FICTILE & CERAMIC ARTS
BANKS OF THE SEVERN:
WITH NOTICES OF THE
Early Use of SHROPSHIRE CLAYS, the History of
POTTERY, PORCELAIN, &c., in the District.
JOHN RANDALL, F.G.S.,
‘The Severn Valley,’ ‘Old Sports and Sportsmen,’ ‘Life
of Captain Webb,’ ‘John Wilkinson,’ &c.
Printed and Published at the Salopian and West-Midland
Alexander H. Brown, Esq., M.P.
The following treatise on the “Clay Industries” of the Borough you represent may scarcely appear at first sight of that importance to warrant the usual form of a dedication, and I confess I cannot but wish, for present purposes, that its merits were more commensurate with the object. As a large number of your constituents however are engaged in these various branches of trade—in one of which you too have more than a general interest, and as I have been at some trouble to collect facts bearing upon their general history, the work itself may not be without some value.
The motive which dictates the dedication will not, I think, be misconstrued, p. ivinasmuch as the prominent part I took more than nine years ago in introducing you to the constituency, as one likely to become a representative of the “Commercial Element” of the Borough, and the highly satisfactory way in which those predictions have been verified and fulfilled, as well as the very general regard and esteem all feel who have observed your public and private character, justify me in feeling a special pride in the result, and hereby making this public acknowledgement of services so faithfully and honourably rendered.
I have the honour to remain,
Madeley, Jan. 1st, 1877.
The Borough of Wenlock comprises places not only rich in historic interest but important also as centres of manufacturing industry; and none more so than those grouped within a mile or two of the Iron-bridge, itself a work of world-wide fame. “Broseley Pipes” and “Broseley Bricks,”—the latter including all similar productions emanating from Coalbrookdale, the Woodlands, Lady-Wood, Coleford, &c.—possess acknowledged merits which create for them a constant demand, whilst in higher branches of the art, where similar natural and other clays are used, Messrs. Maw, Craven, Dunnill, and Co., and Bathurst, find a still more extensive market for their goods.
From time immemorial the merits of these clays seem to have been known and recognised; if not from Early British, at any rate from the period when the armies of imperial Rome penetrated the Valley of the Severn, through intermediate ages, these beds of clay which give employment to thousands seem to have been used for some purpose or other, either for articles of ornament or of use. At Caersws, near Llandinam, on the left bank of the Severn, we have seen Roman bricks apparently with the initials of the workmen’s p. vinames upon them; whilst of pottery, cart loads have been found there and at Wroxeter, including a number of jars, bottles, urns, lamps, vases, &c., with hunting and other subjects. Some of the mortars, colanders, dishes, and similar kitchen utensils, are of coarse white clay, similar to that now used at Broseley. It is therefore evident from modern excavations that fifteen hundred years ago the value of these clays was known to the brick-makers and potters introduced by that enterprising people. Specimens of Norman and of later periods are rare, but certain evidences concur to make it clear that not only fifteen hundred years ago was the worth of these clays established, but that from that period to the present they have been used in one way or another.
The subject is therefore one of historical as well as of industrial interest, although those at present engaged in the various branches of manufacture may be too absorbed in turning the material to account to pause to note the stages the trades in which they are engaged have gone through.
It was the value of these clays which led to the establishment of works for the manufacture of porcelain at Caughley, Jackfield, Coalport, and Madeley, historical notices of which works will be found in the following pages, which are for the most part a reprint of articles that have appeared in the “Salopian and West-Midland Magazine.”
p. 7NATIVE CLAYS:
OR THOSE USED FOR
BRICKS & TILES, TESSELATED TILES,
Clay, as commonly understood, means earth of sufficient ductility to allow of its being kneaded by the hand into useful shapes or forms, and ranks as a raw material, or one not worked up or prepared for use. Some clays are soft, others are indurated, or hard and rocky: but all have, nevertheless, been in one sense prepared by poundings, washings, and mixings, carried on by Nature on a much larger scale than that on which they are now fitted for use. They differ in quality, in degree of firmness, and in colour, and show certain relationships by which it is clear that they are derived from sand, just as sand is derived from a hardy race of pebbles, which in turn bear a close relationship to rocks, from which undoubtedly they are also derived. Surface clays, used for making inferior bricks and tiles, whose earthy p. 8odour gives evidence of alumina, are often derived from red sandstone rocks, which have been ground down by machinery of waves or streams; whilst the deeper coal-measure clunches, used for firebricks and pottery, were originally the sediment thrown by rivers at their embouchures into inland lakes or seas. Common red clays, deriving their colour from iron, have many impurities, and contain a large percentage of alumina. Fire-clays are nearly free from iron, and contain a large amount of silica, whilst china-clay, or kaolin, contains felspar, sometimes with the impurities of soda and potash.
Let us first take brick and tile Clays. Of the three substances expressed by the three words of four letters—clay, coal, and gold, we question whether the first does not rank highest in importance. The latter may be the most coveted, but the former, we imagine, contributes most to the conveniences and comforts of mankind. It is in one form or another universally attainable. There is a great difference in its qualities; and when it is remembered that a porous brick made from bad clay will hold nearly a quart of water, the advantage of good clays producing good bricks which will protect health and property from the injurious effects of a fickle climate, becomes apparent. In addition to ordinary clays used for the manufacture of building materials, we have throughout the whole coalfields of Shropshire and p. 9Staffordshire superior fire-clays, which occur in a tough indurated state, and are known by the familiar name of clunches. They possess but a small portion of iron, which gives a red colour to ordinary clays, at the same time that they are distinguished by an almost entire absence of lime and alkalies; yet contain, on the other hand, that proportion of silica and alumina which although they cannot be melted by the strongest heat, form ingredients which during the process of burning combine to form an artificial stone capable of sustaining great heat. The following is an analysis of one of these fire-clays:—
Protoxide of Iron
Chloride of sodium
These shales or clunches, now indurated, were originally the soft soils from which the roots of plants of the coal-measure period drew their nourishment; and they still retain the impression of such roots in great abundance, as any one may satisfy himself who takes a piece in his hand to p. 10examine it. The vegetable matter derived from roots, and from the plants themselves, give them a dark colour; but this burns away in the firing, and the bricks come out of the kiln nearly a pure white. It is almost invariably found that where the vegetation of a seam of coal grew on the spot, and was not transported, as was the case in some instances, that one of these underclays is to be found still retaining very beautiful casts of the roots of plants, and not unfrequently the seeds as well as the plants themselves that grew above them. As fire-clays, they are little if at all inferior to the famous Stourbridge clays, and they supply an invaluable material for crucibles, for bricks for the interior of our blast and puddling furnaces, for the kilns of our potteries, and for various other purposes where intense heat is required.
With regard to clays in general, and the art of working in them, it may be remarked that archæologists have told us little. They have divided the past history of the race into the stone, bronze, and iron periods, but have told us nothing of the age of clay, or of an art which we venture to say was one of the oldest invented by man. Clay and clay-workers are found everywhere; and the material is one of the most abundant provided by Nature. The first man would find it soft, yielding, and ready to his hands, with the impressions of birds and beasts, suggestive of the use to which p. 11it might be put, and the act of moulding it into form would be as natural as that of plucking fruit from a tree, or that of taking up a stone to strike a harder blow than the hand could give. Hardening it in the sun or baking it in a wood fire would be equally simple; whilst the act of fashioning a shapeless mass into an enduring form would yield so much pleasure that it would be repeated. That the art is pre-historic, and began before the race commenced a record of its doings, is evident from specimens which accompany the remains of men of whose tribe and nation we know nothing. Living beings stronger than man had been masters of the globe before he came, and ignobly perished, leaving but the impressions of their bones to tell of their existence; but man brought with him a new element by which to subjugate and subdue the materials he saw around him to his use, and left behind him more enduring monuments.
Other enduring materials pressed into the service of architects of ancient and modern times were once as incoherent a mass of atoms, and as unshapable as these clays, and were either earths, clays, or sands, which Nature by the processes of kneading, pressing, and baking, in her great laboratory, converted into stone. We find them to some extent ready shaped to hand in the quarry, and we cut them into cubes or blocks, and pile them up in buildings, according to the p. 12humour or taste of the time. Bricks are artificial stones, and in making them we follow the example Nature set us only that we cut the plastic material first of all to the size we desire it, then convert it into stone by heat; and this artificial stone, we venture to say, for durability and beauty, is equal even to Nature’s own production, and quite as suggestive to the mind. Nature’s finished material may be deemed more suitable for churches; but artificial stone, fashioned into shape by man, is quite as appropriate for a dwelling in which the highest social sanctities gather. Indeed the art of using artificial stone appears to have been roused from the torpor into which it had fallen since Roman and Flemish authorities set such good examples. People had been so long accustomed to see brickwork used only for inferior houses, and stone for buildings of greater pretensions that, till recently, English bricks have scarcely had justice done them.
The antiquity of brickmaking is so well-known that it is scarcely necessary to allude to it. It will suffice to remind the reader of the tower of Babel, built about 400 years after the period assigned to the flood. That bricks were made in Egypt at an early period of her history is well known; and that this same people had faith in their durability is clear from the fact that they impressed them with hieroglyphics, or historical records, transmitting to us the names of their p. 13kings. Mr. Smith of the British Museum, has brought home clay cylinders which the Assyrians used for writing upon. Again, the way in which Jewish writers speak of pots and potters, comparing humanity to lumps of clay fashioned into vessels of honour and dishonour, and the silly and wicked portion of humanity to potsherds, good for nothing but to be cast upon the highway, shows that they drew much of their philosophy from the art. With them, as with other nations of antiquity, the art of working in clay ranked high. Potters of the tribe of Judah “dwelt with the king.” And one very noticeable feature is the fact that the same simple means are still employed to effect the same object; for illustrations in the catacombs of Thebes show that forty centuries ago clay was kneaded with the feet, turned upon a wheel, and baked in a circular oven, as at present. The praise of those who out of rude clay fashioned things of use and beauty, and impressed upon plastic materials the living thoughts that stirred men’s minds was loudly sung, whilst the more successful cultivators of the art were honoured with medals and statues, and their names transmitted by poets and historians to posterity. The Greeks and Romans gave a dignity to the art by raising it to a level with that of sculpture. A Corinthian potter, Pliny tells us, was in his day regarded as the first who contrived making likenesses in clay by pressing the material up to the p. 14outlines his daughter had drawn of her lover’s shadow on the wall and placing it with other pottery to be hardened in the fire. Other authors ascribe to the art a higher antiquity and speak of it as the parent of sculpture. The estimation in which it was held is shown by the fact that exhibitions of the best works in clay were frequently held in Athens; and amongst the ruins of that city statues of clay have been found, some in groups, representing Grecian Mythology; and some of large size retaining portions of the paint with which they were coloured on the eyes and eyebrows. In the Townley Gallery of the British Museum, No. 38 is a statue of a Muse, three feet eleven inches high; and also a terra-cotta statue of a Muse resting her left arm upon a pile of writing tablets, which are placed upon a square column, but the head is gone. The former represents Orania, the latter Calliop, whose office it was to note down the worthy actions of the living, as it was that of Clio’s to celebrate those of departed heroes.
Celts, Etruscans, and Chinese made early and great advances in the art of using clay: the latter had even an imperial porcelain work at King-te-Ching, a hundred and eighty-four years Before Christ, and thirty years B.C. they introduced the same art into Japan.
With regard to bricks and tiles we know that among Roman and mediæval builders bricks made p. 15of clay were held in high estimation. The former enterprising people having penetrated into our valleys and excavated our hill sides in search of lead and iron were not likely to neglect the clays with which the ore for the latter was associated; and evidences of the extent to which they worked them on the banks of rivers, where such seams were exposed, particularly on the banks of those flowing through the great centres of their occupation, confirms this view. Their armies were accompanied by men learned in the art; and in the relics dug up at Malmesbury, Salisbury, Romsey, Malvern, and Uriconium, modern workers in clay may learn much of the early history of their craft. The still upstanding walls at Wroxeter, with string courses of tiles, and the numerous specimens of bricks, tesseræ, and pottery in different coloured clays, brought to light by excavations within its shadow, are interesting from the fact that some are supposed to have been manufactured from clays still in use in the neighbourhood.
At Caersws, a little village on the banks of the Severn, between Llandinam and Newtown, well made bricks, both of composite and simple clay, may be seen stamped with Roman letters, probably the initials of workmen’s names; and, as a test of the durability of both, it may be remarked that after having done duty in buildings in which the Roman masons placed them, they have been rebuilt by British workmen into the chimneys of p. 16the village. These, of course were burnt; but, favoured by the extreme dryness and heat of their own climate, the Romans, like the Egyptians, used clay mixed with chopped straw, to assist the tenacity of their bricks, which, without being at all artificially heated, have lasted thousands of years. The material of which Roman bricks in this country were formed was usually a strong clay, such as brickmakers call tile-clay; well tempered, well pressed, and well burnt, producing a heavy tough brick, indefinitely durable, and of a good deep-red colour.
Roofing tiles have been made in a similar way to bricks, one would imagine, looking at the specimens found at Wroxeter and other places from the time of Roman occupation down to the present. They are found in double layers, forming slightly projecting string-courses in the buildings, but larger and thicker than ours; some of those dug up at Wroxeter being 17 inches by 12, and 4 inches thick, whilst some are 21 inches square. One of these larger ones has the impression of the foot of an ox, evidently received whilst in the process of drying. Very many interesting specimens of bricks, tiles, and pottery are found here, and the art of working up the clays of the district has no doubt been practised from that time to the present.
Formerly clays were allowed to lie during the winter to weather as it is called; and a statute p. 17now obsolete required, under a penalty, that bricks should not be made unless the clay for making them had been turned over at intervals, three times at least before the 1st of March. But brickmakers now, not having patience to wait for the action of the weather, have invented machinery to do the work, and the clay is taken direct from the pit to be crushed by iron rollers, and conveyed by coarse canvas screens to the pug-mill. This is an upright cylinder, with a revolving vertical shaft, fitted up with horizontal knives following each other at an angle so as to cut, amalgamate, temper the material, and fit it for use. The process of forming the brick itself requires more tact than the reader would imagine, as the yielding clay has to be thrown into the mould so that every part shall be filled up with a body of equal consistency. To cause the clay to leave the mould, the latter is each time dipped into water, in which case the process is called slop-moulding, or is sprinkled over with sand or coke-dust; and when so made the brick is placed lengthways with others on smooth flats, half an inch or an inch apart and allowed to dry. The best kind of bricks are subjected to considerable pressure in the mould by means of a machine, and a hollow is left inside for the mortar, to enable them to fit close in the joint. Ornamental bricks of elaborate design for architectural purposes require more delicate manipulation, and the clays for these undergo more careful preparation. Machines also are used p. 18which take the clay from the crushing-rollers, temper and thoroughly amalgamate it, and convert it into the finished article.
The old methods of preparing clay for bricks and tiles, still practised by some firms, is probably the best where a good tough article is required: that is treading and hand-tempering by the workman, who kneads it with his naked feet, and “slaps” or “wedges” it by breaking off pieces and beating one against another. Machinery, however, is extensive used, and horizontal rollers are set so as to secure different degrees of fineness, in conduction with the pug-mill.
Lime is a great enemy to good bricks, as small portions escape both rollers and pug-mill, and being converted into quicklime by burning, it slacks and bursts bricks subject to rains and frosts. Compare the sound, and hard durable bricks made here with those made near London, into which Cockneys knock their nails without troubling themselves to look for a joint, and say whether, with less freights, they might not be made to supersede the rubbish passing under the name of London bricks, which are soft, damp, and perishable, and some of which, like others of inferior quality, will hold from a pint to a quart of water. Stone, as shewn by the new Houses of Parliament, will not withstand the action of the corroding acid to be found in a London atmosphere; but good hard Shropshire bricks will, and for public p. 19buildings, to say nothing of ordinary domestic structures, they are invaluable.
The Staffordshire blue bricks which of late years have come into such general use, particularly in buildings connected with railways, are made from a clay containing a large proportion of peroxide of iron, a clay which produces a red, a buff, or a blue brick according to the process of firing and the degree of heat it undergoes in the kiln; but it will in no case stand a terra-cotta heat, in consequence of the iron acting as a flux. But the great centres of the art of brick making are on the banks of the Severn. Clay and clay workers are to be found at Lilleshall, Lightmoor, Horsehay, and the Woodlands, where, as at Broseley, clays are found on the surface. Here, on the valley side the surface is honeycombed by burrowings after clay and coal. One of the most important beds of clay for making ordinary bricks and tiles is one 17 feet in thickness, worked in many places by shallow shafts, and levels driven into the hill sides, which when abandoned cause the surface to collapse, and the ground to crack, as if by an earthquake. A very pretty church, built a century since on the brow of the hill overlooking some of the brickfields, is now a complete wreck, in consequence of these burrowings after clay. The chancel is falling away from the body of the building, the walls are torn from the roof to the foundation, and the windows have fallen from p. 20their places, leaving the oak pews and handsome marble monuments a prey to the elements. Clays and coals are being pared away from around it as a mouse would pare a cheese. Of course the bishop cautions and threatens, but as long as his lordship declines to go into the mines these sappers and miners are safe; and to them must succumb not only the church, but the graveyard—
“Where the rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.”
In conversation with the President of the Academy of Science at St. Petersburgh, who some years ago visited this district, and with other gentlemen distinguished in science and art, we have heard the highest admiration expressed of these clays of the Severn Valley. Indeed, the very handsome public structures—now that prejudice is giving way, and that improved and more artistic treatment of the material predominates—which we see in towns erected upon true architectural principles, and by professors of classical and constructive styles of decoration, are sufficient indications of the capability of the material in all its varieties for producing works of a very high order of merit, with a light and aerial effect not found in the old red brick, nor even in many of the stone erections, of former times.
Besides bricks and tiles, these clays have been turned to account from very early periods in other ways, as for pottery, for instance, of different kinds.
p. 21We have no reliable authority for fixing the date at which the art of potting was first practised in Shropshire, but it appears clear that the articles were of the simplest kind, being almost uniformly domestic: those in daily use, such as milk-pans, dishes, tea-pots, jugs, and mugs. The latter were substitutes for the drinking horns, which later improvements in the plastic and ceramic arts have driven out of use. We have an ancient specimen of one made at the Pitchyard, and a drawing of another made at Haybrook, well potted, and elegant in shape. The latter is the best manipulated, and probably it was from this circumstance that the latter work was called “The Mug-House.”
In evidence adduced sometime since in an Election Scrutiny at Bewdley, a public-house referred to was called the “Mughouse,” which house is situated on the Severn, at a point where the bargemen, who formerly drew the vessels up the river instead of horses, were in the habit of stopping to get mugs of ale. “Tots” were made out of the same kind of clay, but smaller, and were used when the men drank in company; hence a person who had drank too much was supposed to have been with a convivial party, and was said to have been “totty,” a word often found in old works. Tots had no handles, and some of the old drinking cups, more particularly those of glass of Anglo Saxon make, were rounded at the bottom that they should not stand upright, and that a man may empty them at a draught,—the custom continuing p. 22till later times gave rise to our modern name of tumbler. The small tots had no handles; the mug had a “stouk,” as it is called, consisting of a single piece of clay, flattened and bent over into a loop. The ware was similar to the famous “Rockingham ware” made on the estate of Earl Fitzwilliam, near Wentworth.
The discovery of a salt glaze took place in 1690, and the manufacture of that kind of ware must have commenced here soon after, as traces of works of the kind are abundant. This method consisted in throwing salt into the kiln when the ware had attained a great heat, holes being left in the clay boxes that contained it in order that the fumes may enter and vitrify the surface. Evidences of the manufacture of these old mugs and tots, together with milk-pans and washing-pans, having been made at an early period, are numerous; and the old seggars in which they were burnt often form walls of the oldest cottages in Benthall and Broseley Wood.
A considerable number of old jars, mugs, and other articles, have from time to time been found in places and under circumstances sufficient to indicate great antiquity; as in mounds overgrown with trees, and in old pits which for time immemorial have not been worked. One large earthen jar, with “George Weld,” in light clay, was found in an old drain at Willey, and is now in the possession of Lord Forester. Mr. John p. 23Thursfield, who lived at Benthall hall, was at one time proprietor of these works.
Three quarters of a century ago these works were carried on by Messrs. Bell & Lloyd; afterwards by Mr. John Lloyd, one of the best and most truly pious men we ever knew, who some time before his death transferred them to a nephew, Mr. E. Bathurst. His son succeeded him, and after a time sold them to the present proprietor, Mr. Allen, who to the ordinary red and yellow ware, which finds a ready sale in North and South Wales, has added articles of use and ornament in other ways, including forcing pots, garden vases, and various terra cotta articles.
Of the Pitchyard works we know little, only that they stood where the late Mr. E. Southorn carried on his Pipe Works, and where we remember them in ruins more than fifty years ago; but the numerous seggars, now found in cottage garden walls, shew that they must have been continued for some considerable time.
But, besides the manufacture of bricks, tiles, and pottery, these clays have been raised to a trade within the past few years in this district which is every day increasing, and which is capable of much further expansion: we refer now to the important department of encaustic or inlaid tiles and mosaics. The art of producing tiles of this description is only recently revived in this country, and is one which in point of antiquity is not to be compared with its sister branches. The first attempt, p. 24so far as we are aware, to revive the art in Shropshire, was at Jackfield; but the first designs were crude, quaint, and spiritless, and altogether wanting in those nicer distinctions and qualities which, not being perceived by the mind of the producer, could not be wrought by the hand. In this as in many other branches of fictile art insight into the principles as well as eyesight is required, and the mistake—as in many other instances—was committed of attempting something which, with the expenditure of thought and time, might catch the uneducated eye—the object being to produce quantity rather than quality. But the call made upon the art by the enlightened demands of the age soon gave a wonderful impetus to the improvement, and men of educated artistic taste—like the Mintons and the Maws—soon called to their aid the assistance of the greatest genius and the highest designing talent at command; at the same time that they directed their efforts to definite points in which utility might be made the instrument of beauty, and by which originality and intelligible design might be made to rise out of the most common-place wants. But although the modern manufacture of geometric and encaustic tiles is recent, it already far surpasses the ancients in variety and arrangement, in geometric patterns, and in beauty of design in encaustics as well as in mechanical finish; although it may be doubted whether the same breadth of general effect is studied as in many p. 25ancient examples. Mintons, of Stoke, Maw and Co., of Benthall, Hargraves and Craven, of Jackfield, and Mr. Bathurst, of Broseley, have each produced beautiful encaustic tiles for pavements—both for ecclesiastical and domestic use; and there is yet a large field for development of the use of similar tiles to colour and enrich the details of our street architecture, as well as in that of more elaborate and important structures.
The Coalbrookdale Co., have recently manufactured some admirable terra-cotta entablatures, with historical subjects for costly buildings in the metropolis. The erection of the Literary and Scientific Institution also, of different coloured clays shews their adaptation to works of great architectural beauty.
Maw and Co’s Tesselated, Mosaic, and Majolica Works.
It was the excellency of the Broseley and Benthall clays, above referred to, which attracted the Messrs. Maw to the spot and led them to remove from Worcester, to where they had been in the habit, first of all, of having them conveyed by barges on the river, to the present site of their works, fashioned out of the old Benthall Iron Works, carried on a century ago by Mr. Harries, then owner of the Benthall estate. Notwithstanding the additions made by them, the trade has so wonderfully developed itself that after building p. 26upon or in some way occupying every inch of ground, they are cramped for room, and have purchased a piece of ground at the Tuckies on which they are about to erect more commodious premises.
In addition to those classical and other adjuncts of architectural comfort and embellishment, embracing encaustic tiles—the reproduction of an art limited in mediæval times to church decoration, but now having a much more extended application, and the manufacture of tesseræ, used in the construction of geometrical mosaic pavements, similar in character to those found in the mediæval buildings of Italy, also moresque mosaics, like those occurring in Roman remains in this country and on the continent, they now manufacture a superior majolica, and faience of great purity, in both of which departments they have recently received p. 27first class medals at the Philadelphia exhibition. The accompanying engraving will convey an idea of the adaptation of faience to articles of domestic utility.
The adaptation of faience to a fireplace
Jackfield Pottery and Porcelain.
Older even than the Haybrook Mug House are the Pot Works of Jackfield, which, according to the parish register of Stoke-upon-Trent, quoted by Mr. Jewitt and Mr. Chaffers, supplied a race of potters to that great centre of early pot-making in the year 1560. Excavations made too, some years ago, brought to light on a spot near which the present works of Craven, Dunnill & Co., now stand, an oven, or kiln, with unbaked ware, which appeared to have been buried by a land-slip; and in an old pit, which it was said had not been opened for two centuries, a brown mug was discovered, which had upon it the date 1634. If Jackfield supplied early potters for Stoke, Stoke sent pot masters to Jackfield. One of these was Mr. Richard Thursfield, an ancestor of Greville T. Thursfield M.D., who took these works and carried them on in 1713. He was succeeded by his son John, of whom we have spoken as afterwards living at Benthall and carrying on works there. The late Richard Thursfield, Esq., had in his possession some good examples of Jackfield ware. Among them was a handsome jug, gilt, having on it, we believe, the name of one of the family.
p. 29In 1772, or soon after, Mr. Simpson carried on the works; and he appears to have further improved the manufacture, for in addition to the “black decanters,” as his mugs were called, he made various articles of superior quality, which prior to the breaking out of the war with America found a ready sale there. The old mill turned by the waters of the Severn, where he ground his materials, has just been taken down.
Mr. Blakeway afterwards carried on the works, and was joined by Mr. John Rose, upon leaving Caughley, and, after carrying them on a short time by himself, he removed them, as he did the Caughley Works, to Coalport, on the opposite bank of the river.
The site of the old pottery was on the ground which is now occupied by the Jackfield Encaustic Tile Works, the clays of which are specially adapted for geometrical and encaustic tiles; and such tiles have been made here for a number of years; but since the old works, came into the possession of the present firm of Messrs. Craven, Dunnill and Co., great changes have taken place. The firm took a lease of about four acres of ground, and adjoining the old works built a large and commodious manufactory, which has been in operation for nearly two years. They have since taken down all the buildings of the old works, and have erected on their site and joining up to the new works, large warehouses, show room, offices, and entrance lodge. The plan of the works is very p. 30complete, so as in every way to economise in the process of manufacture, and they are now among the most complete works of the kind.
As shewn in the accompanying engraving, the buildings consist of four blocks, one detached and the others connected, each block accommodating a separate branch of the manufacture.
Craven Dunnill & Co.’s new works
In the detached block the raw materials are reduced to a state ready for the workman.
The second block contains the damping places, where the clays are kept in a certain degree of moisture; pressers’ shops for the various colours of geometrical tiles, and the encaustic tile makers’ shops, with their stoves.
The next block provides for the drying and firing of the goods and decorating shops.
On the first floor are workshops employed for painting, printing and enamelling, or other decorative purposes.
The fourth block provides for the sorting and stocking of goods and for packing them for despatch; also the offices and showroom.
Near to the detached block first described a small gas-works has been erected, which supplies the whole of the buildings.
Like the works previously mentioned, those of Caughley were upon the outcrop of the coals and clays of the Shropshire coal-field. They were established about the middle of the 17th century, p. 31on the estate of Mr. Brown, who lived at Caughley Hall, and was an ancestor of T. Wylde Brown, Esq., of the Woodlands, near Bridgnorth. An opaque stone china appears to have been made there in the first instance.
The works appear to have been carried on by Mr. Brown, in the first place, and then by Mr. Gallimore, a relative of Mr. Brown’s; and afterwards by M. Turner, who succeeded in producing an article of very superior merit, and one which will always hold a distinguished place in the history of the ceramic art. Mr. Turner was the son of the Rev. Richard Turner, D.D., rector of Cumberton, vicar of Emley Castle and Norton, and Chaplain to the Countess of Wigtown. Thomas his son, was born 1749, and married in 1783, Miss Dorothy Gallimore, a niece of Mr. Brown, of Caughley Hall. Mr. Turner was a gentleman of great taste, a good draughtsman, and an excellent engraver, having learned the latter art at Worcester, probably under Robert Hancock, some very fine examples of whose work are in the possession of Mr. Arthur Maw, of Severn House, who also has many very fine productions of Caughley at the best period of its existence. In 1780 Mr. Turner visited France, and brought back with him several skilled workmen, and an architect, whom he employed in the erection of a very handsome chateau, in the French style of architecture. The works were several years in progress, and were completed in 1775, as shewn by a newspaper paragraph of November 1st p. 32in that year, which, is as follows:—
“The porcelain manufactory erected near Bridgnorth, in this county, is now quite completed, and the proprietors have received and supplied orders to a very large amount. Lately we saw some of their productions which in colour and fineness are truly elegant and beautiful, and have the bright and lively white of the so much extolled Oriental.”
Printing on porcelain appears first to have been introduced by Dr. Wall at the Worcester works, a process soon after taken to Caughley by a person named Holdship, a former partner in the Worcester works, where it was practised as a great secret, with closed doors.
Mr. Chaffers says:—
“The excellence of Turner’s porcelain and the invention of the beautiful dark blue of the Caughley china, attributed to him, gained him great patronage. In 1780 he produced the celebrated “willow pattern,” which even at the present day is in great demand, and the “blue dragon,” another favourite pattern, and completed the first blue printed table service made in England for Thomas Whitmore, Esq., of Apley Park, near Bridgnorth; the pattern was called Nankin, and was something similar to the Broseley tea service produced in 1782, all in porcelain. Mr. Thomas Minton, of Stoke, assisted in the completion of this service, being articled as an engraver there.
“Messrs. Chamberlain of Worcester, until the end of 1790, had their porcelain in the white from Thomas Turner of Caughley. He at first mixed p. 33all the bodies himself, but afterwards instructed his sister how to do it; subsequently a man named Jones mixed for him.”
The other works at Worcester, Grainger & Co., formerly, when first established, merely painted and finished ware manufactured at Caughley. The China so sent was marked with the letter “C.” for Caughley; sometimes “S.” for Salopian.
Among the chief workmen were the following:—Dontil, painter; Muss and Silk, who afterwards attained great celebrity in London, as painters on enamel, were landscape painters. Thomas Fennell, and Edward Jones flower painters, Thomas Martin Randall, bird painter, Edward Randall, gold decorator, Adams, blue painter, De Vivy and Stephan, modellers.
Perry, one of the workmen who was apprenticed to Mr. Turner, states that in 1797 they had four printing presses at Caughley, introduced by Davis; the patterns at that time and for years previously being birds and blue panels; that Turner had been an engraver at Worcester; that he recollects a slab on the front of one of the arches of the building at Caughley, stating the date of its foundation, 1772, which would be the time he succeeded Mr. Gallimore, and that it was not finished for some time after.
In the Salopian Mag. we gave an engraving of the old works, from a view in the possession of Mr. Hubert Smith, the only lineal descendent of Mr. Turner; and also of a “puzzle jug,” now in p. 34the possession of Mr. E. Thursfield, of Bridgnorth. It is eight inches in height, and is formed of the usual body of these works. It is decorated with blue sprigs, and bears on its front the name, in an oval border, of
Cleak of the
On the bottom is written in blue “Mathew th v & 16,” though one would fail to see any allusion in the text here referred to either to the vessel or to its purpose.
The first specimens of Caughley are but little removed from earthenware, but the material speedily improved, as did the manipulation or potting; the latter to an extent as regards shape and outline so much so as to render many of them superior to the same class of articles of the present day. Their excellence in this respect is so self-evident as still to render Caughley china a great favourite. Choice articles of this manufacture are carefully guarded by Shropshire families, with whom they have become heirlooms; they are carefully stored in corner cupboards and on kitchen shelves, where they were once kept in countenance by rows of shining pewter, and are only produced at christenings and weddings, and on such red-letter days and rare occasions. Every year will add to their value, to the veneration in p. 35which they are held; and at distant periods, and when compared even with the ordinary productions of our factories at the present day, they will serve to show how successful were the well-directed efforts at the Caughley Works to produce a porcelain which should take high rank and maintain it.
The buildings of the old factory have been razed to the ground; the plough passes over where they stood, and a few pitchers turned up now and then are the only indications obtained of these interesting works. But a class of clever men were educated there; some of whom—as the late Herbert Minton’s father, John Rose, and others—have done much to raise the character of our English productions.
Coalport Porcelain Works.
The first works at Coalport were we believe founded and carried on by William Reynolds, Thomas Rose, Robert Horton, and Robert Anstice; the former William Reynolds, being then Lord of the Manor. The buildings, or a good portion occupied by them are still standing.
Mr. Thomas Rose, and Mr. John Rose, were sons of a respectable farmer living at Sweeney. The latter was a clerk under Mr. Turner, at Caughley, and left him to take the Jackfield works about the year, it is said, 1780. Having carried them on for a few years, in conjunction with Mr. Blakeway, during which time he greatly improved p. 36the quality of the article manufactured there, he established the present Coalport works on the side of the canal, then recently opened, and opposite to those of Reynolds, Horton, Thomas Rose, and Robert Anstice. On Mr. Turner retiring from the Caughley works in 1799, Mr. Rose and the new company he had formed purchased them, and by means of increased capital shortly afterwards removed both plant and materials from Caughley and Jackfield to the more advantageous position they now occupy, on the banks of the canal and the Severn. Even the buildings were pulled down and the bricks and timber removed to the opposite side of the Severn, where they were used in constructing the cottages now standing opposite to the present Coalport Works.
A staff of excellent work-people had been obtained from Caughley and Jackfield works combined, but an accident occurred on the night of the 23rd of October in that year by the capsizing of the ferry, as the work-people were crossing the Severn, by which twenty-eight were drowned, some among them being the best hands employed at the works. It was a dark night, the boat was crowded, and the man at the helm, not having been accustomed to put the boat over allowed the vessel to swing round in the channel where, with a strong tide running, it was drawn under by the rope which went from the mast to a rock in the bed of the river. Some managed to scramble out on the Broseley side of the stream; but the following p. 37were lost, notwithstanding the efforts of those who rushed to the river side on hearing the despairing cries raised to save them. Jane Burns, Sarah Burns, Ann Burns, Mary Burgess, Elizabeth Fletcher, Mary Fletcher, Elizabeth Beard, Jane Boden, Elizabeth Ward, Sarah Bagnall, Sophia Banks, Mary Miles, Elizabeth Evans, Catherine Lowe, Jane Leigh, Charles Walker, George Lynn, James Farnworth, George Sheat, John Chell, Robert Lowe, William Beard, John Jones, Benjamin Gosnall, Benjamin Wyld, Richard Mountford, Joseph Poole, and another. The twenty-eight lost included some of the best artists; and an unfinished piece of work, left by Charles Walker but a few minutes before he lost his life, was till within a few years ago reverently kept in the warehouse as a memento of the unfortunate event.
The event, as may be expected, created a great sensation at the time, and was thus commemorated, by Mr. Dyas, one of the Coalport workmen:
Alas! Alas! the fated night
Of cold October twenty third,
In seventeen hundred ninety-nine;
What cries, what lamentation heard,
The hour nine, when from yon pile,
Where fair porcelain takes her form,
Where energy with genius joins,
To robe her in those matchless charms,
A wearied band of artists rose,
Males and females, old and young,
Their toil suspend, to seek repose,
Their homes to gain, they bent along.
p. 38Sabrina’s stream was near to pass,
And she her frowning waves upraised,
Her mist condensed to darksome haze
Which mocked the light; no star appeared.
Yon boat, which o’er her bosom rides,
Enveloped in the heavy gloom,
Convulsive stretch’d along her sides,
To snatch the victims to their doom.
Soon e’er on board their faltering feet
A monster fell who grasped the helm,
Hove from the shore the distressed crew,
And so the dreadful overwhelm,
Swift horror’s wings o’er spread the tides,
They sink! they rise! they shriek! they cling!
Again they sink; alarm soon flies,
Along their shores dread clamours rise,
But Oh, the bleakest night preventing
Every means to save their breath,
Helpless, hopeless, life despairing
Twenty-eight sunk down in death.
Alas small time for Heaven’s implorings,
Quick sealed their everlasting state,
Or, in misery, or in glory,
The last tribunal will relate,
Here fold, O muse thy feeble wings,
Hope where thou canst, but not decide,
Dare not approach those hidden things,
With mercy, justice, these abide.
Return with sympathetic breath,
See yon distracted mother stands,
Three daughters lost, to heaven she lifts
Her streaming eyes and wringing hands,
Hark! from those dells how deep the wailings,
Fathers, Mothers, join their moans,
Widows, orphans, friends and lovers,
Swell the air with poignant groans;
Recluse in grief, those worthy masters
Silent drop the mournful tear.
Distress pervades surrounding hamlets,
Sorrow weeps to every ear,
Sleepless sighings hail the morning,
Morning brings no soothing ray.
p. 39The author of these verses, Mr. Dyas, was a very clever carver on stone and on wood. He engraved the blocks for a work printed by Mr. Edmonds at Madeley, entitled “Alexander’s Expedition down the Hydaspes and the Indus to the Indian Ocean.” He was the author too of an invention world-wide in its benefits, that of the printers’ roller; an invention second only to the art of printing itself, and infinitely superior to thousands of others out of which vast fortunes have been made.
In 1804 the company consisted of Cuthbert Johnson, William Clarke, John Wootton, and John Rose. In 1811 it was John Rose, William Clarke and Charles Maddison. In 1820 they bought the famous Swansea works and entered into an agreement with Messrs. Billingsley and Walker to make a superior kind of porcelain made by them, first at Nantgarw in Glamorganshire, and afterwards at the Cambrian Pottery, Swansea, in the same county. This was a pure soft paste porcelain, superior to any at present produced in the kingdom, and second only to the famous pate tendre of Sevres at the very best period of its manufacture. This china was first made in 1813 by Billingsley, who went from Derby to Worcester, and from there to South Wales. He was an artist, and understood the manufacture in all its branches. He produced a fret body, by mixing the materials, firing them in order to blend them together, then p. 40reducing the vitrified substance into clay—a process which was carried on at Old Sevres during the reign of Louis XV.—and thereby produced an article fine in texture, beautifully transparent, and of a delicate waxy hue, very superior to the dingy blue tinge given to much of the best china of that day. Connoisseurs were at once attracted by it, and Mr. Mortlock went down and entered into an engagement to purchase all that Billingsley and his son-in-law could make. Mr. John Rose finding he had lost a customer, whilst orders he was wont to receive were going to South Wales, went over, bought the plant, moulds, and everything, and entered into an agreement with Walker and Billingsley for a period of seven years to make the same quality of china at Coalport. The process however was an expensive one, from the difficulty of working the clay, which wanted plasticity, and also from the loss in the burning, as being a soft body it was apt to melt or warp, and to go out of shape, if it had a little too much fire in the biscuit kiln. About that time, too, Mr. Ryan discovered a very pure felspar in the Middleton, one of the Briedden hills, the true Kaolin, to which the Chinese were indebted for the quality of their egg-shell and other first class china. The fret body was therefore abandoned, the pate tendre for a pate dure, as the French say, and by adding pure felspar to the Cornish stone and clay which contains a large percentage, a good transparent body was obtained p. 41at a less cost than by using a fret body. About this time also the Society of Arts offered a prize to any one who should find a substitute for lead in the glaze, the deleterious effects of which told upon the dippers, and produced paralysis; and Mr. Rose by applying felspar to the glaze succeeded in obtaining it. He was awarded the Gold Medal of the Society; and from that time following, for some years, a badge was either attached to the ware or engraved upon it as follows:—“Coalport Felspar Porcelain, J. Rose & Co: the Gold Medal awarded May 30, 1820; Patronised by the Society of Arts.” The Devonports and other manufacturers competed for the prize.
The felspar porcelain however never equalled the original Nantgarw fret body ware for purity and transparency, a white plate of which would at the present time fetch a couple of guineas. It cannot be said that any new element was introduced by using felspar, because the kaolin, contained in Cornish stone and clay, as discovered by Cookworthy in 1768, had been, and was now used at Plymouth, Derby, Worcester, Caughley, and Coalport; and by a judicious admixture of this and a free use of bone (phosphate of lime) a good serviceable china was produced. The former gave mellowness, and the latter whiteness, which approached in a degree the qualities of old and Oriental china. In fact Mr. Rose, who had the sole management of the works, spared neither p. 42pains nor expense in raising the character of the productions of the Coalport Works, which were now by far the largest porcelain works in the kingdom, if not in the world. Like Minton, he was a man of wonderful energy, being strong in body, having a clear head, a cool judgment, and gifted with remarkable perseverance.
The works were now in a state of prosperity; warehouses were opened in Manchester, London, Sheffield, and Shrewsbury, and a large trade was being done with dealers all over the kingdom. There was plenty of employment, and a good understanding generally prevailed between masters and their work people. Both before and after the strike there were at Coalport, as at other works of the kind elsewhere, an intelligent class of men, among potters and painters, as well as in other departments. Painters, especially, had good opportunities for mental culture and obtaining information. Numbers worked together in a room, one sometimes reading for the benefit of the others, daily papers were taken, discussions were often raised, and in politics the sharp features of party were as defined as in the House of Commons itself. The rooms were nicely warmed, and a woman appointed to sweep up, to bring coals, to keep the tables clean, to wash up dishes, peel potatoes, and fetch water for those who, not living near, brought their meals with them. It is not surprising, therefore, that men, having such advantages, should sometimes rise to higher situations. Some became p. 43linguists, some schoolmasters, engineers, and contractors; one, breakfasting with a bishop, whose daughter he afterwards married, saw upon the table, some time since, a service painted by himself when a workman at Coalport. Some were singular characters: old Jocky Hill kept his hunter; John Crowther, a very amiable fellow, exceedingly good natured, and always ready to do a favour to any one who asked him, lived quite a recluse, studying algebra and mechanics. He has suggested many improvements in locomotives, steam paddles, breaks, &c., &c., and had the honour of submitting to the Government the plan of terminating annuities, by which money at that time was raised to carry on the war, and by which we have been saved the burden—so far—of a permanent debt; also of making other suggestions, which have been likewise adopted. He also invented a most ingenious almanack applicable to all time.
Coalport men were usually great politicians; Hunt, Hethrington, Richard Carlile, Sir Francis Burdett, and Cobbett, had their disciples and admirers; and such was the eagerness to get the Register, with its familiar gridiron on the cover, that a man has been despatched to Birmingham for it from one of the rooms, his shopmates undertaking to do his work for him whilst he was away.
The works themselves are ill designed and badly constructed, the greater portion of them having p. 44been put up at the latter end of the past and beginning of the present centuries, whilst other portions were added from time to time, with no regard to ventilation or other requirements of health. Consequently there are the most curious ins and outs, dropsical looking roofs, bulging walls, and drooping floors, which have to be propped underneath, to support half a century’s accumulations of china, accumulations amounting to hundreds and hundreds of tons in weight. In entering some of these unhealthy ateliers and passages strangers have to look well to their craniums. Some work-rooms have very stifling atmospheres, charged with clay or flint; the biscuit room notably so. We have said that a good understanding prevailed generally between masters and workmen. There was one notable exception, the great “strike” as it was called, which occurred somewhere in November, 1833; a memorable event in the history of the works, so much so that in speaking of occurrences it is usual to the present time to ask in case of doubt if it happened before or subsequent to the strike. The men had their “Pitcher,” a well conducted sick society; and a “Travelling Society,” for assisting those in search of employment, with branches in all centres of the trade. Trades unions, however, were just then coming to the front. The Combination Laws had been repealed eleven years previously; otherwise, such was the temper of the Shropshire magistrates, p. 45and the feeling generally in relation to the trades unions, that had they existed on the statute book not a few would have had to have experienced the penal consequences of their acts. With the men who still adhered to the masters the works continued to be carried on to a limited extent; after much suffering and privation some of the hands returned, whilst some obtained employment elsewhere. The course taken by Mr. John Rose, in resisting the men was warmly approved of by his neighbours, who subscribed for a handsome silver cup, which is now in the possession of Mr. Charles Pugh, who married Miss Martha Rose, daughter of Mr. Thomas, and niece of Mr. John Rose. It is a large and massive piece of plate. A vine stem entwines around the foot and forms the handles, a vine border with grapes also forms a border round the rim of the cover. On one side is the following inscription:
Presented to John Rose Esqr.,
Coalport China Manufactory,
Friends and Neighbours
On the reverse side is the following:
Tribute of respect
Public and Private Character
p. 46and to the
he has recently resisted the
demands of an illegal
We have lived to see trades unions legalized, and trade combinations adopted by masters as well as men.
Mr. Walker had invented a maroon colour dip for grounds, which was used with much success. A good deal was done too about this time in imitation of the Sevres style of decoration, and thousands of pounds were spent in endeavouring to make the famous torquoise of the French; but a pale imitation, called celest, only was obtained; some years afterwards however a much better colour was produced, first by Mr. Harvey, secondly by Mr. Bagshaw, thirdly by Mr. Hancock.
In 1839 the late William Pugh became one of the firm, it then being John Rose, Charles Maddison, and William Pugh. In 1841 it was Charles Maddison, William Pugh, Thomas Rose, and William Frederick Rose. In 1843 William Pugh, and William F. Rose were the proprietors. In 1845 the Messrs. Daniell received the command of the Queen to prepare a dessert service as a present by herself to the Emperor Nicholas, and it was manufactured at the works. It was a magnificent service of bleu de roi, and had the p. 47various orders of the Russian Empire enamelled in compartments, with the order of St. Nicholas, and the Russian and Polish eagles in the centre. In 1850 the famous Rose-du-Barry was discovered. The attempt to do so had been suggested by the Messrs. Daniell, in 1849; and after repeated experiments by Mr. George Hancock, who is still the colour-maker at the works, it was produced. This colour, so named after Mdme du Barry, one of the mistresses of Louis XV, had been formerly made at the Sevres Works, but the art had been lost, and its reproduction created a demand for very rich dessert services and ornaments of the colour. Very costly services of it were produced for the Messrs. Daniell, Mortlock, Phillips, Goode, and other London dealers, which attracted considerable attention at the Exhibition of 1851. One splendid dessert service of it was purchased by Lord Ashburton; others also, after special models and designs, of this colour were subsequently produced for the head of the State, for the Emperor of the French, and for noblemen like the duke of Northumberland, the Marquis of Lansdowne and others.
The following are the remarks of the Jurors on that occasion:—“Rose J., and Co., Coalbrook Dale, Shropshire (47, p. 727), have exhibited porcelain services and other articles, which have attracted the special attention of the Jury. A dessert service of a rose ground is in particular remarkable, not p. 48only as being the nearest approach we have seen to the famous colour which it is designed to imitate, but for the excellence of the flower-painting, gilding, and other decorations, and the hardness and transparency of glaze. The same observation applies to other porcelain articles exhibited by this firm. The Jury have awarded to Messrs. Rose and Co. a Prize Medal.” The company also obtained medals at the French Exhibition in 1855, and at that of London in 1862.
A good deal has been done of late years in the Sevres style of decoration on vases, the moulds of which came direct from Sevres manufactory. It is a pleasing incident, and one worth mentioning, that some years ago Mr. W. F. Rose in company with Mr. Daniell visited Paris, and of course went to Sevres. Mr. Daniell was at once taken round the works, but Mr. Rose feeling some delicacy remained outside. Mr. Daniell mentioned the delicacy of his friend, and the manager at once sent for him in, and shewed him the greatest respect. He told him he might send his best artists to copy any thing he saw, or employ theirs to do so: and sometime after he sent over the moulds themselves to Coalport.
In 1862 Mr. Pugh became sole proprietor of the works, and continued so to his death, in June 1875. Mr. Charles Pugh, brother of the deceased, and Mr. Edmund Ratcliff, brother-in-law, were left executors; and for an adjustment of claims by p. 49them and others the estate was thrown into Chancery and a receiver and manager, Mr. Gelson was appointed. The stock which is immense and had been accumulating for half a century is being brought into the market. Hundreds of dozens of one pattern, “India tree,” for example, which had remained out of sight for forty years, are being brought to light. In some instances a hundred dozen or so of saucers, (printed,) are found stowed away, without cups to match; whilst scores of piles of plates and dishes, sixteen or eighteen feet high, may be seen (white) in others, which had been sorted and put on one side from some defect or other. It speaks well for the quality of the china that the biscuit and glazed are both sound and good. In some cases the floors are literally giving way from the immense weight of stock they have to sustain. In one place a quantity of old Caughley China was discovered; whilst in another were found a number of Caughley copper plates engraved by the late Herbert Minton’s father.
It may excite surprise that so large a stock should have been allowed to accumulate, but much was the result of a wish to keep the men employed. The fact of a number of copper plates being found with his name on, confirms what we have previously said about Thomas Minton, who founded the important commercial house bearing his name and that of his son at Stoke, having been employed p. 50as an engraver at Caughley. M. Digby Wyatt, also, in his paper read before the Society of Arts and reported in the Society’s Journal, May 28th, 1858, on the influence exercised on ceramic art by the late Herbert Minton, says:—“Mr. Thomas Minton was a native of Shropshire, and he was brought up at the Caughley works, near Broseley, as an engraver. He then went to town and worked for Spode, at his London House of business.” In 1788 he went to Stoke, bought land, and built the house and works which have since become so celebrated. Up to 1798 however he only made earthenware which was printed and ornamented in blue, similar to that at Caughley.
Mr. Wyatt, in the paper just quoted, speaking of John Rose and of the late Herbert Minton admitted that in the excellent, rapid, and cheap production of porcelain for Mr. Minton to have stood still for a moment would have been to have lost his lead in the trade. And Mr. Daniell, in the discussion which followed, said:—“With reference to Mr. Minton’s predecessors in this branch of art, he might remind the society of one whose name was upon their records as the recipient of the society’s gold medal for china and porcelain manufactures long before Mr. Herbert Minton’s time. He referred to John Rose, of Coalport, who made more china in his day than all those who were mentioned in the paper.”
It will be seen from what we have written that p. 51Thomas Turner, of Caughley, and J. Rose, of Coalport, were the creators, so to speak, of new industries which drew around them large populations and gave employment to thousands who otherwise might have sought for it in vain, or have found it under less advantageous circumstances. It will be seen also that not only were they benefactors contributing materially to the common stock of national prosperity themselves, but that their energies and abilities inspired others who in turn became industrial organisers, and through various channels carried on the work of progress.
MADELEY CHINA WORKS.
Excepting to the trade, and to some of the old inhabitants, it is not generally known that Martin Randall established China Works at Madeley, and made porcelain similar to that of Nantgarw and little if at all inferior to old Sevres porcelain. He and his brother Edward were Caughley men; he left there to go to Derby. He afterwards went to Pinxton, and thence with Mr. Robins, a Pinxton man, to London, where they entered into partnership and carried on business. They were supplied with Nantgarw white china by Mr. Mortlock, till Mr. Rose cut off the supply from the Welsh Works, by engaging p. 52Billingsley and Walker to make it for himself alone at the Coalport Works. They still continued to carry on business at Islington, where they erected buildings suitable, and fired the ware in box kilns with charcoal.
About this time the demand was great with connoisseurs among the aristocracy for old Sevres china; and the London dealers, finding that it was not obtainable in sufficient quantities to meet the demand for highly decorated specimens, hit upon the expedient of employing agents in Paris to buy up Sevres china in white for the purpose of having it painted in London, as Nantgarw had been, and selling it to their customers as the bona fide productions of Sevres. Slightly painted patterns too were procured, and the colours got off with fluoric acid, and rich and expensive paintings, grounds, and gilding substituted.
About the year 1826 they dissolved partnership and Mr. Randall came to Madeley, where he occupied a house in Park Lane, now the residence of the Wesleyan minister. He then took more commodious premises at the lower end of Madeley, where he erected enamelling, biscuit, and other kilns, and made and finished his own ware. Thomas Wheeler, William Roberts, and F. Brewer, were his potters; Philip Ballard, Robert Grey, and the present writer, were painters there, and Enos Raby was ground layer. John Fox of Coalbrookdale, William Dorsett, of Madeley, also were with p. 53Mr. Randall for a short time. Not having had experience in the making of china, great mistaken were committed, and heavy losses sustained. We have known a biscuit kiln fired till tea-pots and cups and saucers were melted into a mass before a trial was drawn, crow bars being necessary to remove them; in some instances they assumed the most fantastic forms. At other times the ware would be short fired in the biscuit kiln and would take up so much glaze that on coming out of the glaze kiln it would fly off in splinters. These wastrels were buried, broken up, or thrown into the canal, to be out of sight.
Mr. Randall however, as the result of repeated and persevering experiments, succeeded in producing a fret body with a rich glaze which bore so close a resemblance to old Sevres china that connoisseurs and famous judges failed to distinguish them. He refused however, from conscientious motives, to put the Sevres mark, the initials of Louis. Louis, crossed at the bottom, which was done with less hesitation at Coalport with much more feeble imitations. When introduced on one occasion to a London dealer, of the name of Frost, who had a shop in the Strand, as Mr. Martin Randall’s nephew, the dealer in old china observed that the old Quaker made the best imitation of Sevres that ever was made, but added, “he never could be got to put the double L on it, and we cannot sell it as Sevres.” We remarked that he was “too p. 54conscientious to do so,” upon which he replied, “O, d—n conscience; there is no conscience in business.”
Mr. Randall had less hesitation however in putting the Sevres mark on what was known to be Sevres; and he did very much for Mortlock, Jarman, and Baldock, who had agents in Paris, attending all sales where old Sevres was to be sold, in redecorating it in the most elaborate and costly manner. The less scrupulous London agents however did not hesitate to pass it off as being really the work throughout of Sevres artists. Indeed they have been known to have boxes of china going up from Madeley, sent on to Dover, to be redirected as coming from France, inviting connoisseurs to come and witness them being unpacked on their arrival, as they represented, from Paris. A little entertainment would be got up, and supposing themselves to be the first whose eyes looked on the rich goods after they left the French capital, where it would be represented, perhaps, that they had been bought of the Duc-de—or of Madame some one, after having been in the possession of royalty, they would buy freely.
Sevres porcelain fetched high prices then, but it has risen higher in the market, even since, and has gone on rising to the present time. In 1850 cups and saucers fetched from £25 to £30 each, and bowls £66 or £70. Three oval vases and p. 55covers at Lord Pembroke’s sale fetched £1020. Prices have however since gone up; and at Mr. Bernal’s sale a pair of rose Dubarry vases sold for 1850 guineas; and cups and saucers for £100. Single plates have since sold for £200; vases for 500 or 600 guineas each, and cups and saucers for 150 guineas. A year ago a set of three Jardiniers fetched at Christie’s, by auction, £10,000!
We remember seeing an ornament at the Marquis of Anglesey’s at Beau Desert which we were assured was old Sevres, and had been purchased at a great price on the continent, but which we recognised as one of our own painting at Madeley. A man can always tell his own painting; but it is not an easy matter for another however experienced sometimes to do so. An amusing instance occurred at Coalport. Mr. F. W. Rose who had been conversant from a child with china, on one occasion bought a vase, painted with birds, believing it to be old Sevres, but which was made at the Coalport Works and painted by the present writer at Madeley. Mr. Rose, sending for us down to the office said, “here, Randall, is a vase I have given a good price for, which is the right thing; can you do anything like it?” Our reply was, it would be strange if we could not, as we did that when a lad, adding that it was made at his own manufactory, that it was modelled by George Aston, and purchased out of the warehouse, in the white, by T. Martin Randall. We need p. 56scarcely say that he was very much astonished on finding he had been duped by a London china dealer with a piece of his own ware. It was put out of sight; but the late Mr. Pugh did not forget occasionally to remind his partner of the incident.
Mr. Randall removed from Madeley to Shelton, in the Potteries, for the greater convenience of carrying on his works. He was invited by the late Herbert Minton to become a partner, and to make his ware for the benefit of both at his extensive works at Stoke. Age however, and a longing for retirement led him to decline, and he soon afterwards retired to a cottage at Barleston, where he died, and was buried, in a sunny spot of his own choosing, within sound of the murmuring waters of the Trent. He was a good man; one holding large and liberal views, and one who took an active part in various social and religious movements of the day, being an active promoter more particularly of Temperance Societies, when first established in this country. Specimens of his ware are much prized and sought after by collectors. A fine specimen with torquoise ground is in the possession of Henry Dickinson Esq.
The chief beauty of Mr. Randall’s porcelain, like that of other fret bodies, or pate tendre china, was that it admitted of a complete amalgamation of the painting with the glaze, and also of a richness and depth of colour, as in the case of torquoise, not to be produced on ordinary china.#ENGLISH