The Rockingham Pottery Works took their name from Charles, Marquis of Rockingham, upon whose estate at Swinton, near Rotherham, in Yorkshire, they were situated. At first only bricks were manufactured, but about 1765 ornamental ware began to be made.
This was of a somewhat rough description, but it was soon improved upon, and, in time, Rockingham ware became famous both for its quality and for its fine glaze, which has never been equalled in this country.
The colour of this glaze was a rich madder-brown. Upon early pieces it is not flat, but shows delicate pulsating gradations of tint, deepening towards the lower part of the vessel. The cream-coloured ware covered by this glaze was light of weight and of good quality. Marks are seldom found upon it.
Later on-from 1788 till about 1806-brown glazed teapots called "Cadogan teapots," and frequently marked Brameld, became famous. They were heavier in substance than the early glazed ware, and were supposed to possess the very valuable quality of extracting the full flavour of the tea. These teapots were of quaint shape, and were filled from an opening underneath.
White earthenware with decoration in blue under-glaze was used for dinner and tea services. It was of excellent quality, and a fine cream ware resembling that manufactured at the Leeds works was also made.
The cream ware was sometimes decorated with sprays of botanical specimens, the names of which were written in red script on the back. These were the work of a painter named Collinson, and the name "Brameld" impressed may frequently be found upon them. Very large earthenware vases were also manufactured. These were generally moulded in the form of the leaves of a water-side plant. The design was striking and the colouring, in three distinct shades of green, was very clever and effective.
In 1820 Thomas Brameld and his brothers, who were tenants of the Rockingham Works, began to make porcelain. In 1826 the firm found itself in financial difficulties, and sought the assistance of Earl Fitzwilliam, who had, on the death of his uncle, the Marquis of Rockingham, succeeded to the estates. Rockingham porcelain is technically the finest ever made in this country. Body, potting, glazing, gilding, and painting are in their way perfect, and it is only the extreme ornate taste of the day which found expression upon this china that is at fault.
No expense was spared by Thomas Brameld and his family. The body was composed, we are told, of "Cornish stone and China clay from St. Austell, in Cornwall; calcined bones and flints from Ramsgate, Sandwich, Shoreham, and other parts of the coast of Kent and Sussex. Clay was obtained from Wareham and other parts of the coast of Dorset." The most skilful artists and modellers were engaged, and gold was used with a lavish hand. No wonder the makers found themselves face to face with pecuniary embarrassment. Earl Fitzwilliam assisted them till 1842, when it was found necessary to close the factory.
The Rockingham body bears a close resemblance to that of French porcelain. It is milk white and glassy, and might be said to look like iced blancmange. The glaze will not be found to have accumulated at the base, but covers the piece with an even thickness.
Tea and coffee and dinner and dessert services were largely made. Many of these were very costly, and in these days are much sought after and are highly prized. Teacups were generally painted with flowers or views upon the inside, the outside being ornamented by line and scroll designs in gold. Edges of cups, bowls, saucers,- plates, and dishes were frequently moulded in low relief, and this was afterwards gilded.
Several ground colours are distinctive of the Rockingham factory. These were used upon services and vases. The best known is a rich green. A pale pink in
Rockingham candlestick, painted in coloured flowers on a claret ground and ornamented with gilding imitation of the Rose du Barri of Sevres, a deeper shade of the same, and claret, were also used. These colours may all be found in association with buff, which is'introduced into a large proportion of the borders and other ornamental designs used at this factory.
Two distinct shades of blue were employed as ground colours, the first a deep Gros bleu similar to that of Worcester, the second a bright, inartistic Royal blue. This may be found with panels of painted flowers or landscapes upon vases, services, and writing-table sets which included pen-trays and candlesticks. Rockingham porcelain with this particular ground colour is very difficult to arrange artistically with other china, but it has a distinctly pleasing effect if used alone upon an ivory background, or in a room which has a paper of pale ivory tint, and in which it forms the principal note of colour.
Figures made at this factory were frequently uncoloured except for the face, the dress of these was of the late Georgian period, plinths were square or oval in shape, and the name of the figure may be found written in gold script round the plinth. These figures are remarkable for the fineness of the body and the smooth satin-like texture of the glaze. Unglazed white biscuit figures like those of Derby may sometimes be met with, and covered baskets made of delicate porcelain straws adorned with raised flowers were made here, and are triumphs of the potter's art.
Miniature Rockingham cottages are much sought after. These would seem to have been made as nightlight-holders, the cottage