Stoneware is a type of pottery fired to a very high temperature; above 1200-1400 degrees Celsius. The high temperature vitrifies the clay so that even in an unglazed state it is watertight. This was a big step forward as pottery fired to a lower temperature had to be thoroughly glazed to ensure it was watertight. Unglazed stoneware was made in China around 2000 years ago and was invented independently in Germany in the 13th century but its manufacture was not introduced into Britain until the early 17th century.
Stoneware is used for a variety of uses including decorative ornaments, figurines and tableware but it is obviously well suited to the transportation and storage of liquids such as beer, wine, vinegar and mineral water. As a result it was used by grocers, wine and beer dealers, brewers and landlords to store and sell their products. Not wanting to miss an opportunity to advertise themselves and their products the names and addresses of the traders were often stamped into or transferred onto the jugs and bottles.
As well as the details of the users many of these vessels also have the manufacturer's stamp on them and Bristol was a centre of production for the bottles and jugs used by the grocers, brewers and wine dealers. As with many industries there were originally a number of small manufacturers but by the nineteenth century the industry was dominated by two big companies - Powell and Price.
Charles Price and Joseph Gadd started the company Gadd & Price in 1796 but Joseph died in 1798. Price then went into partnership with Joseph Read who died in 1803 but Charles continued to trade as Price and Read until 1821. In 1822 Charles was joined in business by his son, also Charles Price, and the company became Charles Price & Son. In 1843 another of Charles Price's sons, Joseph Read Price joined the company and it became Charles Price and Sons. Charles Price senior died in 1849 and the company became Charles and Joseph Read Price until 1863 when Charles Price junior retired. In 1864 Joseph was joined by his nephews (sons of Charles junior) Charles, Samuel and Alfred Price and the company became Joseph and Charles Price & Brothers. The youngest Charles died in 1877, Joseph died in 1882 and Samuel resigned in 1883. The firm then became Price, Sons & Co. when Alfred was joined by Samuel's son Arthur and later Harold Price. In 1906 Price absorbed their rival Powells and the firm became Price, Powell & Co. and remained in business until 1961.
The Powell family had been brown stone potters at Thomas Street, Bristol from 1780 and were also manufacturers of glass bottles. Around 1816 William Powell established a pottery at Thomas Street Bristol and in 1829/30 the pottery moved to Red Lane, Temple Gate, Bristol. William Powell died in 1854 and he was succeeded by William and Septimus Powell and by the end of the nineteenth century they were the second largest maker of stoneware bottles in Britain. The company remained at Temple Gate until they were absorbed by Price in 1906 but they had also expanded to include premises in Redcliff Mead Lane. Powell was also instrumental in the discovery of the 'Bristol Glaze' which improved the appearance of glazed vessels and also enabled the achievement of the two-tone effect which many of the jugs and flagons display. Previously stoneware was salt glazed which produced a finely pitted glaze. The 'Bristol Glaze' form of glazing was first used at Powell's pottery by Anthony Ammatt in 1835. Powell never patented the discovery but some of his adverts did include the wording 'Inventor and sole manufacturer of the Improved Stone Ware, which is Glazed inside and out with a Glaze Warranted to resist Acids and will not Absorb'.