A very interesting little tea-poy may be seen in the Hanley Museum, the original label to which states "This was given to Enoch Wood by William Fletcher in 1809. He informs me he remembers it being made by William Littler at Longton, near Stoke, about fifty-five years ago - say, in the year
1754" It has never been out of his possession during that time, and is highly valued."
This little tea-poy has several points of interest for the collector. To begin with, it is decorated in colours in Chinese style. This shows the influence which had been such an inspiration to Littler in his work. Then it is ornamented at the base with the raised leaf pattern so characteristic of Longton Hall, and it came from the important Enoch Wood collection, which was so far famed that the " King of China Maniacs," Augustus of Saxony, requested Mr. Wood to send him a selection of articles to be placed in the Royal collection at Dresden. A beautiful blue of lapis-lazuli tint was used by Littler. This particular shade was not used at any other factory. It may be recognised by the untidy way in which it was applied, for it would appear to have been put on with a sponge from its irregular and streaky appearance. It is found as a border to fluted cups and saucers, and also upon dishes and plates, as the sole colour applied upon moulded overlapping leaves, and it is generally much run. It was used to outline and vein "leaf basons," as panels, and as a background for vases. Sometimes a little size gilding appears upon it, but more frequently it is ornamented with fine raised white enamel upon pieces which may also be painted with birds, flowers, and foliage,
Figures were made at Longton Hall. They are generally of small size, and some are very graceful and well modelled. Under the base they are roughly finished, as if moulded with the fingers, and large cracks, caused in the baking, frequently occur.
A tea-poy, formerly in the possession of Enoch Wood, made by William Littler, about 1754 From the Hanley Museum
A delicate shade of green in association with an equally delicate pink was frequently used in the drapery of figures, and as veining and edges to leaf basins. Raised flowers were often heavily modelled, and were sometimes applied singly upon the lip of a vase, which had a handle at one side only.
From the advertisements of the period, we gather that a very varied assortment of porcelain was made at Longton Hall. This included tureens, covers, and dishes, large cups and covers, jars and beakers, " with beautiful spriggs of flowers," open-worked fruit-baskets, tea and coffee "equipages," sauce-boats with Chinese figures and with flowers, " leaf basons," and plates, melons, cauliflowers, " elegant epergnes," etc. One of the advertisements states that " the Longton Hall, porcelain is vastly improved, and is now allowed by all judges to be the best made in England." Then a bid is made for more general support. "The prices," it states, "are lower, and are now very reasonable."
Longton Hall porcelain is frequently unmarked. When a mark occurs, it takes the form of a double L for Littler and Longton. Sometimes three dots appear under the letters. These are supposed to signify that there were three owners or partners in the business.
In estimating the value of this porcelain, the lucky owner of any specimens must not forget that it is the work of a pioneer. There is no doubt that William Littler was the first potter to make porcelain in Staffordshire, and, as far as can be ascertained, he discovered the secret of its manufacture by his own unaided efforts. He would seem to have had no chemical training nor any special scientific knowledge that he could bring to bear upon the subject. His undaunted spirit and the tardy appreciation which his work received makes the
The finest known specimen of Longton Hall porcelain, a vase decorated with raised flowers and birds, painted in colours
It is difficult in these days to realise how great a sensation was caused by the manufacture of a mere teapot at the end of the eighteenth century - a sensation which can only be compared to that created to-day by-some record price.
In 1823 a series of letters written by "The Druid of London" appeared in the "Monthly Magazine." Amongst these was one entitled
"The Staffordshire Potteries." In this letter the writer says: "So recently as 1770 a handsome teapot manufactured in Staffordshire appears to have been looked upon as a thing to be wondered at." He goes on to quote a poem of that date by Sir Charles Hanbury Williams, entitled "Isabella." This poem, after giving a list of the morning occupations and visitors of Lady Isabella Montague, says of Mr. Bate-man, one of her admirers:
" To please the noble dame, the courtly squire Produc'd a teapot, made in Staffordshire. So Venus look'd, and with such longing eyes, When Paris first produc'd the golden prize. ' Such work as this,' she cries, ' can England do? It equals Dresden and excels St. Cloud; All modern china now shall hide its head, And e'en Chantilly must give o'er her trade.
For lace let Flanders bear away the bell; In finest linen let the Dutch excel; For prettiest stuffs let Ireland first be nam'd, And for best fancied silks let France be fam'd; Do thou, thrice happy England, still prepare Thy clay, and build thy fame on earthenware !'" With this glowing eulogy may fitly end this sketch of the first Staffordshire potter and his work.