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Model cradle

Model cradle

  • Place of origin:

    Staffordshire (made)

  • Date:

    1700-1710 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Earthenware, with slip decoration

  • Credit Line:

    Given by C. H. Campbell, Esq.

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 58, case 2

Object Type
Miniature pottery cradles were made from the end of the 17th century to at least the mid-19th century. Their symbolic purpose was almost pagan: a suggestive gift to encourage fertility. This particular cradle is decorated with the beginnings of an alphabet, which could also have made it a useful toy for a young child.

Ownership & Use
Miniature pottery cradles - along with inscribed delftware (tin-glazed earthenware) shoes, small flasks and loving cups - became associated with courting, betrothal, marriage and birth from the end of the 17th century. At that time these comparatively humble but decorative gifts became available to people of modest means. In the 19th century the range of these gifts, made of any locally produced pottery or glass, expanded greatly. For example, simply decorated Pratt wares (cheap moulded earthenwares painted with the delftware oxide colours) were made in profusion in Yorkshire and north-east England during the period 1800-1850. In the mid-19th century in Sunderland, Scotland, there grew up a tradition of giving inscribed glass rolling pins. At country fairs in the early 19th century initials and dates in coloured glass thread would be added to tiny glass scent bottles by specialist itinerant glassmakers known as lamp workers. But since the existence of such humble (but treasured) pieces is rarely acknowledged by diarists or by any other sort of historical record, in most cases we have only the evidence of the objects themselves to tell us exactly how, why and where they were used.

Physical description


Place of Origin

Staffordshire (made)


1700-1710 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Earthenware, with slip decoration

Marks and inscriptions

inscribed 'ABCDEFG' and 'INEHENS' (perhaps Joan or Jane Hens)


Height: 15.7 cm, Width: 27.5 cm, Depth: 11.2 cm

Object history note

Made in Staffordshire;

Descriptive line

Ceramic cradle

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Small cradles were often given as wedding presents, to wish a newly married couple the gift of children. They were also given at christenings to symbolise the birth of a new baby. Pottery gifts like this were cheaper than other traditional presents such as silver spoons. [27/03/2003]
Model of a cradle
Made in Staffordshire, 1670-1730
Earthenware with slip decoration

C.305-1921 Given by Mr C H Campbell [23/05/2008]


Ceramics; Birth; Children & Childhood


Ceramics Collection

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