Staffordshire cottages were produced throughout most of the 19th Century. While there are examples that date to the early 1800s, they only began to be produced in quantity in the second quarter of the century.
Their popularity grew, in great part, out of a very real and practical necessity. The combination of a growing English population and a lack of the most rudimentary sanitary facilities created a need for masking the olfactory manifestations of everyday living.
Out of this need came the earliest cottages which were designed to serve as small pastille burners whose contents would burn slowly and serve to mask unpleasant aromas.
Later examples, beginning in the middle of the century, were made as money boxes, with a small slit on the top or back for the deposit of coins. Not as many of this form are found today. This is most probably the result of their having been broken open by children, intent on withdrawing their earlier deposits.
Occasionally you can find a cottage designed as a small spill holder, although these are rarer still. (Spill was a twisted paper stick used to transfer fire from hearth to pipe or lamp.)
Also around the middle of the century cottages began to be produced with no utilitarian purpose whatsoever, merely as decorative objects, often celebrating a current event. Cottages of this kind were often inspired by military, naval or civilian events. They were produced and sold quickly before the excitement of a victory (or a juicy murder) could wear off. A famous engraving of the day depicts a street vendor hawking his pottery wares through the streets of London, much like today's cotton candy seller at the circus.