Index for Shaw's history   

Shaw's - History of the Staffordshire Potteries - originally published in 1829

 

Chapter 8 - Introduction of Porcelain - Mr W. Littler's Porcelain - 
Mr. Cookworthy's Discovery of Kaolin and Pentuntre, and Patent - Sold to Mr. Champion, - and re-sold to the New Hall Company, - Extension of Term.   


next: Chapter 9 - Blue Printed Pottery 
previous: Chapter 7 - Wedgwood's Queens' Ware 
Extension of the Manufacture of Cream Colour 
contents: index of Shaw's book


[these headings are not in the original - they are added for ease of reading]

Introduction of Porcelain
Discovering the work of the Chinese
Baron De Botticher produces porcelain in Europe 
Manufacture at Dresden
Use of Petuntse and Kaolin  
Dresden artisans transported to Berlin
William Littler and Longton Hall porcelain 
Porcelain Earth
Mr. Cookworthy's patent 
New Hall China
Extension of patent term  
Mr. Champion moves to America 
Improvements in porcelain manufacture 
Jacob Warburton of New Hall

 

 

Introduction of Porcelain

Porcelain is known to have been brought into Europe prior to the Christian Era, and yet we are not aware of any manufactories for it being established in Europe until comparatively recent times. 

We may regard indolence and ignorance solely as causing incertitude prevalent at that time concerning the materials and processes, for it is now almost a matter of mere opinion, that the finest and the coarsest porcelain, and the best and most common Pottery, differ less in the diversity, than in the proportions, of their component materials. 

At the commencement of the eighteenth century several of the European nations were led to regret that they were unacquainted with the manufacture of an article of merchandise, for which they had to pay most extravagant high prices to the India Companies of Great Britain and Holland; who only brought to Europe, from China and Japan. the fine whitish porcelain manufactured in those Empires, now become the admiration of persons of opulence, and the ornament of sumptuous tables. 

 

Discovering the work of the Chinese

There was consequent a prevalent desire to discover the materials, and ascertain the processes of the manufacture, in order if possible to rival these productions. But a fortunate occurance roused the attention of France to this important object. 

The Jesuits having successfully ingratiated themselves with the inhabitants of China, in attempting to introduce Christianity into that extensive empire; about the time we now are considering, Pere Francis D'Entrecolles, by his mild and affable deportment, and very insinuating address, so won upon the friendship of those among whom he had long resided, that he obtained specimens of the materials, and forwarded them to France, with a summary description of the processes of the Art. 

And doubtless the European manufacturers generally are indebted greatly to the letters of the Jesuits, and especially this father's interesting account of the manufactory at King-te-Ching; and of the petuntse and kaolin, the materials used. 

The celebrated genius Reaumur, a person of the most philosophic turn of mind, immediately commenced a series of experiments, in which he was indefatigable, to ascertain the properties of the specimens forwarded by the Jesuit father, and also to discover the method of imitating the productions of the Chinese; which ultimately he accomplished, after much labour and disappointment; and published in 1727-9, in the Transactions of the Academy of Sciences.

 

Baron De Botticher produces porcelain in Europe

While Reaumur was thus employed in France, Baron De Botticher was equally busily engaged in Saxony, and first produced the white kind of real porcelain in Europe. 

The Baron professed Alchemy, or the secret of the Philosopher's Stone, for transmuting metals into Gold; and having exhibited to his dupes several specimens, by some means they were shewed to the King of Poland. 

To gratify the cupidity of this monarch, by compulsory divilgement of the secret, an order was issued for his incarceration in the castle of Koningstein, where he unremittingly continued making experiments. 

While pursuing this useless research, without opportunity to destroy or mal-appropriate whatever was produced, he found in one of his crucibles, what completely answered his purposes; the intense heat he employed to fuse some of his materials, rendered the crucibles themselves of similar appearance to the white Chinese porcelain; (very probably because of accidentally employing some materials in quality like those used in China;) he carefully repeated the process, and produced white porcelain; which caused Dresden to become the seat of the art. 

Thus he accomplished a greater object than that for which he was detained; and discovered one which, in value far exceeded that which he was seeking; he greatly promoted the prosperity of the country, not indeed by making gold, but by inventing a new excellent manufacture, which transmutes not the metals, but the mire and the clay into gold; and the more carefully to preserve the secret among those who were employed in the processes, all the manufactory was rendered impenetrable, and the work people immured as if in cells. 

At this period also was a manufactory of Porcelain established at Chelsea; and from the circumstance of Messrs. Elers having left Bradwell to settle near London, it is believed that this manufactory originated with them.

 

Manufacture at Dresden

The materials forwarded by Pere D'Entrecolles, having been most carefully examined & analyzed similar materials were soon afterwards found in Saxony; the genius of the French chemists was aroused; Reaumur further improved on De Botticher's discoveries; and after unnumbered experiments, and most mortifying failures, not only was the Dresden manufactory, but others in different parts of Europe, established; and eventually have almost rivalled the Eastern productions. 

The manufactory is in the Albrechtsberg, an ancient castle on a high rock eighty feet above the river Elbe, and employs 510 persons. 

Condamine regards the porcelain of Florence, as equal to that of King-to-Ching; and with the only defect of its glaze not being a dead white. 

And Jonas Hanway mentions the excellence of the Saxony Porcelain, and the extreme precaution of the manufacturers to prevent strangers becoming acquainted with their processes.

 

Use of Petuntse and Kaolin

Salt Glaze White Stone Ware, is partially transparent; and with a proportion of phosphate of lime, or bone, added to the Flint and Alumina it would make good and perfect porcelain. There is hence less wonder that De Botticher's crucibles assumed the appearance of Porcelain. It is related, that when Pere D'Entrecolles mentioned to some Chinese, that the European potters had been using some petuntse without kaolin, and could not produce porcelain, he was answered sarcastically that 'the Europeans are a wonderful people, to make a body whose flesh was to sustain itself without bones.' 

Dr. William Sherard communicated to the Royal Society of London, the statement of the Jesuits; and he also supplied the Museum of that learned body with several specimens of the materials employed by the Chinese Potters. Probably a sight of these materials, (whether Chinese or Saxon, tho' most likely the latter,) and the account given by the Jesuits, urged Mr. Cookworthy, (hereafter again noticed) a chemist of considerable experience, resident at Plymouth, to investigate the productions of his own neighbourhood; and he was successful in finding in Cornwall, both the Petuntse and Kaolin, now used in the Chinese Porcelain.

 

Dresden artisans transported to Berlin

Frederic II was so wishful to have a Manufactory at Berlin, that when he conquered Saxony, he forcibly transported from Dresden, the artisans, to his own manufactory; and the following device was by him adopted to raise the productions into notoriety, and which ultimately caused its rise to a state of perfection in beauty and elegance, rivalling that of Saxony:  

The Jews resident in his dominions being compelled to obtain his permission prior to their marriage, he adopted the condition of a Certificate that the parties had purchased to not less than a stipulated amount of this Porcelain; after which his permission was granted, confident that it would soon be vended among ather people.


William Littler and Longton Hall porcelain

The close resemblance of very thin pieces of salt glazed white stone ware to foreign porcelain, excited the ingenuity of Mr. William Littler, of Brownhills, (about 1765,) to attempt the manufacture of porcelain; and he removed to Longton Hall, near Lane End, (now the residence of Richd. Heathcote, Esq. MP) where he continued his experiments, until his success surpassed all the expectations of his cotemporaries: but there not being much demand for this kind of ware, He sacrificed his Estate at Brownhills, near Burslem, and then discontinued manufacturing porcelain. His chief workman was not only a good practical potter, But a tolerable modeller, named Dr. Mills; who subsequently died in Shelton at a very advanced age.

The precise nature of the composition of Littler's Porcelain, is not known; its defect was inability to bear sudden or excessive change of temperature. Its basis is believed to have been a frit, that is, a mixture of the flint and alumina with alkalies, to render them easily fusible, and cause the mass to appear white when adequately fired. 

The frit has to be ground, and dried into an impalpable powder, which is subsequently mixed with the clay. The specimens, which are well calculated to deceive the eye of the spectator, are cylindrical cups, with handles shewing some taste, a tolerable glaze, and enamelled with flowers, but there are many specks, and the whole has a greyish hue, yet they are calculated to surprise his fellows, by their similarity to foreign porcelain in body, glaze, shapes, and enamelling. 

Mr. Littler, at a subsequent period, was manager of a porcelain manufactory in Shelton, for Messrs. Baddeley and Fletcher. But this was discontinued for reasons already mentioned, and because expensive. They fired with wood, because the body would not bear coals. Some specimens of this ware, are such close imitations of the oriental porcelain, as to be frequently supposed such by experienced potters of the present day. 

Mr. Littler became very infirm prior to his death, at a very advanced age, and in reduced circumstances, in Shelton. 

This Mr. John Baddeley, was son of the flint grinder at Mothersall, and father of Messrs. Ralph and John Baddeley, of Shelton, who first successfully introduced Blue Printing of earthenware Table Services.


Porcelain Earth

The clay named Porcelain Earth, (or by the English potters, Cornish or China Clay,) of itself extremely white, smooth in grain, & ductile, from which are made the finer kinds of Dresden, Berlin, Sevres, and British Porcelain, appears generally to be derived from the decomposition of the feldspar of granite. 

In Cornwall are mountains of white granite, partially decomposed; fragments of these are broken up and thrown into currents of water which wash off and carry away in suspension the fine argillaceous particles, which at different places in a cess pool or kind of eddy, subside as a sediment or clay; when the water is drawn off, the solid matter, in the state of an extremely white and impalpable powder, (the Kaolin of China) is dug out, dried, and packed in casks. 

The Petuntse is Cornish Growan Stone, which fusing more easily than the earths, closely combines them ; an earth long employed for making porcelain, and supposed pure clay, proved to be a carbonate of magnesia and silex. The magnesian earth Stealities or Soap rock, is occasionally added to fix the infusible materials, and prevent too great contraction by firing.


Mr. Cookworthy's patent

Mr. Cookworthy, having discovered in what are now called the Cornish Clay and the Growan Stone, similar materials to the Kaolin and Petuntse, he first attempted the manufacture of Porcelain, and being tolerably successful, he obtained a Patent in 1768, for the exclusive use of those materials in the manufacture of Porcelain and Pottery. 

He afterwards sold the patent right to Richard Champion, Esq. a respectable Merchant in Bristol, who had been long employed in investigating the properties of Porcelain; he erected a manufactory in that city, in which for some time he pursued his experiments, and ultimately succeeded in bringing to a state of perfection, rivalling the oriental productions; and altho' this is the first real English Porcelain, (for it has the essential property being indestructible in both body and glaze;) yet he expended a large fortune in erecting the various requsite premises; and after fully completing his scheme, was so unsuccessful in obtaining a demand adequate to the expenditure, that about 1777. he sold the Patent to a Company in Staffordshire:  

Mr. Samuel Hollins, Red China Potter, of Shelton; 
Anthony Keeling, Son-in-law of Enoch Booth, Potter, Tunstall; 
John Turner, Lane End; 
Jacob Warburton, Son of Mrs. W. of Hot Lane; 
William Clowes, Potter, of Pert Hill; and 
Charles Bagnall, Potter, Shelten. 

 

New Hall China

After this agreement Mr. Champion directed the processes of the manufacture, for the Company, at the Manufactory of Mr. Anthony Keeling, at Tunstall; but when that gentleman removed to London, in 1782 a disagreement ensued among the partners; Mr. Keeling, and Mr. John Turner withdrew and they who continued together engaged as managing partner, Mr. John Daniel, Son of the person who introduced Plaster Moulds, and settled the manufactory at the New Hall, Shelton, only a short time previously erected by Mr. Whitehead, of the Old Hall, Hanley; on which account the Porcelain had the appellation of New Hall China; and during the life time of the several partners, the concern has been carried forward to their great profit. 

Mr. Jacob Warburton was the principal Gentleman to whom the Potteries are indebted for this spirited introduction of the Porcelain manufacture; even atthe present day a truly important branch of the Trade, greatly contributing to extend the celebrity, advance the interests, and promote the prosperity of this very extensive and populous district.

Mr. Cookworthy was doubtless a person of considerable ability; but according to the information concerning him from relations and Mr. Champion, he was constantly so very eager in acquiring knowledge, that he seldom could find leisure to communicate to others his own stores of information. 

Hence all there is to commemorate him, are a few letters and essays in the periodicals of that day; and this discovery of materials for making Porcelain. Indeed this last will immortalize him; for it is the general conviction of potters, that the greatest service ever conferred by one person on the pottery manufacture, is this of his (by some erroneously supposed to be Mr. Champion's) making them acquainted with the nature and properties of the materials, and his introduction of Growan Stone for either body or glaze, or both when requisite. 

 

Extension of patent term

Without it, we should want our fine porcelain, so deservedly admired; neither should we have the excellent cream colour, and elegant blue printed, now in constant demand. This fact shews the real cause of the violent and determined opposition made to an extension of the term when the first Patent expired. Some time prior to the expiration of the term of the original Patent, Mr. Champion petitioned Parliament for an Act, authorizing its extension for a further period of fourteen years. 

The Manufacturers of Cream Colour or Queen's Ware, among whom was Mr. J. Wedgwood, and Mr. John Turner, (and who never had made any Porcelain,) brought forward, as an objection to its extension, the restriction of all others from employing Cornish Stone; (or Composition as it is called.) in the other branches of the manufacture, altho' such advantages were likely to result.

Therefore the Bill when introduced into the House of Lords, was most violently opposed on the part of the potters by their delegates the late Mr. Wedgwood, and Mr. John Turner; whose decided and very active opposition receiving from the late Marquis of Stafford, (then Earl Gower,) his most powerful aid and influence, a very important alteration was made in the body of the Bill; for, while it confirmed to Mr. Champion the sole and exclusive application of the Cornish Clay and Stone for the manufacture of transparent Ware, however it might be named, Porcelain or any other designation, it allowed the potters generally the free use of the stone in the opacous glazes, and of the Clay in opaque Pottery. 

The company agreed to supply ground stone from their mill for any manufacturers, not to be used in the glaze of a transparent body. Thus to the energetic enterprise of Mr. Warburton and his Colleagues, may be chiefly ascribed the introduction into our Pottery & Porcelain of these valuable materials, indispensible to the improved solidity, durability and texture of the ware, and rendering it greatly superior to all previously manufactured.


Mr. Champion moves to America

Mr. Champion resided in the Potteries until the formation of the Rockingham Ministry in 1782, when he removed to London on being appointed Deputy Paymaster of the Forces, under Mr. Burke, whom he had served in an important manner in promoting the election of that gentleman as one of the representatives of the City of Bristol; and thereby secured the unabated friendship of that celebrated and eloquent Champion of Aristocracy. 

The enjoyment of the situation however was of short continuance, owing to the dissolution of that short lived ministry; after which his extensive mercantile connections requiring his presence in America, he visited that Continent; and having successfully arranged his affairs, settled at Camden, in South Carolina; where he died in 1787. 

 

Improvements in porcelain manufacture

Many of the manufacturers at this time began to exercise industry and talent in experimental researches into the properties of different substances; which ultimately have changed the materials, methods of workmanship, and nature of the articles produced; have gradually improved the several branches of the Art, far beyond what had been considered possible; and raised the character of their productions with an astonishingly rapid progress; so that in our day, they diminish the importation of Chinese porcelain, and gradually extend their exportation to most nations of the world. 

The Burslem Potters often rambled to other places where were Potteries, as Derby, and Worcester, acquiring information concerning the porcelain of those places; and afterwards on returning, made trials of numerous kinds. 

But the perfection to which porcelain is arrived, is not due to the party to whom Partes assigns it; but to W. Littler, al Longton. Subsequently, the father of the late Ralph and John Baddeley, of Shelton, manufactured good porcelain, then in partnership with the father of the late Sir Thomas Fletcher, of Newcastle; samples of this the author has before him, and it is difficult to distinguish it, from good blue and white porcelain from Canton. 

After Mr. Turner had separated from the New Hall Company, he commenced the manufacture of porcelain, at Lane End; and one of the ornaments he made, is now preserved by Broadhurst Harding, with truly laudable care and anxiety. 

It is a beaker, on which is enamelled, in brown colours, the whole interior of a Pottery. The celebrated modeller Gerverot designed it; and in quality it will still rank very high among English, porcelain. Mr. Wedgwood's encaustic painting was in imitation of Messrs. Turner's on white body porcelain.


Jacob Warburton of New Hall

Jacob Warburton, Esq. was equally respectable for social virtues, great mental ability, and extensive literary acquirements. 

Some years prior to his decease, he had relinquished the cares and fatigue of business; and having at a late period of life, married for his second wife a person much younger than himself, for whom he had long cherished the most affectionate regard, he retired to his house at Ford Green, near Norton, where, he indulged his fondness for literary felicity, with the true 'Otium cum dignitate.' 

Possessed of pure benevolence, and sound judgment, his friendship was valued deservedly by every intelligent person in the neighbourhood; and those who were honoured with his intimacy, alone can judge of his correct taste and stores of information. 

His memory was peculiarly tenacious, and was strengthened by most extensive reading, and a correct oral and legible knowledge of French, Dutch, German, and Italian; the latter being his favourite amusement up to the day of his decease; to which time his mind resembled a pure and brilliant blaze of intellect. 

On the day prior to his death, (September 19th, 1826,) he enjoyed his usual portion of animal spirits, and commenced a walk to Cobridge, but returned home without effecting his purpose. The next day, while seated on a sofa, he said to a gentleman who was reading to him,'Do not be alarmed; I feel I am dying,' and expired without a struggle or a groan, at the age of 86 years. 

His religious tenets were those of the Church of Rome, but wholly free from bigotry arid intolerance, in consequence of his extensive travels and connection with mankind. 

He was the last of the Potters of the Old School; and from the energies of his character and perseverance, numerous advantages have accrued to other manufacturers. To enumerate his various excellencies is not easy, however they might be adapted to benefit and entertain the reader. 

Tho' a few years younger than Mr. Wedgwood, yet from the time of that celebrated Potter's commencing Business at Burslem, there existed between the two, the most intimate friendship and confidential intercourse. At a very early period he was engaged in commercial pursuits with his father and brothers, as a manufaeturer of Pottery; and as salesman for the concern, he several times visited many places on the European Continent. 

More than 50 years he was engaged in the manufacture, and witnessed the commencement and progress to their present perfection, of those Branches for which the district is now celebrious; and in this period, the most important which Potters have yet known, he contributed to exalt and establish the importance of the Art of Potting, and secured to himself and family a very ample fortune.



 

 

 



next: Chapter 9 - Blue Printed Pottery 
previous: Chapter 7 - Wedgwood's Queens' Ware 
Extension of the Manufacture of Cream Colour 
contents: index of Shaw's book