Aren’t you a bit curious about the origin of your favourite pieces, or just a bit curious about who, where an when…
A Bit of Porcelain History
Blue & White
The history of blue and white porcelain starts more than 3,000 years ago when the first porcelains appeared in China. It was during the Zhou dynasty (1027 – 771 BC) that Chinese craftsmen built the first kilns that could reach high enough temperatures to create what we now call porcelain.
During the Tang dynasty (618 – 907) porcelain went into mass production but it took several hundred years more for the advent of the now classic blue and white styling. The earliest examples of blue and white porcelain are attributed to the Yuan dynasty (1271 – 1368). Artisans experimenting with different materials, such as iron, copper and cobalt, found that each created different colours when porcelains were fired in the kiln. The cobalt allowed for a vibrant blue colour that gave a stark contrast to the white porcelain body and brought out stunning detail. Credit is given to the city of Jingdezhen, sometimes called China’s porcelain capital, for this important development.
Though at the start of the Ming dynasty (1369 – 1644) trade outside China was forbidden, by the late 16th century blue and white porcelain had become a standard and was wildly popular in Europe. Trade ships waited for days in Chinese ports and brought back hundreds of thousands of blue and white porcelain items at a time. To this day collectors head to the Netherlands to find the finest examples of Ming era blue and white porcelain. In the 17th century the Dutch East India Company held a near monopoly on the sought after commodity.
The blue and white porcelain being made today throughout China has changed very little from the days of Ming emperor Kangxi. The biggest modern advancement is gas fired kilns and a “decaling” technique that eliminates the labour-intensive hand painting. Smaller kilns still hand paint their blue and white porcelains, capturing the charm and tradition of this time honoured art.
Soft-paste porcelain needed to be glazed as the body would otherwise be porous. The decoration was either painted or printed (or sometimes a combination of both) after the piece was formed, dried and fired in a biscuit kiln, but before the item was glazed. Such decoration is known as ‘underglaze blue’, and the product used for the decorating process was the metallic oxide of cobalt. This substance was black when applied and turned blue only after firing. After the item was decorated it was placed in a ghost kiln to fuse the design to the body of the piece before it was glazed and fired again.
The very earliest English teawares were all painted by hand. The cobalt oxide was mixed with a flux such as oil and applied with brushes. As the cobalt was black when applied the painter had to use their skill and experience to judge how the tones and shading would look on the finished article. However, painting every piece by hand was costly so early designs were usually simple interpretations of Chinese scenes in an attempt to keep prices competitive.
Transfer-printed decoration is the result of a technique whereby a copper plate is engraved with a design and then inked with the cobalt mixture. This is then carefully wiped off to leave the mixture in the engraved lines. Next, special tissue paper wetted with soap is placed on the copper plate, rolled through a press to transfer the cobalt mixture pattern onto the paper. Then the pattern shapes are cut out and applied to the porcelain surface. When the design was securely in place the paper is removed before the ghost firing to fix the pattern onto the porcelain prior to glazing and firing. Differentiating between painted and printed wares can sometimes be tricky and is most easily done where colours are shaded. Brushwork tends to have a freedom and fluidity that cannot be achieved with a print.
A copper plate could be used many times to boost the volume of items with an identical pattern at relatively low-cost. Typically a plate would need to be reengraved after passing through the process about 500 times. The reengraving inevitably resulted in a loss of detail, initially crisp lines became softer over time. When the plate was eventually replaced there were usually minor changes in the design that can be identified upon close examination.
c.1744 – 1769
Edward Heylyn and Thomas Frye established the Bow factory located at Stratford-le-Bow in the county of Essex with the intention of producing phosphatic porcelain in direct competition to the Chinese imports that were for sale all over London. The patent was taken out in December 1744 and the so-called ‘A-Mark’ wares which are polychrome have been attributed to the this early period the exact year that production of underglaze blue porcelain commenced is still unclear, but it was probably not until Frye alone took out another patent in 1748.
Early wares typically have a heavy dense body, a characteristic glaze that looks rather greasy or lard like and are freely painted in a bright tone of blue.
After about 1755 the body is lighter and has been described as flowery; the glaze often has a blue appearance especially where it has gathered. The factory’s output was substantial and included a large amount of blue and white table wares. Some pieces bear workman’s tally marks usually a number or letter. Wears decorated in ‘powder blue’ often have pseudo-Chinese character marks, and a copy of the meissen crossed swords mark is also sometimes found. The 1770s Bow was the only factory with significant output of toy or miniature wares.
c.1745 – 1776
Edward Heylyn and Thomas Frye established the bow factory located at Stratford the bow in the county of Essex, intent on producing phosphatic porcelain in direct competition to the Chinese imports that would have been for sale all over London. The patent was taken out in December 1744 and the so-called ‘A-Mark’ wares which are polychrome have been attributed to the this early period the exact year that production of underglaze blue porcelain commenced is still unclear, but it was probably not until Frye alone took out another patent in 1748.
Early wares typically have a heavy dense body, a characteristic glaze that looks rather greasy or lard like and a freely painted in a bright tone of blue.
After about 1755 the body is lighter and has been described as flowery the glaze often has a blue appearance especially where it has gathered. Factories output was substantial and included the large amount of blue and white table wares. Some pieces may bear workman’s tally marks usually a number or letter where’s decorated in ‘powder blue’ often have pseudo-Chinese character marks, and a copy of the meissen crossed swords mark is also found. The 1770s bow was the only factory with significant output of toy or miniature wares.
c.1745 – 1776
c. 1749 – 1760
The factory was located at or within the grounds of Longton Hall near Newcastle-under-Lyme in Staffordshire and chemical analysis of its wares will show bone ash in smaller quantities than elsewhere. The principle name associated with the factory is William Littler, an experienced potter who became a partner in the business in 1751 and probably provided the expertise needed for successful porcelain production after that date.
All Longton Hall blue & white saucers are painted. The factory did produce printed wares, including saucers, but not in blue and white. There are no factory marks, although tally marks are sometimes found in the form of a number or letters. after the partnership dissolved in 1760, Littler moved north to Scotland and began a new enterprise at West Pans. The remaining Longton Hall stock was sold at auction in Sailsbury upon closure of the factory and comprised more than ninety thousand pieces.
c. 1760 – 1777
after the demise of the factory at Longton Hall William Littler established a new enterprise at West pans near musselburgh on the east coast of Scotland. Chemical analysis of the word reveals a similar mix to that used Longton Hall, bone Ash in smaller quantities than was used and a fairly high lead content. The result is glassy looking porcelain with a thick glaze and the worst are generally regarded as poor or uninspiring. The rich time of underglaze blue has a tendency to run into the glaze during the firing process, is widely referred as ‘Littler’s blue’. The smallest mountain surviving wares implies that production was never on a large scale. In 1777 Littler returned to Staffordshire and became associated with Ralph Baddeley at Shelton.
c. 1777 – 1790
Geoffrey Godden adopted the designation Baddeley-Littler for a group of porcelain which he dates c.1777-1790. He has also written that the name “does not reflect a known partnership and has invited others to contribute their theories as to the maker of this interesting group. So far no other theories have been presented.
Currently these wares are believed to have been produced in Staffordshire c. 1777-90. The beginning date reflects the concept of the involvement of William Littler after his return to Staffordshire in 1777 after a failed porcelain making venture at West Pans in Scotland. Littler was experienced in producing a frit-type soft paste porcelain at both West Pans and a previous, also failed porcelain factory at Longton Hall in Staffordshire. When this later group of porcelain was found to be of a similar frit porcelain body Godden attributed them to Littler working in Staffordshire following his return to the county after the Scottish venture. Littler was not in a position to operate his own manufactory, Godden has posited that Ralph Baddeley was manufacturing porcelain in Staffordshire and that it is reasonable to conclude that these wares were produced by him with the technical assistance of William Littler. William Littler died in October 1784, and it is possible that Baddeley continued making porcelain for a time after that date but is unlikely to have continued past 1790
The Worcester factory was founded in 1751 after Dr John Wall and his partners had successfully negotiated the acquisition of expert knowledge, equipment, materials, and probably the skilled potters and painters from Benjamin Lund’s factory at Bristol. The early Worcester porcelains were having success arguably a was the good finest soaprock, clear of all glaze which that porcelains gave was the not made in prone porcelain to body crazing. eighteenth-century greater The secret England, durability ingredient and being a neatly that much led potted to improved such and ability to withstand boiling liquids.
c. 1753 – 1763
Vauxhall China works John Sanders & Nicholas Crisp was located on the South Bank of the River Thames in London. Nicholas Crisp was a wealthy London jeweller with interests in shipping in with a shareholder of various companies including the East India company and the founder member of the society of arts. John Sanders was already hotter in Vauxhall successfully producing tin glazed earthenware it is likely the crisps involvement was predominantly that of financial backer. John Sanders died in 1758 and left the pottery to his son, William.
Much of the factories output was blue and white and mostly tea wares although they also produced a surprisingly large range of sauceboats. The body is steatitic, containing soapstone, but in 1760 the business lost its licence to mine this rock in Cornwall. Loss of the licence may have been instrumental in the downfall of the factory, and it’s fate was sealed when Nicholas Chris was declared bankrupt in 1763. Porcelain was a distinctive bright tone of blue with a wet look, as if it has not fully dried, and often features refreshingly spontaneous brushwork.
Each pattern appears to be painted in the same style of brush work with little variation between one example to the next. This suggests that each decorator was allocated only a few patterns at most to work on, and some may have been tasked with painting just one design.
All blue and white Vauxhall saucers with painted. No factory marks are recorded.
It is not surprising that a commercial centre as large and important as Liverpool should figure prominently in the ceramics industry . In the eighteenth century it was a major trading port and had excellent inland links with other industrial towns via a network of canals. There were several porcelain factories in the town, but the question of exactly who made what and where is still not
fully understood. In recent years it has been possible to carry out excavation work on some of the factory sites, and the recovery of broken shards or kiln ‘wasters’ dumped in waste pits on these sites has improved our understanding considerably.
Eighteenth-century porcelain factories in other parts of England are known by their location, but Liverpool wares have historically been referred to by the factory proprietor’s name. This can make the firm attribution of wares to a particular maker more difficult because some factories changed ownership with little or no break in production. Successive manufacturers were working from the same factory site, making it hard to identify pieces that fall close to a changeover period. One factory on Shaw’s Brow was first occupied by Richard Chaffers, followed by Philip Christian, and then by Seth Pennington and John Part. The factory at Brownlow Hill was first occupied by William Reid and then by James Pennington.
To further complicate matters some manufacturers switched factories mid-production, and there addition, several Pennington of the names already mentioned above were working together at some point, were three Pennington brothers who were all involved in the porcelain industry in Liverpool. In cither as partners or during an apprenticeship.
Liverpool - William Reid
c. 1756 – 1761
William reeds short-lived factory was located on the Eastern side of Liverpool on the road known as brownlow hill. The porcelain is phosphatic with a translucency the varies considerably. All blue and white wares are painted. Some pieces tally marks in the form of numbers, which are sometimes positioned on the inside of the foot room in similar fashion to Lowestoft wares.
In February in 1759 William Reed in his business partners entered into an agreement with John baddeley Shelton in Staffordshire. Baddeley agreed to let his potworks to Reid in order the a part of the business could be carried out at Shelton. The agreement was for 1-year and, significantly, included a painting room to be built at baddeleys expense. Some porcelain was almost certainly made at Shelton during this year, but it is likely to be indistinguishable from Reids output in Liverpool.
William Reed was declared bankrupt in July 1761. His promises were offered for sale at auction early in the following year and were substantially occupied by James Pennington and Co.
Liverpool - James Pennington
c. 1763 – 1772
James Pennington was in partnership with Richard Chaffers and Philip Christian at their factory on Shaw’s Brow until May 1763 when he acquired the premises on Brownlow Hill formerly occupied by William Reid. What happened at the factory between it being offered at auction in January 1762 Pennington during and James possession the summer of 1763 is a mystery, but after taking over to the premises he continued the production of phosphatic wares. In 1767 he moved the business alternative premises in Park Lane where he traded until 1777.
There are no factory marks.
Liverpool - Richard Chaffers
Richard Chaffers produced earthenware at his factory on Shaw’s Brow before acquiring the necessary expertise and workmen to manufacture porcelain. The expertise was provided by Robert Podmore rejoin the company from Worcester 1755 and brought with him the secret of making steatitic porcelain using soapstone.
Keyways represented a sizeable part of the factories output. The company also made the limited range of miniature wares. All blue and white designs are painted, and they often display a greenish hue when held to the light. The rhino factory marks, although some oriental designs bear imitation Chinese characters.
Chaffers had been working in partnership with Philip Christian, who continued the business under his own trading name following Chaffers death in December 1765. Production would have continued without any major changes, making it difficult to differentiate between late Chaffers and early Christian wares.
Liverpool - Philip Christian
After the death of his business partner, Richard Chaffers, in December 1765, Philip Christian continued the manufactory on Shaw’s Brow under his own trading name. Chaffers bequeathed half of his estate in equal shares to his many children, and half to his widow, Ann, who thus became Philip Christian’s business partner in the factory. Production would have continued without any major changes, making it difficult to differentiate between late Chaffers and early Christian wares.
In 1769 Christian bought the Chaffers family’s share of the business.
The porcelain is steatitic, containing soaprock from Cornwall, and can be mistaken for Worcester. There are no factory marks. When the firm ceased trading in 1778, manufacture continued on the site under the new ownership of Seth Pennington.
Liverpool - Samuel Gilbody
It is not known for certain when Samuel Gilbody began to manufacture porcelain at his premises on Shaw’s Brow. His father, also Samuel, was producing earthenware until his death in 1752, and young Samuel probably continued this trade before embarking on porcelain production in about 1757. immediately The change next door from would earthenware have to almost porcelain certainly manufacture influenced at Gilbody Richard S decision Chaffers’ to factory switch. located His first advertisement appeared in February 1758, but the venture was short-lived and Samuel Gilbody was declared bankrupt two years later in February 1760. Excavations on the factory site indicate on underglaze that kiln blue losses pieces. were high, and poor glaze control resulted in severe problems with blurring
There are no factory marks. The porcelain is phosphatic in nature, and all Gilbody wares are rare.
Blue and white examples are extremely rare.
Liverpool - John & Jane Pennington
John Pennington and his brothers, James and Seth, All had porcelain manufactories in Liverpool.
John Pennington’s first premises were at Copperas Hill where he produced phosphatic porcelain of varying quality. In 1779 he moved to larger premises in Folly Lane in the upper Islington area of the town where he traded until his death in 1786. The business was then continued by his wife, Jane, and son, John. Most of the output was teawares and most of it printed. There are no factory marks.
It can sometimes be extremely difficult, impossible even, to differentiate between the wares of John and his brother Seth.
Liverpool - Seth Pennington & John Part
c. 1778 – 1799
Seth Pennington and John Part leased the factory on Shaw’s Brow that was previously occupied by Philip Christian. Seth was the youngest of the three Pennington brothers and arguably the most
successful as he traded for more than twenty years. His partner, John Part, was not a potter. He was apprenticed as a bookkeeper.
Their wares were phosphatic, containing calcined bone Ash, and the quality varies considerably.
It can sometimes be extremely difficult impossible even to differentiate between the words of Seth and his brother John.
c. 1757 – 1799
This successful venture was located on the east coast of Suffolk and concentrated on the of useful table wares, much of which was blue and white. The porcelain body is phosphatic and very similar to Bow, Isleworth and some Derby wares.
Lowestoft porcelain was probably first marketed in 1759 or 1760 after some experimentation, but pieces from the early 1759 – 1762 period are extremely rare.
A large of oriental-inspired blue and white patterns were produced during the factorys forty year life, and there was also a regular output of miniature wares. Some of the printed patterns are very interesting and unique to Lowestoft, While others copied printed designs used at Worcester. Some of the printed patterns that very interesting and unique to Lowestoft, while others copied printed designs used at Worcester. Printed patterns that copied Worcester may bear a crescent-type mark in imitation of the Worcester factory mark.
Two useful aids to the identification of Lowestoft saucers are tally marks and stilt marks Workmen’s tally marks, usually numbers, are are found on some early pieces They are typically painted on the inside edge of the footrim rather than on the flat base, making many of them indiscernible. Stilt marks are found on some later pieces and appear as three equally-spaced minor blemishes on the rim.
If any, blue and white porcelain was produced in Derby during the 1750s. The company aimed for a higher market, concentrating on animal and figure models and overglazed enamelled wares, and even after 1760 the volume of blue and white wares was low. Tea and coffee wares were made in minimal quantities compared to other contemporary factories and are scarce.
The porcelain is phosphatic, although William Duesbury is known to have experimented with the use of soapstone, but probably only for a very brief period. Some miniature teawares were produced.
Joseph Shore’s porcelain factory at Isleworth was located on the west bank of the River Thames in above Middlesex dates and are made approximate phosphatic for the wares production using a of similar porcelain, mix to but Bow. the factory Lowestoft also and made some Derby- earthenware The
and continued to do so after 1 795. Joseph Shore died in 1769 and the business was continued by his son, William, and his son-in-law, Benjamin Quarman
Our knowledge of Isleworth porcelain improved considerably after excavations at Hounslow in 2002 unearthed a huge amount of porcelain waste that had been dumped in a large quarry pit from which the pottery had been digging clay for many years. Despite the longevity of the business, its
porcelain output was relatively small compared to other manufacturers and is seldom encountered
The Caughley factory was established by Thomas turner an Ambrose gallimore close to the River Severn near broseley in Shropshire. Turner probably learnt his craft at the Worcester factory and subsequently set about producing similar steatitic porcelain a high enough quality to rival the well-regarded wares made further down the River Severn.
The business concentrated on supplying useful table wares to a growing market and its output was considerable. Some oriental inspired printed designs must have been produced in vast numbers because there is still relatively common today the factory marks include a letter C with a noticeable serif which helps to distinguish it from the Worcester crescent mark, to distinguish it from the Worcester crescent Mark another mark is a letter S which stands for Salopain meaning related to set up an old abbreviation of Shropshire. These marks may be either printed or painted although printed mark’s do not appear with painted patterns. Sometimes the factory mark has a small painted letter ‘o’ or ‘x’ next to it, the purpose of which is uncertain. The factory also produced a large range of toy or miniatures pieces, predominantly in one pattern.
William Cookworthy was a Quaker and a chemist from Devon who spent many years Cookworthy was a Quaker, a chemist from devon who spent many years experimenting with the production of hard-paste porcelain after discovering both kaolin (a soft white clay known as china clay) and petuntse (a partly decomposed granite known as china stone) in neighbouring Cornwall. Using these two essential ingredients he became the first to master the difficult process of making true hard-paste, rather than soft-paste, porcelain in England.
He received a patent for it in March 1768 and began production that same year. In 1770 the business moved to larger premises in Bristol and operated in partnership with a local merchant Richard Champion, who bought the patent and continued to run the business after Cookworthy retired in 1773.
Plymouth porcelain is generally rather coarse and often has smoky deposits from the firing process. The factory mark is the alchemical sign for tin.
In 1770 William Cookworthy moved his porcelain concern from Plymouth to Bristol where he initially worked alongside Richard Champion. credited (kaolin) As an apothecary, Cookworthy understood the chemistry of porcelain manufacture. He is credited with being the first to produce true hard-paste porcelain in England by using china clay (kaolin) and china stone (petuntse) at his plymouth factory, and this production continued at Bristol.
By 1773 Richard Champion was in complete control of the factory and subsequently bought the rights to mine these vital Cornish materials, making him the only manufacturer in England to make true hard-paste porcelain. Despite successful experiments to improve the quality of his porcelains and the introduction of printed designs to reduce unit costs, he struggled to survive in such a competitive market and was declared bankrupt in 1778. To recover losses and clear debts he sold his mining rights and expertise to a group of potters in Staffordshire (see New Hall) and emigrated to America where he died in 1791. All blue and white wares are rare.
Benjamin Lund was a Bristol Quaker whose main business was as a brass-founder. On 7 March 1748/9 he was granted a license for “soaprock”, perhaps indicating the start of his porcelain operation. A letter of a Dr Richard Pococke from 1750 reports being shown near Lizard Point, Cornwall, a deposit “mostly valued for making porcelane … and they get five pounds a ton for the manufacture of porcelane now carrying on at Bristol”. The Cornish china stone was apparently first noticed by the Quaker pharmacist William Cookworthy (1705-1780) around 1745; he was to found Plymouth porcelain, which moved to become the next Bristol factory. Cookworthy had family in Bristol, and it seems likely that the two Quakers knew each other.
Lund had a partner, William Miller, a “grocer and banker”, a necessity as Lund was bankrupt at the time. A previous tenant of the premises was a Mr Lowdin, who died in 1745, and had nothing to do with the porcelain business, but this was not clear to early scholars, and older sources sometimes talk of a phantom “Lowdin’s Porcelain Manufactory”.
The factory only operated in Bristol until mid-1752, when Dr. Wall and his partners in Worcester porcelain bought the business and moved everything to Worcester. Pieces that are certainly made in Bristol in 1748? to 1752, rather than Worcester in the years after are extremely rare, but there are some with “Bristoll” in raised letters, including sauce-boats and copies of a figure of “Chinaman” that are moulded from a cast of a Chinese original. Sauce-boats and their saucers, with shapes adapted from silversmithing, are among the most common pieces. Decoration could be underglaze blue “usually badly blurred and frequently in poorly executed chinoiserie designs, and overglaze enamels. The bodies fall into two different types, and the glaze formula was also changed at some point, improving it considerably.
The group of Staffordshire potters that bought Richard Champion’s mining rights and manufacturing secrets formed a partnership to produce a modified hybrid hard-paste type of porcelain at Anthony Keeling’s pottery at Tunstall. This hybrid porcelain appears midway between true hard-paste and soft-paste.
By 1784 an amended partnership had established a new porcelain factory at New Hall in Shelton where the output of blue and white pieces was very small compared to polychrome wares. Most blue and white designs were printed.
Blue & White
Soft-paste porcelain needed to be glazed as the body would otherwise be porous. The decoration on every saucer in this book was either painted or printed (or sometimes a combination of both) after the piece was formed, dried and fired in a biscuit kiln, but before the item was glazed. Such decoration is known as ‘underglaze blue’, and the product used for the decorating process was the metallic oxide of cobalt. This substance was black when applied and turned blue only after firing. After the item was decorated it was placed in a ghost kiln to fuse the design to the body of the piece before it was glazed and fired again.
The very earliest English teawares were all painted by hand. The cobalt oxide was mixed with a flux such as oil and applied with brushes. As the cobalt was black when applied on the painter had to use his skill and experience to judge how the tones and shading would look on the finished article. However, painting every piece by hand was costly so early designs were usually simple interpretations of Chinese scenes in an attempt to keep prices competitive.
Transfer-printed decoration is the result of a technique whereby a copper plate is engraved with a design and then inked with the cobalt mixture. The s is then carefully cleaned off to leave the mixture in the engraved lines. Next special tissue paper wetted with soap is placed on the copper plate, Road through the press. Next special tissue paper is wetted with soap and placed on a copper play roll through the crest Fielder and transferred to the porcelain surface where the design was securely in place the paper could be removed before the ghost firing differentiating between painted and printed ware’s and sometimes be tricky and is most easily done where colours are shaded. brushwork tends to I have a freedom and fluidity that cannot be achieved with a print.
A copper plate could be used many times to boost our whole volume of items with an identical pattern of relatively low-cost typically a plate would need to be the engraved after passing through process about 500 times the re grieving process inevitably resulted in a loss of detail overtime and when the plate was eventually replaced there were usually minor changes in the design that can be identified upon close examination.
Process was probably the first ride at bow in 1756 but the following year it’s chief exponent Robert Hancock move to Worcester where it became widely used.