the manufacture of porcelain was almost invariably carried on at the expense of some royal or princely patron; in England, however, the manufacture was not subsidized in this way, and it is probably for this reason that at a very early date we find the English porcelain-makers experimenting with other materials than glass and clay in order to make their processes more certain. In a patent taken out in 1749 by Thomas Frye of the Bow works we find mention of the use of bone-ash—the material that was to make English porcelain a distinct species by itself. From 1750 onwards there can be little doubt that, though a large proportion of glass was still used in the composition of the English porcelains, bone-ash was more and more introduced into the paste in order to obtain a more refractory material; yet it was not until about 1800 that Josiah Spode of Stoke-upon-Trent abandoned entirely the use of glass and composed his porcelain of china clay, bone-ash and felspathic rock for the body, glazing it with a rich lead glaze, and so laid the foundation of distinctively English porcelain. The material has many merits both from the useful and artistic points of view; it is much more easily fabricated than the old glassy porcelains, it endures better for ordinary table use than any other kind of porcelain, and it permits the fullest range of decoration.
Before entering upon a detailed notice of the important English factories of the 18th century, something should be said of the various influences that were at work in determining what the porcelain-maker should do, both in the way of shape and decoration. The eyes of all men were, of course, turned first to the porcelain brought from the far East; and in the early efforts of the English factories, as of those of France and Germany, we notice a predominance of white pieces or of pieces decorated with paintings in under-glaze blue alone, obviously inspired by the current importations from China. Bow and Chelsea produced large quantities of ware of this class, and in the early days of the Worcester factory little else was made there than white, or blue and white pieces closely simulating the Chinese. Another oriental influence was to be found in the Imari patterns of Japan, particularly those in the style of Kakiemon. It has been noted that Meissen, Chantilly and other continental factories had already created a vogue for these reproductions of Japanese decorations, and in our own country Bow, Chelsea and Worcester followed suit. The later Imari patterns, heavily decorated with blue and red and gold for the use of “the foreigner,” furnished another popular style for Worcester and Derby, and the vogue of these English “Japan” patterns, in the last quarter of the 18th century and the first half of the 19th century, was so great that they represent a large proportion of the output of our English porcelain works during that period. The productions of the German and French factories also exerted a profound influence on English potters; so that throughout the 18th century English porcelains largely consisted of imitations of the foreign wares brought into the country by the wealthy.
We can only point to one method of porcelain decoration which undoubtedly arose in England. This is the method of transfer-printing, whereby patterns printed on paper from engraved copper plates are transferred to porcelain or pottery and subsequently fired, either under or on the glaze. At the best these printed patterns are in no way superior to the stencilled work of modern oriental porcelain, while, at the worst, European and American printed patterns have been perhaps the most inappropriate decoration ever applied to porcelain in the world. It has been generally urged on behalf of transfer-printing that it enables elaborate effects to be produced at a small cost and so brings decorated pottery within the reach of the humblest. The truer view is, that the simplest brushwork patterns, or even no pattern at all, would be preferable to the tawdry results that the cheapest forms of transfer-printing have rendered possible.
Chelsea.—Between 1750 and 1770 the Chelsea factory was the most important of all the English porcelain works, and fine specimens of this period command high prices in the saleroom to-day. We know little of the origin of this important factory, though it is believed to have been in existence from some time after 1740 to 1784, when it was finally demolished and some of the workmen and part of the plant were removed to the then important works at Derby. The first manager was one Charles Gouyn, who was followed by a Mr Sprimont before 1750. Sprimont retained possession of the works until 1769, and died in 1771. It was during his management, from 1750 to 1770, that the finest and most characteristic pieces of Chelsea porcelain were made.
Although the styles in vogue at Chelsea are extremely varied, little was produced there that was really English in character. The earliest pieces appear to have been either in pure white or in white decorated with paintings in under-glaze blue. The goat-and-bee cream jugs, crawfish salt cellars, the shell and rockwork salt cellars, jugs, sauce boats, small cups and saucers of this type are fairly plentiful. Then came the decorations, mainly in red and gold, of the Kakiemon style, followed by reproductions of the brocade patterns of Imari porcelain. Afterwards we find the appearance of table wares modelled in imitation of leaves, animals, fruits, birds and fishes, apparently adopted from current French and German practice.
In another direction the influence of Meissen was also shown by the production of statuettes (see in Chelsea figure, Plate X.), and of the small modelled trinkets, scent-bottles and toys of which there is such a fine collection in the British Museum. In the latter days of the factory (say after 1758) we find Chelsea following in the wake of Sèvres in the production of large and elaborate rococo vases, with pierced necks and covers, scroll-work bases and interlacing handles such as are to be seen in the Jones Bequest in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Pieces of this elaborate kind are overlaid with rich grounds of Mazarine blue, turquoise, pea-green, or the famous Chelsea claret-colour, while white panels are reserved framed with gilt scrolls and painted in enamel colours with flowers, birds or figure-subjects in absolute rivalry with the pieces manufactured at Sèvres.
|Chelsea Potters’ marks.|
The Chelsea works appears to have come to an end through the ill-health of Sprimont, and it was sold in 1769–1770 to Duesbury, the proprietor of the Derby works. He carried on the establishment from 1770 to 1784, but in this period a great change is noticeable in the product of the factory. The “rococo” forms and decorations of the true Chelsea porcelain were replaced by works in the neo-classical style already rendered popular by the success of Josiah Wedgwood, and the Derby-Chelsea porcelain is quite a distinct production from the early works of Chelsea. The most distinctive mark of the Chelsea porcelain is an anchor—either embossed in the paste or painted in gold or colour. Often the anchors occur in pairs, and it is frequently associated with other marks such as a dagger or a cross. Some of the Derby-Chelsea pieces are marked with a conjoined D and an anchor.
Bow.—The date of the establishment of the factory at Stratford-le-Bow, in what is now the East End of London, is quite uncertain, but in 1744 Edward Heylyn and Thomas Frye, who were connected with this factory, took out a patent for the manufacture of porcelain. The materials mentioned in this patent are not such as would produce porcelain at all, and it appears likely that the specification was made purposely defective. In 1748 a further patent was applied for in which we get the first mention of bone-ash, so that from the technical point of view the wares made at the Bow factory are of the utmost importance as indicating the experimental beginnings of our English porcelain in which bone-ash plays such an important part. In 1750 the works at Bow belonged to Messrs Weatherby & Crowther, and was then known as “New Canton,” and as 300 workpeople were employed, the operations must have been conducted on a large scale; but ultimately, from causes that can only be surmised, the partnership was dissolved and the business failed, so that in 1775 the works was bought for a very small sum by the William Duesbury already mentioned, who transferred part of the plant and moulds to his more prosperous works at Derby. It would appear from what we know of the factory and its