From the late 17th century to the end of the 18th century Nottingham was renowned for making brown salt-glazed stoneware pots. The techniques of salt-glazing had been developed in Germany in the 15th century, if not earlier.
The secret of this method of glazing remained a mystery in this country until the 17th century. It was uncovered in 1672 by John Dwight in London. The technique was then taken up by a small number of potters, including James Morley of Nottingham.
The Nottingham potteries stood to the north-east of the old town and were owned by two families, the Morleys and the Wyers, using an iron-bearing clay from Derbyshire and coal from Nottingham. The Nottingham pots were sold throughout this country and exported to Europe and to Colonial America. They were finely potted, light in weight with patterns and inscriptions incised into the clay before firing. Salting the pots in the kiln during the firing produced a lustrous, thin metallic glaze.
Ale mugs, for the many ale houses in the region, were the mainstay of the Nottingham pottery industry. The potters also made household wares such as bowls, jugs, teapots, inkwells, pen rests and tiles. Novelty wares included bears, inspired by the cruel sport of bear baiting.
Nottingham stoneware was also made to celebrate important occasions, inscribed with dates, the names of people and occasionally places. The names on researched pieces include those of well-to-do yeoman framers, tradesman, publicans and in one instance a teacher. Their pieces survived because they were personal and were passed down as family heirlooms.
So famous were the Nottingham Potteries that Nottingham ware became the generic term for brown stoneware, where ever it was made, even in the 19th century.