Friday, 21 December 2012

Worcester Porcelain – Dr Wall Period 1751-1783

I had a few moments before I had to leave. The lapping low tide was intermittently granting access to a mud plateau littered with white ceramic shards. Most were undecorated creamware but  a few patterned pieces caught my eye, which I quickly scooped up. Later I noticed two displayed hatched crescent marks– a lead just too tempting to resist, so onto google images. It took no time to work out they originated from the first period of Worcester Porcelain Factory, referred to as ‘Dr Wall’. One very similar to the bottom of the coffee mug (rosecroft antiques) pictured below, but now they are adjacent, I suspect mine is from a tea bowl or cup. 
Mudlarking Finds: Worcester Hatched Crescent
Worcester coffee Mug & Saucer 1780

Worcester Hatched Crescent
Whilst I'd heard of Worcester, no idea where is was - England’s West Midlands and in the 1750s home to the impressive Dr Wall. A doctor, founder of Worcester Royal Infirmary, champion of Malvern water and such a talented artist David Garrick jumped on chairs at Wall’s home to get a closer look at his paintings. In 1751 Dr Wall persuaded a group of 13 business men to pump prime the Worcester Porcelain Factory, a precursor of Royal Worcester and key player in the history of ceramics.

Dr Wall artist unknown (BBC) 
Porcelain had been produced in China since 200 and imported to Britain in large quantities from 16th century. It took until 1710 for Europeans to master the art of production in Meissan Germany. The race was on to develop  British porcelain. It’s said that Dr Wall and apothecary William Davis experimented at Davis shop and discovered a way to make soft paste porcelain, later bringing additional technical expertise by  purchased their rival Benjamin Lund’s Bristol porcelain business in 1752. Securing a supply of soapstone from Cornwall clinched their success. When added to the mix soapstone rendered the finished product heat resistant -  other porcelain cracked on contact with hot water. Business canny and continuing to aim for best in class in 1756 they secured the services of Robert Hancock arguably the most talented copper plate engraver of his time.
Their target was the middle market. Products were tea and table wares. In 1754 they accessed the London market via a warehouse in Aldergate Street and large quantities of Worcester products were decorated in London by James Giles. Initially designs were hand painted. It is claimed Worcester were the first to introduce transfer printing to porcelain and from the 1770s most of their designs were transfer printed. Decorated in blue and white with Chinese and Japanese themes and from the mid 1750s with flowers in the flowing German style popular at this time.  They also produced more expensive coloured enamelled sets. They became the largest producer of blue and white Porcelain, so many of the porcelain shards found on the foreshore must originate from this company. 
I wonder if the other porcelain shards I found nearby are Worcester? German flowing flower style?
Mudlarking Finds: Porcelain Shards - Worcester?

Pattern on reverse of one shard

For some time I've wanted to match designs on my mudlarking fragments to their original patterns and even better linking these to developments in design over the centuries. Apart from the willow pattern up until now I’ve had no success. This time to my delight I thought I’d found the remains of the parrot pecking fruit design, associated with the aforementioned Robert Hancock, this shard has the hatched crescent on its reverse. Sadly on a closer look it's not an exact match, which wiped the very pleased with myself expression off my face. 
Mudlarking Find: Worcester Porcelain not the Parrot Eating Fruit Pattern

Parrot Pecking Fruit Pattern Worcester Mug 1775 (Steppes Hill Farm) 

Ha, found it, the shard above (albeit upside down)  is from the 'fruit sprig' pattern, pic below - smug again. 

Worcester mug  with the “ Fruit Sprigs” pattern Circa 1770 (