English Porcelain Factories - Worcester

Early in 1752 the right to use Lund's soapstone formula was purchased by a newly constituted company in Worcester, and the well-known factory came into being. One of the principal shareholders in the Worcester company was a local physician of eminence, Dr John Wall, and his name has been given to the period 1752 to 1783, during which the factory produced its most famous output. At first, domestic ware with underglaze blue decoration was the principal output, but by 1760 the making of more ambitious pieces of high quality, both as regards shape and colouring, was being carried on. Shortly before, the process of decorating by the use of printed designs transferred to the article, transfer-printing, had been introduced. The finely engraved designs, many of them adapted by Robert Hancock from the work of French and English artists of the time, were printed effectively in over-glaze colours of black, lilac or red. Soon, it was found possible to print in underglaze blue, and a large amount decorated in this manner was made and sold in the next twenty years.

About 1769, when it is believed some of the redundant Chelsea painters were given employment at Worcester, a style of painting in panels on a coloured ground was initiated. The grounds used are a plain dark blue, a dark blue in the form of overlapping scales known as scale-blue, red and yellow in the same manner, a rich apple green, a plain yellow and a plain sky blue. AH these grounds were enriched further with gilt patterns as well as designs of figures in costume, exotic birds or bouquets of flowers; a display of them makes it clear why they have been famous for so long, and why they are expensive today.

For a short period about 1770, figures were made at Worcester, but although they are painted in typical Worcester colours they are stiff and unnatural in appearance and it is assumed that they were not a success at the time. They are very rare, and have been identified only recently after masquerading as the work of other factories for nearly two hundred years. Worcester china, marked or unmarked, is remarkable for its slightly grey appearance and for the fact that the glaze shrinks away at the edges; particularly on the insides of the foot-rims of plates, cups, and similarly constructed pieces. This feature has never been imitated successfully, in spite of the fact that Worcester was much copied at the time it was made, and has continued to be faked ever since.

In 1783 the factory was bought by Thomas Flight and managed by his sons, a visit was paid to it shortly by King George III and Queen Charlotte, and a complete change in the style of ware began to take place. The new productions were of simple shapes, but very finely painted in the manner of miniatures. Popular subjects were groups of feathers or sea-shells carefully painted in natural colours. The china itself was highly glazed and often modelled with borders of 'pearls', left white or heavily gilt. On the death of one of Flight's sons in 1791 Martin Barr became a partner, and the firm became Flight and Barr; other changes involving the style of the firm took place in 1807 and 1813.

Robert Chamberlain left Flight's about 1783, and after a period in which he decorated porcelain bought from other factories, started his own works in Worcester. His sons were skilled painters, and they decorated in a manner similar to that of the older company. Chamberlain ware is of a marked grey tint and the paste is often lumpy, much showy gilding was used and a salmon-pink ground was very popular.

Thomas Grainger started a further Worcester factory in 1801, and produced wares similar to those of the other two factories. Finally, Chamberlain's formed a partnership with the original factory and this became eventually the Royal Worcester Porcelain Company, which is still in production.

Porcelain Marking
Porcelain Marking
The 'square' mark 1755-90
Porcelain Marking
Porcelain Marking
Impressed. 1807-13 Impressed. 1807-40

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