

Dressler was mainly responsible for the decorative architectural panels, many of which can still be seen in the local area of Birkenhead and Liverpool, as well as in the local museums. The brightly coloured panels, inspired by the work of the FLorentine sculptor Luca Della Robbia and his family, did not prove to be very popular on the dark brick buildings of the period, the pottery turning to large two-handled vases, presentation wares, wall chargers and plates, as well as ceramic clock cases, tiled window boxes, numerous types of vases and similar wares, as a source of income. Dressler left the pottery in 1897 to establish his own pottery, the Medmemham pottery, in Marlow Buckingham.

The Della Robbia mark is usually handwritten on the base of pieces with a ship device, and often the initials of the designer and decorator, and sometimes the date. Example initials include:

  • ‘C’ for Charles Collis
  • ‘C.A.W.’ for Cassandra Annie Walker
  • ‘C.M.’ for Carlo Manzini
  • ‘L.W.’ for Liza Wilkins
  • ‘R.B’ for Ruth Bare



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