Home/Exhibitions/Castles, Cottages, and Crime

Castles, Cottages, and Crime

In the middle of the 1800s, veritable cities of little ceramic buildings appeared in British homes. Made by almost all the main Staffordshire potteries, in England’s West Midlands, and aimed at working- and middle-class customers, these cottages and castles fulfilled useful and ornamental functions. Perhaps sitting on mantels as decoration or used to hold pastille burners, much like incense burners, smoke would have slipped out of the miniature chimneys and windows, improving the aroma of Victorian homes. Some are floral-embellished cottages from a romanticized rural life, and others represent castles and buildings of the time. A few depict “murder houses” where actual crimes were committed. These charming and occasionally odd period pieces can remind us that the smallest and most seemingly innocuous objects can tell powerful stories about history and culture.

Organized by The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

Media Partner: The Independent

English, Staffordshire. Pastille Burner in the form of a Cottage, about 1840–1860. Glazed earthenware with polychrome enamel decorations and gilding; 4-3/4 x 4 in. (12.065 x 10.16 cm.) Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, gift of Richard A. Wood in memory of Virginia Conklin Wood, 2021.5.11

English, Staffordshire. Mantel Ornament in the form of “Stanfield Hall,” about 1849–1860. Glazed earthenware with polychrome enamel decorations; 5-1/4 x 7-1/4 in. (13.335 x 18.415 cm.) Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, gift of Richard A. Wood in memory of Virginia Conklin Wood, 2021.5.25

English, Staffordshire. Pastille Burner in the form of a Castle, about 1840–1860. Glazed earthenware with polychrome enamel decorations and gilding; 4-1/8 x 3-1/2 in. (10.4775 x 8.89 cm.) Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, gift of Richard A. Wood in memory of Virginia Conklin Wood, 2021.5.23