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William Wallace

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Staffordshire (made)

  • Date:

    ca.1850 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown (makers)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Glazed earthenware

  • Credit Line:

    Accepted by HM Government in lieu of Inheritance Tax and allocated to the Victoria and Albert Museum, 1996

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Earthenware flatbacks and figurines for mantelpiece decoration were first produced in Staffordshire in the late 1830s. The earliest datable figures appear to be of Queen Victoria. Production of earthenware figures continued throughout Victoria's lifetime, but although they were still made after her death in 1901, few appear to have been produced after 1905. During their heyday, however, they were produced in vast numbers, usually modelled after prints. They represented a wide variety of subjects but those of noted celebrities and actors and actresses were especially popular.

This represents the Scottish hero and patriot Sir William Wallace (1272-1305) who won the great battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297 but was defeated by Edward I at Falkirk. Wallace was arrested by the English in 1305, tried at Westminster Hall and condemned to be hanged, drawn and quartered. The story of Wallace was dramatised several times during the 19th century, including two different productions based on his exploits at Covent Garden and at Astley's Circus in 1820. There is no evidence, however, of this figurine being based on any particular actor or performance.

Physical description

A Staffordshire figurine of William Wallace standing on a titled gilt base with raised capitals: 'WALLACE', his right hand holding a sword, his left a shield, wearing a plumed hat, tunic, sporran, sash and kilt.

Place of Origin

Staffordshire (made)


ca.1850 (made)


Unknown (makers)

Materials and Techniques

Glazed earthenware


Height: 43.2 cm, Width: 24.0 cm, Height: 8.8 cm of base, Width: 19.2 cm of base, Depth: 3.0 cm of base

Descriptive line

Figurine of William Wallace (1272-1305), the Scottish patriot and champion of independence. Glazed eathenware, Staffordshire, ca.1850

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Staffordshire Portrait Figures of the Victorian Era by P.D. Gordon Pugh, p.608, fig.11.
Victorian Staffordshire Figures 1835-1875 Book One by A&N. Harding, p.311, fig.1142.


Earthenware; Glaze


Moulding; Firing (heating); Painting; Glazing (coating)


Ceramics; Entertainment & Leisure; Figures & Decorative ceramics; Scotland


Theatre and Performance Collection

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