In the early 19th century, steam powered engines created as much excitement then as our space explorations do now. The Staffordshire potters were always on the alert for ways to expand distribution of their products. Any new development was celebrated with production of pottery designed and decorated to commemorate the event.
New bridges, tunnels, engines and railway lines were all reasons to bring out new designs to appeal to an already excited public. This pitcher is a good example of one such event. In 1830 the Liverpool-Manchester Railway was opened with much fanfare and great public acclaim. This opening followed an 1829 contest, attended by 15,000 people, to determine the best locomotive to serve the new line. The winner was The Rocket, depicted here.
The pitcher has, on one side, a detailed purple copper plate transfer of the arched tunnel entrance. The reverse depicts the train, including The Rocket, a first class coach, a freight car, and a car for the lower classes and servants. Note the "GR" on one barrel, no doubt in honor of the king, George IV. The "ML" on the bale on top is a mystery. The potter carried the railway theme over to the handle and decorated it with eight-spoke railway carriage wheels.
For a fuller description of railroad commemorative pottery see A Collector's History of English Pottery by Lewis.