The Association of Billingsley with the Swansea Works - The Closing of the Pottery and Dispersal of the Moulds - How to Identify Swansea Porcelain - Some Famous Painters of Swansea Waretheir Distinctive Styles - Identifying Marks Found on Swansea Porcelain
Readers of the last article on the subject of Old China (see page 2267) will remember that in the year 1815 Mr. Dillwyn invited William Beely (Billings-ley) and Samuel Walker to Swansea, there to try in new kilns to make the porcelain which they were producing with difficulty at Nantgarw.
The Dillwyn family, Timothy Bevington (who had succeeded Haynes as manager at the Cambrian Pottery), and John Bevington, his son, were the proprietors of the Swansea Works. After the departure of Billingsley, porcelain continued to be made till 1824, when the lease terminated and the factory passed into the sole ownership of Mr. Dillwyn, and many of the moulds which had been used for porcelain were afterwards employed for the earthenware which he continued to manufacture. Thus it will be seen that the making of porcelain in the two South Wales factories was but a short-lived industry.
The first Swansea body, like that of Nantgarw, was of such delicate quality that whole kilns were frequently spoilt in the firing. These were taken away in cartloads and buried in a field some little distance from the works, where some day, if they be unearthed, the collector may be brought face to face with a find equal in interest to those of Strat-ford-le-bow and Lowestoft.
Upon the termination of the lease all the porcelain remaining at the factory was removed to some pipe works on the River Tawv, where it was decorated and sold. Soon afterwards an enamelling kiln was set up at a brewery, and here the last remnants of real Swansea china were painted. Buyers came from far to purchase it, and local magnates sought keenly for it.
A Swansea two handled cup, beautifully painted with roses and other flowers, by William Billingsley
From Mr. Grahame Vivian's collection
Early in the year 1821 it was resolved at Swansea to present Queen Caroline with a china service, and the following announcement appeared in " The Cambrian," February 17, 1821 : "Swansea china being unrivalled, it is proposed to offer specimens to the Queen. Subscriptions are invited for the purpose, and to be lodged with Mr. Francis." There is no record of the presentation having been made. Queen Caroline died on August 7 of that year.
In " The Ceramics of
Swansea and Nantgarw,"
Mr. Turner mentions a
Swansea plate painted with a bust of Queen
Caroline, which may be an indication that the work was begun.
At many of the English china factories
" tokens " were in use in the early days.
These were used to pay the wages of the workmen. At Swansea we are told that as late as 1825 they were still in use. A specimen may be seen in the Royal Institution Museum, Swansea. It is of copper, and is stamped upon the one side " One penny token, Swansea, South Wales, 1813," and upon the reverse " Payable at the Cambrian Pottery, Swansea, L. Dillwyn, T. Bevington, and J. Bevington."
Plate in Swansea porcelain, painted with garden flowers, a fine example of
Fro?n Mr. Grahame Vivian's collection
The earliest body made at this factory was the veritable pate tendre, equal to that of Sevres. The second, if less beautiful, was harder and more durable; and a third, known as Bevington's, was introduced in 1818. This had little of the delicacy of the early porcelain, and was less translucent. The first body cannot be distinguished from that of Nantgarw. This will be readily understood, both being manufactured by Billingsley and Walker from the same recipe, and fashioned in the moulds brought by them from Nantgarw. Thus it happens that many pieces made at Swansea, and decorated by artists who worked there, bear the impressed Nantgarw mark.
To study the styles of the painters at these factories therefore will be the safest guide to identification; though, if looked through by transmitted light, the most usual Swansea body will be found to have a greenish tint admirably described as " duck egg."
A Swansea saucer, painted by William Billingsley, and characteristic of his inimitable work From Mr, Grahame Vivian's collection
Swansea plate, decorated by Henry Morris, who imitated the style of William
From Mr Alex. Duncan's collection
After the closing of the works, a large quantity of Staffordshire porcelain was imported into Swansea, where it was decorated by artists who had worked at the factory. From this it will be gathered that the collector may buy a specimen made and decorated at Swansea and marked " Nant-garw," or one that was manufactured in Staffordshire, painted at Swansea by true Swansea artists, and marked with the name or sign of that factory. Amongst the artists employed at Swansea, William Billingsley ranks first. We have, however, dealt with his painting in the article on Nantgarw porcelain (see page 2264). The illustrations show some beautiful specimens of his work. The two-handled cabinet cup and saucer clearly demonstrate his wonderful painting of the rose, whilst the plate with raised moulded rim is a specimen of rare beauty decorated with some of the garden flowers of the day, and considered by some to be the finest piece this artist ever painted. It formed part of a tea-service of forty-six pieces bought from a daughter of Mr. Dillwyn, to whom it had belonged, and is the only one which survived a disastrous fire in October, 1896.
William Weston Young also painted at Swansea, in the style adopted by him at the Cambrian Pottery, upon "opaque china." His work may always be recognised by his style, his flower subjects being treated as botanical specimens. Young was a man of many parts, his accomplishments including land surveying, painting, and the writing of poems. He is also said to have made important scientific discoveries and inventions.
William Pollard, flower painter, was born at Swansea, and, as a boy, was employed in a solicitor's office. His love of drawing was so great that, it is recorded, he covered his employer's parchments with sketches, and in his spare time took lessons from artists employed at the factory. He soon made his mark as a painter of flowers, and became famous for his rendering of the briar, or Burrow's rose, as it is called locally. This he idealised, and through it his name lives.
He painted also the myosotis, speed-well, wild strawberry, and some of the garden flowers of the day.
Pollard had one strange fault-that of giving the speedwell and wild strawberry the same foliage. After the Swansea factory closed, he opened a shop where he sold china - possibly Staffordshire - which he bought in the white and decorated. Thomas Baxter was born in London, in 1782, and received his training from his grandfather, who was a painter and gilder, and had a shop in Goldsmith Street. When only twenty years of age, Lord Nelson employed him to make some sketches at Merton, and, later on, he decorated a very beautiful service for the same patron.
Group of Swansea porcelain, illustrating the various shapes manufactured and the styles of painting of W. Pollard, Henry Morns
Thomas Baxter, and of an unknown artist From Mr. Alex. Duncan's collation
In 1814 Thomas Baxter was in Worcester, where for two years he conducted a school of art, and at the end of that time he joined Mr. Dillwyn at Swansea. He returned to Worcester in 1819, and died there in 1821.
He painted in two styles. The first consisted of figure subjects of a classical character. A cupid is frequently met with upon porcelain decorated by him, and a cup so ornamented may be seen in the group of china illustrated. A well-known design is his "Cupid Drowned in a Glass of Wine," another being "Hamlet Upbraiding His Mother."
His second style is one in which flowers naturally treated form a foreground of which the background is a well-painted landscape.
Still another flower painter was Henry Morris, who copied Pollard, but whose work is characterised by short, hard lines of shading. He also painted fruit, and this will sometimes be found to be stippled in. It is said that the late Lord Swansea so much admired the work of this artist that he offered £10 for a single plate painted and signed by Morris.
Beddow was a painter of landscapes and arms. The latter were pleasing and well executed, but the former are very indifferent.
Swansea porcelain was frequently decorated with birds; these were painted by an artist named Colclough. In writing of his work, Mr. Drane says : "He portrays impossible birds beautifully, so that one of his fellows said that he painted 'rale fedders'; but still, if fine feathers make fine birds, they do not necessarily make 'rale' birds." It is a fact that, anatomically, Colclough's birds are often far from being perfect, but for all this the painting is of high order.
Biscuit or unglazed porcelain of very fine quality was manufactured at Swansea. This was decorated with flowers and foliage delicately modelled in high relief.
The mark most frequently found is the word "Swansea" impressed; this may be accompanied by a trident. Sometimes the word was written in script characters in red, and the trident alone in red also may be found.
Marks found upon Swansea porcelain. The trident is often found in combination with the word " Swansea"
Yellow - How to Make Effective Use of a Chandelier