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The Stamford Terracotta Company (Blashfield’s)

Nicholas J Sheehan 2023

In 1858, John Marriott Blashfield (1811-1882) transferred his terracotta manufacturing business from London to Stamford in order to exploit the local Jurassic clays which were particularly suitable for terracotta production. Blashfield took over the site of the former Grant’s Iron Foundry on Wharf Road (Fig. 1), [1] which was considerably larger than his London premises and whose position adjacent to the River Welland was convenient for bringing clay in and shipping terracotta out. The site included a 100-foot-long showroom along its north edge.

Fig.1 Gate Arch to Blashfield’s works

The business was re-named The Stamford Terracotta Company and the new works were officially opened on 14 March 1859. The lighting of the first kiln was attended by the Marchioness of Exeter and her family and a bust of Queen Victoria fired to mark the occasion was presented to the monarch the following day. A detailed review of the Blashfield’s company and the wider history of the terracotta industry was published in the Stamford Mercury on 18th Feb 1859. [2]

Most of the clay that Blashfield’s used was from brickyards in the vicinity of Stamford, principally the Earl of Lindsey’s estate at Uffington, the Marquis of Exeter’s pit at Wakerley and Mr John Lumby’s field in Stamford, with much of the rest being sourced from further afield at Poole and Devon. [3]

In 1858, Mr Blyth of Uffington advertised his field of red clay as being fit for the manufacture of moulded and plain bricks, paving tiles, ridge coping, ornamental and plain flower pots, vases, chimney shafts and pots. Blashfield’s range of products far exceeded this, its wares ranging from utilitarian items such as bricks (Fig.2), tiles and chimney pots to architectural dressings, classical ornaments, statues and other sculpted figures.

Fig.2 A Blashfield brick (Old Frechevillian’s Brick Collection)

Taking inspiration from artists and architects, Blashfield employed highly skilled sculptors and craftsmen to produce his ware. In addition, he collected hundreds of casts of both classical and contemporary work. While he may have been influenced by the designs of the Coadestone factory, it is inconclusive whether he bought any of its moulds after it ceased production in the early 1840s. His clay recipes which contained a complex blend of ingredients typified his scientific approach to terracotta production. By 1861 the company was employing 46 men and 13 boys. The business prospered and Blashfield designs won medals at the 1862 and 1867 Paris Exhibitions (Fig.3).

Fig.3 Advertisement for Blashfield's Terracotta

With the introduction of new models, the range of products had increased to over 1400 items by 1870, fired in four kilns. Blashfield’s published illustrations of its merchandise in a series of trade catalogues (Fig. 4). It became a limited company in 1872.

Fig.4 Trade catalogues (Internet Archive Free Download)

Blashfield’s wares were widely sold throughout England and overseas and his architectural and garden ornaments found their way into many country houses, including those at Burghley and Uffington. An allegorical figure of Literature (Fig.5) is on view at Burghley House and four large terracotta urns commissioned by the Marquis of Exeter form the centrepieces of the fountains in the South Gardens (Fig.6). The boathouse at the eastern end of the lake was also built by Blashfield’s.

Fig.5 Allegorical figure of Literature (Burghley Collections. Ref EWA08621)

Fig.6 Terracotta urn in Burghley’s South Gardens (Burghley House website)

The whereabouts of most of the works of art and garden ornaments manufactured for the Earl of Lindsey from his own clay are unknown but Blashfield urns, probably based on a Coade design, still adorn the imposing gate piers (Fig.7) of his Uffington mansion which burnt down in 1904.

Fig.7 One of a pair of Blashfield terracotta urns on the gateway to the lost Uffington House

Blashfield’s products were used for both structural and decorative purposes in many properties in Stamford town but few examples remain. The most notable building is the grade-II- listed, former Scotgate Inn with its red terracotta facade (Fig.8(a)). 4 Another example is a shop at 30 High Street whose 1873 frontage contains five red terracotta panels amongst its detailing (Fig. 8(b)).

Fig.8 (a) Former Scotgate Inn at 5 Scotgate, and (b) 30 High Street

Despite its early successes and its strong international reputation, a combination of poor business practices, misfortune and competition from cheaper mass-produced terracotta. drove the company into voluntary liquidation. The Blashfield’s works closed in 1875 and its plant and stock were auctioned off.

Blashfield died on 15 December 1882 after a short illness. The site of his factory on Wharf Road is now occupied by a residential development completed in 2007.


[1] In 1937 the arch was rebuilt several feet to the south and parallel with the road

[2] ‘Art Manufactory in Lincolnshire. Terra Cotta Works at Stamford.’ The Lincolnshire, Rutland and Stamford Mercury. Friday, February 18, 1859, p.3

[3] Blashfield's was not the only terracotta manufacturer in Stamford. Henry Lumby had a production site in St Martin's in 1868 and 1872 and in 1863 Charles Joseph Whitton had a works in London Road.

[4] Earlier used as a depot for P & R Phipps and now in commercial use.


‘John Marriott Blashfield’. Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851-1951. University of Glasgow History of Art and HATII, online database 2011

HeritageGateway Lincolnshire HER. Blashfield Terracotta Factory, Wharf Road, Stamford.

HER Number MLI30744

'Sectional Preface: Building Materials and Construction', in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the Town of Stamford (London, 1977), pp. lxiv-lxix. British History


The Gardens Trust. ‘Artificial Stone 4: Post-Coade potteries.’

A print version can be downloaded HERE

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