Martin Brothers

A rather atypical Martinware panel showing pottery making.

The four Martin brothers produced a distinctive type of stoneware pottery from the 1870s through to the First World War, with a little work being produced through to 1923 when their pottery closed. The Martinware Pottery (1873-1923) is a good example of a Victorian art pottery, and (of most relevance in these pages) the output included both illustrative and sculptural work. They were best known for their bird sculptures and bowls, vessels decorated with sea creatures, and tiles, fashioned in a whimsical but highly skillful style.

The Pottery was started in Fulham in 1873 by Robert Wallace Martin, who had trained as a sculptor. In 1877 the business was moved to Havelock Road, Southall, London, where it remained. Walter Martin became the firm's specialist on the wheel, Edwin Martin's work included most of the fish and flower designs, and Charles Martin ran the shop. They worked mainly with a saltglaze stoneware, a high-temperature firing method where salt was thrown into the kiln, in order to fuse to the clay and give a rough surface. The colours included browns, greens, greys and blues, and this subdued palette is distinctive of Martinware.

Robert Wallace Martin, the eldest brother, had worked for a while for the architectural sculptor J. B. Phillips of Vauxhall Bridge Road, and later took drawing classes at the nearby Lambeth School of Art. Walter and Edwin Martin also studied there, and both worked for a time at Doulton's Pottery, also in Lambeth.

Martinware pottery may be found in various ceramic collections. A wide range of their work may be seen in the Hull Grundy Collection at Pitshanger Manor, Ealing. A small selection is on show in the Norwich Castle museum, and is nicely in context with much other ceramic work.

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