Rare pair of Halifax Slipware bird whistles in a ‘Whieldon’ style glaze, early to mid-19th century, Yorkshire England.

Made to represent a mother bird surrounded by her four young fledglings sitting on branches in a tree.

The realistic call could be made by blowing through the end of the tail and alternately opening and closing the small hole on the chest of the bird, producing a two-tone bird call very similar to a dove or cuckoo. It is highly probable that these skilfully modelled cuckoo calls were made and decorated by the women and older girls within the family of potters.

Artistic and beautifully tactile, they were made as ornaments to sit on the mantlepiece above a large fireplace or the window bottoms of provincial Yorkshire farmhouses. Coated with a lead glaze and dabbed with manganese oxide, fired by experts, the intense heat and flames within the enormous kiln would flash the glaze in a controlled way, producing the running Whieldon/Tortoiseshell effect that we see here.

It has been documented that these bird calls would occasionally be set on a shelf inside a large chimney and would whistle with the upward draught when strong winds blew, this was thought to keep evil spirits at bay, harking back to much earlier times.


Early to mid-19th century


9 1/4’’h x 7’’w      approx. O/A

23.5cm w x 18cm h


In excellent condition, no restoration, only minor surface wear commensurate with age.



Reference – Peter Brears – The Collectors Book of English Country Pottery

See our list of other available specialist books


Request Details

Ref Number: 221040A


To purchase and further information, please enter your email in the box below and click Submit