The Minton Tile Companies

 

There were several different tile companies with Minton in the name in the 19th and early 20th centuries starting with Herbert Minton son of the company's founder at Minton & Co. Subsequently sibling rivalry precipitated a parting of the ways resulting in seven different companies that were involved in tile manufacture and decoration associated with the Minton name.
 

Mintons tiles for sale

 

The Minton Tile Companies

Minton & Co. c.1828 - 1868 commercial production from circa 1835.

Tile making was managed by partner Michael Daintry Hollins from 1840 when the brand name, Minton, Hollins, & Co. was adopted. Michael Hollins is recorded as working in the factory from 1838. [5]

From 1840 [2] Minton & Co. on tiles was a trading name of Minton, Hollins & Co. used for the London House (showroom and offices). Minton, Hollins & Co., and Minton & Co. brands were used on tiles contemporaneously, catalogues, letterheads and advertising all show both Minton & Co. alongside Minton, Hollins & Co. throughout the nineteenth century and at least as late as 1912. Floor and enamelled majolica wall tiles post 1868 may bear the legend Minton & Co. or Minton, Hollins & Co., groups of tiles from installations marked with both Minton & Co. and Minton, Hollins & Co. are quite common. 

Wall tiles, printed, painted, lead glazed majolica etc, bear Minton, Hollins & Co. from the 1850s, the address 'Patent Tile Works' was used from 1868-9. Use of the Minton & Co. brand on tiles fades from the 1850s onwards presumably simply as new equipment was purchased with Minton, Hollins & Co. brand name and equipment with Minton & Co. brand name wore out.

Michael Hollins became a partner in Minton & Co. in 1840 and Colin Campbell in 1849, whilst Hollins managed the tile business Campbell worked in the china business under Herbert Minton and had little to do with the tile business. Upon the death of Herbert Minton in 1858 Michael Hollins became the senior partner and Colin Campbell the junior partner, Campbell managed the china business under Hollins. When the partnership was dissolved in 1868 the company split in to Minton, Hollins & Co. the tile company and the remaining china and pottery company which apparently continued trading as Minton & Co. until 1873 when it became known as Mintons and then Mintons Ltd. from 1883..

Campbell started making tiles at the China Works in apparent contravention of his agreement with Hollins and sold them under the name Minton & Co. which Hollins had been using since 1840. Hollins sued, the court found in favour of Hollins in respect of the name, that Minton, Hollins, & Co. and Minton & Co. both had the right to use the name Minton & Co. for their specialty products, i.e. tiles in the case of Minton, Hollins & Co., and china and pottery in the case of Minton & Co., (later simply 'Mintons' and then Mintons Limited). Campbell was specifically prohibited from using the words Minton and Tiles in conjunction.

For all intents and purposes Minton & Co. on tiles means Minton, Hollins & Co. the exceptions being limited to the relatively few tiles produced before 1840 and a few made by Campbell prior to the court judgment. Mintons China Works as it is widely known (actually Mintons or Mintons Limited) is not Minton & Co. on tiles, although this connection is commonly made not least in the literature (mostly written by pottery people) and by museums it is wrong.

Minton, Hollins & Co. 1840 - 1968 (1840 - 1868 as a division of Minton & Co.) bought by Johnsons in 1968 who still use the name. The most famed and prolific manufacturer for most of the Victorian era its tiles were used in The Palace of Westminster (i.e. The Houses of Parliament), US Capitol, Victoria & Albert Museum and many other prestigious buildings.

Mintons 1873 - c.1883, Mintons Limited c.1883 - 1918 (these dates for tiles, china and pottery for longer) this is the china behemoth substantively owned by Campbell until his death in 1885. Apparently used the branding Mintons China Works on tiles however Mintons is the branding, 'China Works' is the address just as 'Patent Tile Works' is the address for Minton, Hollins, & Co.. [6]

Robert Minton Taylor 1869 - 1874. Temporarily traded as R. Minton Taylor until prohibited by the court in 1871. Associated with Campbell to form Minton Brick & Tile Co. another name prohibited by the court.

Minton's Art Pottery Studio, Kensington Gore 1871 - 1875, owned by Campbell, produced good and indifferent art pottery and hand decorated tiles. It was losing money and when destroyed by fire in 1875 was not rebuilt. Studio products manufacturing was relocated to the China Works site in Stoke upon Trent.

Minton Brick & Tile Co. 1874 - 1875 temporarily used by an association of Robert Minton Taylor and Colin Minton Campbell (both nephews of Herbert Minton) before its use was quashed by the court,. Renamed Campbell Brick & Tile Co.

Campbell Brick & Tile Co. 1875 - 1963, part owned by Campbell, initially managed by Robert Minton Taylor [4]. 'Brick &' was soon dropped and the company became The Campbell Tile Co.

 

Herbert Minton began experimenting making encaustic tiles in 1828 in addition to the established Mintons pottery and china business, early results were most unpredictable 100 satisfactory tiles from a kiln load of 700 was considered a success. Work continued refining the processes and in 1835 the company was confident enough to produce their first catalogue of 62 designs. In 1836 they tendered for the supply of tiles for special schemes and full scale production began around 1842.

In 1840 Herbert Minton took his nephew Michael Daintry Hollins into partnership [2][7], and the company was split in to two divisions, Hollins became manager of the tile business but also was influential in the china and pottery business indeed Herbert Minton credited Hollins with the invention of Parian [5]. The partnership was not formalised as Minton & Hollins until 1841 as the dissolution of the preceding partnership with John Boyle (Minton & Boyle) was protracted, Boyle believed the tile business inappropriate for the partnership and no doubt sought a settlement taking in to account the losses of the tile business which he had vehemently disapproved of.

Another nephew Colin Minton Campbell became partner in the company in 1849, after spending a few years around the works it was clear, in the words of the Rhead brothers [8], that "he was not a potter", Herbert Minton regretted that Campbell was unable to lead the business as he would wish and in 1848 acquired the services of Leon Arnoux who soon became manager of the china and pottery business. Campbell was a self-publicist obsessed with being famous and his birthright to the Minton fortune, he was elected as a Member of Parliament at the second attempt and also became Mayor of Stoke on Trent. Campbell's attributes served the company quite well for a while, his flair for publicity raised the profile of Minton's products, he was a consummate salesman and convinced many to buy the company's overpriced and outdated wares. However there was no equally great salesman to replace him and upon his death the company lacking modern, affordable goods lost money for seven years until finally going in to liquidation in 1892. A new company also called Mintons Ltd. was formed a few weeks later and carried on the business,

The tile business, and especially the wall tile business, was barely in existence before Hollins joined so it was mostly his creation, Jewitt reports it made a loss until 1844. The tile business traded as both Minton & Co. and Minton, Hollins & Co. and the china business as Minton & Co., the almost exclusive use of Minton, Hollins & Co. for wall tiles surely indicates Hollins influence in that regard. When Herbert Minton died in 1858 Hollins and Campbell remained partners and continued in their roles as did Arnoux, another nephew of Herbert Minton Robert Minton Taylor became a partner with Hollins in the tile business in 1863. The record shows that Hollins was the senior partner despite Campbell having a much greater equity share in the business, being inconsistent with Campbell's nature it may well have been enforced by a contract designed by Herbert Minton who was well acquainted with the attributes of his nephews.

The company split in 1868 Hollins taking the lesser value tile business and Campbell retaining the much larger and well established china and pottery business. Campbell however still had some tile making equipment at the china works site and continued to use it and the Minton & Co. name for wall tiles (he didn't make floor tiles), he clearly had the right to use Minton & Co. for pottery and china as his was a continuance of the previous business but not for tiles. Campbell also used many of the same patterns on tiles as Hollins the result being that there were two companies producing tiles with the same patterns and same brand name Minton & Co. which of course caused confusion in the marketplace. Hollins maintained that under the terms of the agreement all of the tile business was his including the equipment at the china works and that Campbell could not use Minton & Co. on tiles. It is widely reported in the literature that the split was acrimonious, I am not convinced that that was the case for it seems likely, the interval being ten years and that Hollins was the senior partner, that the split was preordained. The acrimony would no doubt have arisen when Campbell started making tiles against the spirit of the agreement with Hollins, and certainly when Campbell fulfilled orders for tiles intended for Minton, Hollins & Co. but addressed to Minton & Co..

The dispute reached the courts who found in favour of Hollins, the tile making equipment remaining in Campbell's factory was determined to belong to Hollins who was also awarded the exclusive right to use the name Minton & Co. on tiles. Campbell however wanted to keep on making tiles and reached a settlement with Hollins for the tile making plant at the china works reputedly in the sum of £30,000 (in excess of ten million pounds in today's money) which Hollins used to build a new factory and propel his company to being the world's largest tile maker. It would appear that Campbell and Taylor both paternal nephews of Herbert Minton conspired against Hollins a maternal nephew however Herbert Minton was the last Minton to own and run the company.

Robert Minton Taylor left Minton, Hollins & Co. with the Hollins/Campbell split and in the following year started trading as R Minton Taylor making floor tiles and later some wall tiles. The court found that this name was also confusing implying that it was Minton in partnership with Taylor and ordered that company use the full name Robert Minton Taylor & Co. to identify its wares and in advertising. Public announcements in respect of the separation of the businesses show that Taylor was a partner with Hollins and Campbell in the tile business but not a partner in the china business (which had two partners Hollins and Campbell).

Campbell owned Mintons Ltd. continued making tiles with Mintons brand and the full address China Works, Stoke Upon Trent, Campbell joined with Robert Minton Taylor in 1874 in the form of a buyout or partnership and the company was renamed Minton Brick and Tile Co. It appears that the merger was at least in part an effort by Campbell to find a loophole in the court judgment prohibiting him from using the name Minton & Co on tiles. The use of such name by Campbell was clearly against the spirit of the judgment and again the dispute reached court, Hollins again won and the company had to change its name. It was renamed Campbell Brick and Tile Co 'brick and' shortly being dropped apparently reinforcing the influence that Campbell had in the setting up of R. Minton Taylor & Co. The judge specifically admonished Campbell for actions leading to effectively a retrial of the same issue as in 1868 and Campbell was thenceforth prohibited from using the words Minton and Tile in any company name or on the same line in advertising.

Campbell was a great salesman and wielded the considerable Minton influence aggressively, no doubt he expected to prevail in court despite the weakness of his case. So persuasive a speaker was he, or should we say so great a salesman was he, that he was elected as Member of Parliament for North Staffordshire. He entered parliament on 32st January 1874 leaving on 24 March 1880, he was also Mayor of Stoke from 1880 to 1883, Maybe his time in parliament spurred on his animosity to former partner Hollins being surrounded by Hollins' tiles which were used in the construction of the Palace of Westminster.

Mintons Kensington Art Pottery Studio may also have in some part been another attempt to get around the naming rights issue, owned by Campbell however they used some blank tiles from Minton Taylor. It certainly appears that there was an arrangement between Taylor and Campbell prior to the dissolution of the Hollins/Campbell partnership, Hollins must have been especially aggrieved that Robert Minton Taylor whom he had trained in tile making had joined forces with Campbell to compete against him. The studio's wares today have a great reputation but in its day this was clearly insufficient to pay its way otherwise it would have been rebuilt after the fire in 1875 indeed Atterbury & Batkin report that it lost money, the fire was possibly rather convenient. Many of the studio's wares are of poor quality and the current reputation is to my mind exaggerated, it appears that the best products were made in the first years whilst W S Coleman was in charge. Julian Barnard makes this comment, "Minton's Art Pottery Studios in Kensington Gore, London, which opened in 1871, employed many artists (and would be artists) to decorate their products." [3] They did make and decorate some outstanding wares but there are also those that have the look and feel of novices' work.

There was actually a series of court cases mostly concerned with the rights to use the name Minton on tiles and stemming from the original agreement between Hollins and Campbell, Hollins won on almost all accounts. Hollins in the split took the smaller part of the company in exchange for exclusive rights yet Campbell tried to deny him the entire tile business, the court found it belonged to Hollins as did the exclusive use of the name Minton & Co in relation to tiles. What drove Campbell's enmity is unknown but it deflected both companies' attention from running of the businesses and the publicity that it attracted cast a shadow further afield. Perhaps it was Campbell's own settlement with Hollins that aggrieved him, how he came to agree to the reported sum of £30,000 is unfathomable, surely had he kept to the agreement, let Hollins have the equipment and avoid paying the settlement he could have built his own brand new state of the art tileworks with the £30,000. Furthermore Hollins would likely have been required to pay the costs for removal of his equipment from the China Works site.

Currently the accepted wisdom is that Mintons Ltd. were the greater quality company but this is predicated primarily on the number of pictorial tile series that they produced, the name became popular amongst collectors and parlayed the already existing collectability of Minton china. For the most part Hollins produced the better quality wares and a greater variety of them, certainly so during the lifetime of Campbell. Mintons China Works had a marketing coup with John Moyr Smith's designs for tiles, particularly the Shakespeare series, which were very popular and being so numerous are well collected yet the smaller range of series designed by Moyr Smith for Minton Hollins are executed by them to a far superior quality standard. Robert Minton Taylor's tiles, the few that we see, are similar excellent quality to Hollins'.

Quite a messy business, it seems that Campbell was overly fixated with battling for the name and finding loopholes in his agreement with Hollins, the £30,000 settlement seems a huge amount for some tile making plant but perhaps it was that he bore the Minton name being from the father's side of the family whereas Hollins was from the mother's side. Tiles were only ever a minor part of his Mintons business around 25% of sales some of which were sourced from Campbell Tile Co, around 75% was tableware. It appears that Colin Campbell had little to do with the running of Campbell Tile Co being mostly a financier and marketeer, the company made both wall and floor tiles (rather more of the latter) and was managed by Robert Minton Taylor [4], it grew to be a substantial company remaining independent until 1963.

 

[1] Atterbury and Batkin, The Dictionary of Minton, reports Campbell formed a limited liability company two years before his death. Atterbury and Batkin get a lot of things mixed up, especially dates, and the importance of Hollins is denied as usual for pottery enthusiast to who Campbell is close to deity, so sifting through the information therein is required and arduous.

[2] Various sources have various dates for the Minton partnerships most herein are from the judge's summing up in the Hollins v. Campbell and Taylor case of May 1875 as transcribed in part by Barnard. The court stated 1841 for the Minton, Hollins partnership however a tile catalogue apparently dating from the 1870s proclaims on its cover:

Minton, Hollins, & Co.,

Patent Tile Works,

Stoke-Upon-Trent.

Established 1840,

By the late Mr. Herbert Minton and his Nephew, Michael D Hollins (now sole proprietor); and they continue to manufacture every description of Plain and Ornamental Tiles by the most improved processes.

Herbert Minton was in partnership with John Boyle until 21st November 1841 [5] the parting of the ways seemingly because of Minton's interest in tiles which Boyle did not share. The discrepancy in the dates may well be explained by there being a de facto separate tile business in 1840 agreed between Minton and Hollins which could not be made official until the partnership between Herbert Minton and John Boyle was dissolved.

Jewitt reports Hollins joined in 1845 and gives 1845 for the separation of the tile business under the style Minton, Hollins & Co.. This 1845 error by Jewitt is the source of numerous more recent errors, it was picked up by Atterbury & Batkin, Barnard, and Jones amongst others but these three should have taken more care to get it right. 1840 and 1848 for Hollins and Campbell, respectively is reported by Steve Birks quoting from a 1956 book 'British Potters and Pottery Today'. The partnership between Herbert Minton and Michael Hollins referred to in all the literature as Minton & Hollins c.1845 almost certainly commenced immediately following the end of the partnership with Boyle i.e. November 1841 as the court stated. Pottery writers seem to prefer to take other pottery writers' word than the original sources.

[3] Victorian Ceramic Tiles by Julian Barnard published in 1972 by Christies is a highly recommended book. Written more in the tone of a dispassionate auctioneer giving a straightforward assessment it tends to avoid the sycophantic aggrandisement of established brand names, artists and techniques that many other publications suffer from. It is also as far as my knowledge extends the most error free, unfortunately as time goes by the number of errors in books about tiles seems to be generally on the increase.

[4] Jewitt.

[5] Joan Jones, Minton The First Two Hundred Years of Design and Production. The book is considered the definitive work on the history of Minton's china and pottery but contains numerous errors especially in respect of tile making, the names of the companies and the role of Michael Hollins.

[6] I have been unable to find a precise date for the first registration of Mintons Limited. Joan Jones doesn't help, on page 8 she says Mintons became a limited company in 1892. This is clearly not the case, the tile catalogue of 1883 says Mintons Limited as Jones herself notes on pages 178 and 179. The tile catalogue of 1881 says simply Mintons and not Mintons Limited as in the 1883 catalogue so it is clear that Mintons Limited was registered in the period 1881 - 1883 and Atterbury and Batkin's date of two years before Campbell's death i.e. 1883 is apparently correct.

[7] In researching Richard Prosser, the inventor of the dust-pressing process that revolutionised tile making, John and Susan Darby have revealed data and records of the Minton companies not previously reported. See the website www.prossertheengineer.co.uk for a thoroughly interesting and informative insight into the trials, tribulations and triumphs of one of the many upon whose shoulders entrepreneurs of today stand.

[8] Staffordshire Pots and Potteries by G. Woolliscroft Rhead and Frederick Alfred Rhead.

 

Edited 18 November 2016

 Minton tiles for sale

 The Christopher Dresser controversy, did he design tiles for Mintons (or anyone else)?

 

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