The more wealthy members of society were impressed by all things French in the nineteenth century. The well-off ate from French dishes, served their courses at dinner and employed French chefs. It was these continental chefs that Mrs Beeton praised for introducing fireproof cooking appliances into the country and it is pots in the French style that she illustrates in her book of household management.
Brampton pottery was certainly 'fireproof' and like all pottery vessels was easy to keep clean, did not spoil the colour or flavour of ingredients and could be taken straight to the table.
Why then should Mrs Beeton and shops like the Army and Navy store show a preference for and promote the French ware? Was it only because it was 'French' or was it because the interiors of the pots were white?
Large pot with lid
By the late nineteenth century people had begun to find dirt alarming and to be increasingly anxious about cleanliness. The discoveries of Louis Pasteur and Joseph Lister established a basis for germ theory in the 1880s which influenced health reformers to link anything described as dirt to the transmission of disease. What they confused, of course, was visible dirt, with disease and germs which they could not see. The result was that people began to use white in place of browns and reds to decorate their homes in the belief that it would be cleaner.
Other writers have concentrated on the role of white vessels as vehicles for status in social display, where earth-toned pottery is associated with preparation of food and a more subordinate position. This comparison between earth-toned and white-toned vessels, sets up oppositions of preparation versus eating and puts kitchenware and tableware into different realms, codified by their location in separate areas of the house, the kitchen and the dining room. Here the preference for white becomes cultural, and is associated with display and formal dining areas, while the earth-toned pots are restricted to less prestigious and informal places such as the kitchen.
One of the most common arguments which explains the motivation for acquisition of goods is the 'desire to emulate those of higher social rank in order to keep up appearances.'In this way goods trickle down from the upper classes, often in cheaper, but similar versions. It is difficult to apply this idea to Brampton kitchenware in that it was not generally decorative, or part of a set, nor is it a copy of something more expensive. Brampton saltglaze pottery with its earth-toned exterior and grey-green interior was not purchased for these reasons. These potters did not change the shape of their pots to emulate more expensive French fireproof ware nor did the white interiors of this ware encourage them to alter their grey green glaze.
The Brampton trade catalogues from the nineteenth and early twentieth century illustrate their wares together with their purpose, hash pot, stew pot, souse pot, loaf pot. All these pots are strongly associated with economical, nutritional and tasty cooking associated with the Midlands and the North. This type of cookery was able to take advantage of the new coal fired range which was efficient with time and fuel and brought improved living conditions for many families. Consequently, consumers would choose to buy Brampton kitchenware to carry out particular culinary tasks and this choice would presuppose the existence of a range, cheap fuel, a variety of foodstuffs to cook with and the knowledge to assemble ingredients and operate the new technology. Brampton saltglaze pottery enters the nineteenth century household therefore, not as a luxury or as a reflection of social identity in itself, but as a response to technological and social advances.