John Howard
The Antique English Pottery Specialist
Heritage, 6 Market Place, Woodstock, OX20 1TA | +44 (0)1993 812580 | +44 (0)7831 850544
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Staffordshire pottery presentation commemorative pitcher of Smith and Collier circa 1866 given to James Morrey.

Reference: 7075

Dated: 1866 Staffordshire England

Staffordshire pottery commemorative pitcher illustrating the story with relief images of Smith and Collier circa 1866. One side of the pitcher shows Collier the poacher/farmer in the cottage homestead with his wife and one of his seven children. The other side shows the scene of the crime where Collier is charged with killing the gamekeeper Smith. The handle of the jug is molded with a game rabbit. Interestingly the piece has a presentation legend across the base which read "PRESENTED TO JAMES MORREY BY A FRIEND". A rare and strong decorative pitcher with a story of the time to tell.

Dimensions: 11.00 inch wide 10.00 inch high 7.00 inch deep

Medium: pottery ceramic earthenware

Current Condition Fine unrestored condition

Literature: In 1866, a farmer William Collier was living with his wife and family in a cottage. He had the reputation as a poacher supplementing his low income with game. He had many mouths to fill as there were seven children. Collier’s activities were well known and this frequently led to conflict. The struggle between poachers and landowners in the 19th century was often a violent one and it was to be the case with Collier and the 24 year old Thomas Smith a game keeper at Whiston Eaves. While poaching on land owned by Smith’s father a violent confrontation ensued. A shot was fired and the younger man fell to the ground and he was beaten to death by the stock of Collier’s gun. Although the poacher protested his innocence he was found guilty and sentenced to hang. Many local people made their way to Stafford to witness the execution scheduled to take place on the 7th August. The executioner was a Black Country man called George Smith who had a reputation for blundering . Smith decided to use old rope for the hanging. The makeshift rope slipped off the beam and the poacher fell through into the pit underneath the scaffold with a loud sickening thud. A large crowd had gathered outside the scaffold, many were locals as there was some sympathy for Collier . As the condemned man fell ; a cry went up that the rope had broke. The condemned man emerged from the pit dazed and blooded . The officials gathered around wondering what to do next. The priest officiating at the execution was heard to exclaim “God help me”. One of the prison guards ran off to find another rope which was soon acquired and the unfortunate Collier was strung up a second time. The crowd booed and yelled at Smith angered by his ineptitude.

19th century public hangings were notoriously rowdy affairs with the crowd often engaged in criminal activity. NOTE:
Charles Dickens railed against the antics of the mob after attending a public hanging in the 1850s “I was a witness of the execution at this morning. I believe the sight so inconceivably awful as the wickedness and levity of the crowd collected at that execution “


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