A-Z of Ceramics - D is for Delft / Delftware
For most people, 'delftware' conjures up images of the blue and white pottery made in the Dutch town of Delft. The term in fact describes all 'tin-glazed earthenwares' made in the Netherlands and the British Isles. Tin-glazed earthenware, which normally has a white glaze and painted decoration, has been produced in many countries and has many different names.
Italian tin-glazed pottery is known as maiolica. It was a popular product and traded widely. By the 14th century, fleets of Venetian ships appeared in the English Channel every year, carrying cargoes of maiolica bound for England, France and the Netherlands. These ships were known as Flanders galleys, and it is doubtless from this name that 'galleyware' the original English term for tin-glazed earthenware, derives.
Although production of tin-glazed earthenware began in the Netherlands and England in the 16th century, it was not actually made in Delft until around 1600. By the late 17th century, Delft had become the most famous centre of production. Variations on the name 'delftware' have since become common in Britain for both English and Dutch pottery of this type. Wares known to have been made in the town itself are now simply called 'Delft'.