Edward Thomas Brown Radford was born in 1882, the son of Edward Thomas Radford, who trained at Wedgwood and would later become one of the leading potters at Pilkingtons. Radford junior joined his father at Pilkingtons around 1905. In 1907 he married Jenny Harris, however like many of his generation, the Great War was to interrupt both his home life and career. As a Captain in the 19th Middlesex regiment, Edward was awarded the Military Cross for his actions at Passchendaele (the third battle of Ypres) in 1917.
After the war Edward Radford moved to Stoke-on-Trent and returned to the pottery trade, spending some time as an independent agent representing various manufacturers and merchant. Around 1930, perhaps earlier, he established the Radford Handcraft Pottery at the Alexandra pottery in Burslem. The main output at this time consisted of vases, jugs and bowls, in a range of floral and art deco designs, as well as stylised landscapes (the "Trees") and incised "scraffiato" designs. The pottery was hand thrown and finished with a matt glaze. These are the "early" pieces most sought after by collectors. Later in the thirties the range was expanded to include animal figurines. Around 15 paintresses were employed at any one time, although the Trees patterns were all painted by one man, James Harrison.
Many of the designs were conceived by Mabel Hadgkiss NRD, who had been trained by Gordon Forsyth at the Burslem School of Art. Some patterns were designed by the paintresses themselves (his "artists" as Mr Radford liked to describe them). Production continued during World War 2, with Mr Harrison still painting his Woodland scenes. He owned a large house in High Lane, Burslem in the cellar of which, it is reputed, he stored much of his and Susie Cooper's stock during the war as a precaution against air raids.
Edward Radford retired in 1948 and died in 1969.
After 1948 Woods continued making pottery using the Radford trademark for many years, although by now all the wares were moulded rather than hand thrown. A few patterns were similar or identical to those used on the earlier wares, although over time many new designs were added. These are the typical "later" Radford design with (usually) hand painted flowers and often just a subtle colourwash over the white clay. The base is usually marked with a two-letter pattern number, identifying the design. For example, the popular anemone pattern is labelled JN. As well as jugs and vases, the company produced a range of items in the same patterns, including plates, condiment sets and toast racks. The 1954 HJ Wood catalogue includes a large selection of Radford Handcraft wares.
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