By Mrs. Willoughby Hodgson
Amongst the many admirers and collectors of Swansea porcelain, comparatively few seem to know anything of the early history of these works, of the pottery which was made there, and the interest attaching to them years before porcelain began to be manufactured.
Birch speaks of "monuments in clay," and "the light thrown" by these "on the history of mankind." Certainly we may gather a goodly measure of such light when studying the history of the old Swansea pottery manufactory. This was built in the year 1764 upon the site of ancient copper works, said to have been in existence several centuries-a lease being granted for the erection of the "Cambrian Pottery Works at Swansea." About twenty years later, in 1783, the factory was for sale. The text of the announcement of this fact is given by Professor Jewitt, and ends thus: " The present proprietor accidentally became possessed of the works, and is settled in a very different way of business at a hundred miles distance, which is the reason of the premises being disposed of."
In 1790 the works were acquired by George Haynes, who called them the " Cambrian Potteries."
It is interesting to note that at the beginning of the nineteenth century Swansea was looked upon as a spa, or health resort, and it is said that the pottery works became "a favourite lounge for genteel visitors."
Mr. Haynes erected a bath-house at the factory, and on one occasion, when visiting the factory in 1802, Lord Nelson took a bath here, the room afterwards being known as as "Nelson's Room." Lord Nelson also gave an order for a service, and a letter acknowledging the receipt of the same is quoted by Mr. William Turner in his delightful book, " The Ceramics of Swansea and Nantgarw." In the letter his lordship expresses a wish that the fact that he used such a service might become known, and "may be of service to your infant manufactory."
Mrs. Thrale, the friend of the great lexicographer, writing from Bath on October 15th, 1808, to Sir James Fellowes, says: "When you feel your own purse too heavy, take it to Mortlock's in Oxford Street, and carry Lady Fellowes a beautiful specimen of South Wales china, and tell him (Mort-lock) that I am painting my ice-pails and large dishes to use this day se' night." This is an amusing little sidelight, which shows that the work of the Swansea factory was sufficiently important to warrant the
Some interesting specimens of Swansea "opaque china," painted by William Weston Young. "Opaque china" has the appearance of porcelain, but is not translucent, is less cold to the touch, and rings but faintly when tapped from Mr. Alex. Duncan's Collection employment of a London agent, and, secondly, we find Mrs. Thrale writing of Swansea ware as "china" years before porcelain began to be made there.
In the "Cambria Daily Leader" of April 8th, 1893, there appeared an account of the demolition of an old flint mill, at that time little more than a ruin. The writer says: "This is the last fragment of the old Swansea pottery." It had originally been a corn mill, but was used after these works were established to grind the flints used in the ware. The writer also mentions many interesting items concerning people associated with the mill. Amongst these was a gentleman who had risen to being the proprietor of the Cambrian Dry Docks, and who was fond of reminding the youth of Swansea that he had as a boy worked at the mill for is. 6d. a week.
Early Swansea earthenware closely resembles that made in Staffordshire, such as salt glaze ware (of which an account will be given in a later article) and cream ware. Tea-services, jugs, and figures seem to have been the principal manufacture. It was about the year 1790, when under the management of Mr. George Haynes, that a fine white ware, called " opaque china," was first made. This was the ware used for the Nelson service.
"Opaque china" has, to the casual observer, every appearance of porcelain, but when tested will be found to be opaque (as its name suggests), not translucent, to be less cold to the touch than porcelain, and to give out very little ring when tapped. It is covered by a bluish glaze, and the words "opaque china" may sometimes be found impressed at the bottom. '1 his ware was considerably improved in later years by Mr. L. W. Dillwyn, and was made till about 1840.
In 1802 Mr. Dillwyn first employed as draughtsman Mr. William Weston Young-who had illustrated his works on natural history-to decorate the " opaque china." This he did in a style all his own, with flowers, shells, butterflies, insects, and birds. The flowers are treated with severe botanical precision, and the Latin name is sometimes added. Butterflies and other insects, beautifully and carefully painted, are frequently used as the sole decoration, with no background. Birds are generally surrounded by a small landscape or some greenery, and shells were used in reserve panels surrounded by a marbling of blue with gold lustre.
In the South Kensington Museum are two covered sugar-basins with butterflies as sole decoration. These have gilt edges. The covers are surmounted by upstanding gilt rings, and ring handles are moulded at either side, designed rather as ornament than for use. The names of the butterflies are written inside the basin.
In the British Museum is a bough-pot of "opaque china" exquisitely painted by William Weston Young, with birds upon branches, grapes, and foliage, butterflies, and caterpillars, which is in every way a masterpiece. A broad key pattern sometimes forms the sole decoration upon this ware. Shapes were generally plain, but some of the best services were fluted.
Jugs and toilet-services made of a fine white earthenware resembling stoneware were decorated in red, blue and gold in imitation of Japanese Imari. The blue is frequently run, and the glaze has a decidedly blue tinge. Sometimes a deep cobalt blue only was used, and in this case the whole piece may be found to be blued from the spreading of the colour.
Transfer printing was used at Swansea from the end of the eighteenth century. It was applied on a fine light cream ware, the
Swansea transfer printed cream ware. Amongst other designs, a rendering of the "Willow Pattern" was often used, distinguished by the absence of the usual willow-tree, fence and birds
From Mr. Alex. Duncan"s Collection
Some beautiful examples of Swansea Etruscan and other vases. The vase with flowers was painted by Thomas Pardoe. Its background is dark blue, mottled with gold. This Etruscan ware, which is highly prized, was marked " Dillwyn's Etruscan Ware," and, doubtless, imitated from the ancient work copied by Wed3wood colours b:ing black, purple, brown, pink, and green. The designs used were ships and seascapes, landscapes, figures, and views. Some well-known patterns were the " tower," "castle," "Cuba," and "grape."
A willow pattern in blue and other colours was much used. The particular rendering of the design may be recognised by the absence of the willow-tree, fence, and birds. Two people stand upon the bridge which crosses a stream from one pagoda to another, and in a boat nearing the island two more standing figures appear.
Perhaps the most sought-after and valuable ware made at this factory is that known as "Dillwyn's Etruscan ware." This was first made by Mr. L. W. Dillwyn, and was, no doubt, an imitation of those ancient wares so well copied by Josiah Wedgwood. It is recorded that Mrs. Dillwyn also worked at perfecting this ware. She copied and adapted old shapes and designs, and a room at the works was known as " Mrs. Dillwyn's room."
The ware was made from a red clay found upon the Dillwyn estate at Peullergare, and was generally treated with black ornamentation or with red designs upon black. The shapes and ornamentation were of Grecian origin, the key pattern and other borders being used with classical figures.
Black basalts in imitation of Wedgwood's ware and of old Egyptian pieces in the British Museum were also made at Swansea,
Statuettes, very similar to those made in Staffordshire were also manufactured. A ware resembling Wedgwood's jaspar ware was also made.
Lustre was used at Swansea in gold, silver, and pink, and it is frequently applied in the form of mottling.
The marks used upon Swansea pottery are the word "Swansea," to which the letter "C" may be added; this is sometimes impressed, at others it is painted or gilt. The words " Cambrian Pottery" in colours, gilt, or impressed, also occur, and during the ownership of George Haynes the letters "G. H. & Co." were frequently used. The words " Opaque China," "Dillwyn & Co.," and "Dillwyn's Etruscan Ware" were also used.
Marks found on Swansea pottery. During the ownership of George Haynes, the letters G. H 6- Co. were sometimes used