Unique Rhead Burleighware?

Adolphine Rhead Unidentified Burgess & Leigh PatternWell – my previous blog asked the (slightly rhetorical) question, ‘Where is the Burleighware?’. Remarkably, something intriguing has recently come to light on this subject. I have just received some photos of a possibly unique pattern, produced at Burgess & Leigh in the late 1920s. There doesn’t appear to be any reference to it in the Bumpus books, and certainly no pattern number, but the design is unmistakably Rhead in style. It’s almost possible, in fact, to create a tick-list of Rhead motifs: clouds, birds, pomegranates, geometric borders, leaves and branches etc etc………

Perhaps even more interestingly, it appears that the pattern is not one of Charlotte’s, or even her father’s, but was actually produced by her youngest sister, Adolphine (or Dollie) Rhead. Whilst this can’t be confirmed with absolute accuracy, I think it is very likely, given that it has emerged from a collection known to have belonged to Dollie’s nephew. Additionally, the jar in the photo above has a signature on the base which is almost identical to the ‘L Rhead’ facsimile signature used by Charlotte on Burleighware, but it shows an ‘A’ instead of an ‘L’. Another piece with the same pattern also has a date of 1928 on it, which coincides nicely with the period Dollie is known to have ‘sat in’ for Charlotte at B & L, whilst Charlotte took an extended holiday to America to visit her brothers.

Adolphine 'Dollie' Rhead
Dollie Rhead

Bernard Bumpus gives the impression that whilst Dollie was a very competent tube-liner and decorator in her own right, he doesn’t mention that she may have actually designed as well. She had the same apprenticeship as Charlotte and was certainly proficient enough to cover for her older sister for a short period, but she spent most of her working life in nursing. It’s remarkable therefore that if she did come up with this design, she was more than a match for many of the other full-time pottery designers of the period.

It is entirely feasible that Charlotte did actually come up with this pattern and it just A Rhead Fruit Setnever saw the light of day commercially. It may even have been a joint design with Dollie, who was given the honour of having her name on it. Given its background, was it possibly a present from Charlotte to Dollie, to thank her for looking after her job whilst she was away? I’d love to think this was the case!

All speculation of course, and we may never know, but it’s another new talking point. When I set this website up, it was with the intention of uncovering previously unseen patterns and sharing them, since I believe there are still many more discoveries to be made. I don’t believe this particular pattern has ever been seen before – please tell me if I’m wrong and you have a suite of it in your sideboard!


(With special thanks to NS at Bearnes, Hampton & Littlewood for the pictures and background information).

2 thoughts on “Unique Rhead Burleighware?

  1. Hello,

    I may be showing my ignorance here, but I had not seen this pattern before. And it was not the only example from Mr Cronin-Rhead’s estate (Dollie Rhead’s son) that I had not seen before.

    Fortunately, I secured a few items from the sale of this collection, including the ginger jar shown here….the lid is broken, but when things are fairly unique I can live with that. I mean, where can you get another! I wish I had been able to attend the sale in person, but work commitments prevented this. I hope most of this very interesting collection has gone to good homes…!

    It is great that you have this website on Rhead…it is a wonderful resource.


    1. Hi Ozzie – many thanks for your message and congratulations on getting the ginger jar. You’re right – where would one find another?!

      I was fortunate enough to be given a sneak preview of the Rhead-Cronin collection in Exeter, and this pattern stood out. The exciting thing is that there are plenty more unusual pieces coming up in the sale in January, including tiles signed by Charlotte – never before seen according to Bernard Bumpus – as well as some stunning oil paintings and etchings by other members of the family.

      I’m sure that everything will find a good home – it’s just a bit of a shame that such a unique collection will be broken up….


Any thoughts? Your views are welcome!