The exact date at which porcelain was first made at Derby is not known, but information culled from a work-book of William Duesbury, and quoted by Mr. Bemrose in
A Chelsea-derby plate with laurel green decoration which was copied at Bristol
From the Fry Collection his beautiful book, "Bow, Chelsea, and Derby Porcelain," sheds some light on the subject, and gives us a most interesting insight into the doings of Duesbury before he settled at Derby.
A Potter's Diary
In the year 1742, when only 17 years of age, he had already left his native Staffordshire and was working in London as an enameller. From 1751 to 1753 he was employed in London, decorating china " figars," as he called them. These he refers to in his work-book, or diary, as "Bow or Bogh," "Chelsea," "Darby "and "Staffordshire." From this we gather that pottery works of some kind were in existence at that time in Derby.
Some of the descriptions of figures noted in the book are very amusing, as, for instance, " How to color the group, a Gentleman Busing a Lady, gentlm a gold trimd cote, a pink wastcot crimson and trimd with gold and black breeches and socs, the lade a flourd sack with yellow robings, a black stomegar her hare black, his wig powded." Or, again, a "Chellsea Nurs," "a pair of Baccosses," a "harty choake."
In 1765 porcelain works were established at Derby. The draft of an agreement is in existence which shows that a partnership was proposed between William Duesbury, John Heath, banker and proprietor of the Cockpit Hill pottery works, and Andrew Planche, a " china maker." We hear no more of Planche, who would seem to have been a French refugee, but Duesbury and Heath were partners for some years. The factory was situated on the Nottingham Road, beyond St. Mary's Bridge.
We gather most of our information as to the articles at first manufactured here from old advertisements of sales in London. Such an advertisement appeared in December. 1756, which stated that by order of the "Derby Porcelain Manufactory, a curious collection of figures, jars, sauce-boats and services, etc., after the finest Dresden models," would be sold at "Oliver Cromwell's Drawing-room, near the Admiralty."
These sales must have been highly successful, as in 1758 the works were enlarged and
Chelsea-Derby teapot, cup and saucer, decorated in laurel green. It was during this period that the best porcelain was made From the Fry Collection
Beautifully painted teacup and saucer, with basket border. Examples of Derby porcelain of the best period
From the South Kensington Museum the number of workmen doubled. In spite of this prosperity, however, it is a singular fact that hardly any specimen of Derby porcelain made before the year 1770 is known, nor can any Derby mark be assigned to an earlier period.
William Duesbury died in 1786, and his son of the same name carried on the business till his death, in 1797. This second William Duesbury had taken into partnership, in 1795, Michael Kean,the celebrated miniature painter. A third William Duesbury came into possession on the death of his father, and managed the works till 1811, when the factory was leased to Robert Bloor. The works were sold in 1848.
In 1770, Duesbury purchased the Chelsea works and the two factories were carried on simultaneously till 1784, when the stock and plant were removed to Derby. Duesbury also bought the Bow and Longton Hall works, and the introduction of moulds, patterns, and workmen from these factories naturally left their mark upon the products of that period.
Derby porcelain is soft paste, and is straw-coloured when looked through in a strong light. The first body contained glassy grit and clay; then "soapy rock" was added, and in 1770 bone ash was introduced from Chelsea. This was the Chelsea-derby period, when the best porcelain was made. During the Bloor period the paste became harder, more opaque, and lost much of its fine quality.
From the first, beautiful figures and groups were made at Derby. Many of these were the work of Spengler, a modeller who came from Zurich and worked for the second Duesbury. This man seems to have been influenced by the sentimental and would-be classical taste of the day. Thus, some
Pair of Chelsea-derby plates painted in colours and gilt From the South Kensington Museum of his shepherds and shepherdesses have heads copied from Roman reliefs, and bear expressions of countenance quite unsuitable to their calling. The modelling, however, is very fine. Among other beautiful figures by Spengler are those two well-known subjects "The Dead Bird" and "The Gardener." These and several others are in white unglazed biscuit porcelain. They