One essential element of pretty much every mid-century home is some form of Hornsea pottery tableware or kitchenalia. From the intricate and bold 1960s designs, such as Bronte, Heirloom and Saffron, to the subtlety of the Contrast range from the 1970s, virtually everyone who loves vintage is likely to have owned something created by this esteemed Yorkshire company at some point.
But what is it about Hornsea Pottery that led to it still being represented at vintage fairs, in shops and in retro-loving homes across the UK in such great numbers to this day? After all, it has not traded since they called the receivers in 20 years ago. How did this one-time souvenir manufacturer become the watchword for home dining in the 20th century? Let’s take a look.
Hornsea Pottery History
In 1949, brothers Colin and Desmond Rawson teamed up with a local business owner Philip Clappison in the East Yorkshire coastal town of Hornsea to open a pottery in a terraced house. Although they had no experience with pottery, they threw themselves into creating souvenirs for tourists, with Colin initially leading on the designs.
From the beginning, Hornsea Pottery was a family affair, with Desmond’s father-in-law and brother-in-law providing cash for the business as well as expertise. However, it was another family connection that boosted this already burgeoning enterprise into the stratosphere. Original backer Philip Clappison’s son John was making a name for himself at the Hull College of Art and the brothers approached him to design for them.
Although Hornsea Pottery worked with a number of notable designers, it is arguably the work of Clappison Junior that provides the longest lasting legacy for this legendary vintage home phenomenon. John Clappison was the artist behind Elegance, Heirloom and many more of the tableware classics you instantly identify as belonging to Hornsea.
Popular Hornsea Pottery Patterns
Hornsea Elegance is one of the most sought after Hornsea Pottery patterns. Clappison designed it in 1955, on his summer break from the Royal College of Art. The sets include vases, cruet sets, jugs, ashtrays, butter dishes and more, all with a distinctive curved shape and striped pattern. The most common Elegance colour scheme you will find features black and white stripes with a contrasting yellow somewhere on the product.
Alternatively, Heirloom is the most common of the patterns available today. It is difficult to express how popular it was when it came out in the mid-60s, but distribution of this first foray into full tableware sets by the firm had to be limited at one point because the factory simply couldn’t keep up with demand! The black geometric pattern on a background of most commonly brown, but also blue and green, is an absolute vintage home icon to this day.
Clappison also designed Bronte, with its grey swirls over a brown background, and Hornsea Pottery Saffron, which features caramel and orange flowers on orange.
Special Clappison Designs
As well as the popular tableware sets that Hornsea produced, Clappison created some special Hornsea Pottery designs, such as a range of themed mugs. These were at peak popularity in the 1970s and featured all manner of different subjects, from fish to cats to trains to dolphins, all in classic Hornsea colour schemes and many with a real touch of humour about them. You can find owl-shaped salt and pepper shakers, fish egg cups and a whole host of other vintage home goodies on offer.
There are novelty designs, such as ‘World’s Best Dad’ and even ‘World’s Best Wallpaperer’ mugs.
Hornsea Pottery Price Guide
How much is Hornsea Pottery worth? Well, how long is a piece of string? In terms of a Hornsea Pottery price guide, much of the common pieces are very reasonable indeed. Expect to pay around £15-18 for a large Heirloom storage jar or biscuit barrel, with the smaller storage jars retailing at around £10.
When it comes to teapots in the most common patterns – Heirloom, Bronte and Saffron – you could pay approximately £25. If you want an Heirloom teapot in the less common green or blue it could be anything up to £70. Teapots are more rare than storage jars as, inevitably, they were used more often and therefore broken more often too!
The items you come across less often, understandably, are worth more. A Summit cruet set, with its clean lines and bold colours, retails at around £30, which is still a very decent price when compared with buying something new that isn’t nearly as beautiful.
You might pay more for Hornsea Elegance, given its history and standing which have led to collectors across the world seeking it out. In addition, some of the special Hornsea Pottery designs by Clappison can reach big money, with Hornsea mugs often retailing for £50 and even on occasion tipping over the £100 barrier.
But this is another reason that Hornsea Pottery remains so popular. There is something for everyone. Even today, anyone on any budget can kit out their home with delightful Hornsea pieces that look great, however much the Hornsea Pottery price guide says they are worth.
Hornsea Art Trail
It seems to be a combination of the accessibility, the classic designs and the feeling of the firm being one big family (almost literally) that keep Hornsea popular, and you can tell how well loved the brand still is today. The Hornsea Pottery trail launched in 2019 and it allows fans of the factory’s output to pound the streets of the town, seeking out public art displaying some of the most iconic designs.
Such is the love for these pieces that people come from across the world to revel in this huge slice of vintage home history. The Hornsea Museum, boasting the world’s largest collection of Hornsea Pottery, provides a focal point for their trip.
If you are looking for your next piece of Hornsea Pottery, check out the Home section of the Discover Vintage marketplace and see what our expert dealers have on sale.