Author of "How to Identify Old China" and "How to Identify Old Chinese Porcelain"
The Founder of the Spode Factory - A Salary Dependent upon Merit - The Copelands and their Alliance with Spode - A Confusing Resemblance - How to Distinguish Spode Willow Pattern Ware-parian Ware - Spode Often Sold as Swansea China - Marks Found on Spode China
Josiah Spode, founder of the famous factory which bore his name, was born in 1733. As a boy, he was apprenticed to Thomas Whieldon, at a time when this man and Josiah Wedgwood were in partnership. (See Every Woman's
Encyclopaedia, page 2505, Vol. 4.)
One amusing detail of this apprenticeship has been handed down to us. It is recorded that Spode received two shillings and threepence as a weekly wage, and " two shillings and sixpence if he deserves it."
There is no doubt that during his apprenticeship he received an education in the art of the potter as only such men as Wedgwood and Whieldon could give, and he was nearly forty years of age before he started in business on his own account.
In 1770, at Stoke-upon-trent, he began to make pottery at a factory which he had established in that town. His son Josiah joined him in 1779, and in the same year they took into partnership William Copeland. Porcelain was not manufactured by the firm until about 1800.
Fruit dish of Spode porcelain, painted in colours and decorated with gilding. In the middle of the dish is the badge of the 91st (Argyllshire) Regiment, surrounded by ribbons bearing the names of battles
Front the South Kensington Museum
The elder Spode died in 1797, and his son in 1827, the business being carried on by Copeland, who had hitherto acted as London agent of the firm, at a warehouse in Fore Street, Cripplegate. His son, who afterwards became Lord Mayor of London,
Spode's pottery was of very fine quality, light in weight, and with a glaze as brilliant and soft as satin. Needless to . say, many of the early pieces made at this factory were copies of Wedgwood's wares. Thus we may meet with cream ware, decorated with transfer printing which bears his name - for the elder Spode always marked his wares - and which might be mistaken for Wedgwood's "Queen's Ware."
In the same way also the " Black Basaltes " and " Jas-par " of Etruria were reproduced. The latter may be met with in many colours, with raised decorations in white, bearing the Spode mark. Such pieces are very desirable, and are much sought after by collectors.
Thomas Minton, who invented the Willow pattern for Thomas Turner of Caughley, also designed a variation of the pattern for Josiah Spode, and it was he who first introduced the design to the Staffordshire potteries.
In this version the pagoda is on the left, and upon the bridge will be seen two men. On the bank, to the right, are a peach-tree and an apple-tree. Close to the temple and pagoda is a wall with trees behind and between it and the temple. The fence is shorter than in the original design, and has a ' Swastika " fret. The border is composed of butterflies, treated both naturally and conventionally.
The ware upon which the design is found is fine and light, the pattern being a transfer in a pale lilac shade of blue.
It is interesting to note that the " Swastika " is a mystic symbol found among the relics of almost all civilisations. It is supposed to represent the magic Continent of Atlantis.
Porcelain vase and cover in the shape of an antique lamp, a fine example of Spode manufacture
A milk jug in porcelain, moulded in low relief, partly painted in colours and gilded. The classical subject is frankly imitated from
Wedgwood From the South Kensington Museum
Thus the land was pictured as a wheel with four spokes at right angles, which subsequently took the form of the well-known sign, the Swastika.
As the Willow was no doubt a variation of a Chinese design, so the Swastika, a very favourite motif in Chinese art, was adopted by the English potter in the decoration of his wares. A favourite pattern used by the two Spodes for dinner services was a floral one, transfer printed in pale blue, with a bouquet composed of the rose, shamrock, and thistle in the centre of plates and dishes, and applied to a fine light ware with a beautiful soft glaze.
As we know, this statement is incorrect, bone ash having been used at Chelsea, Bow, and other factories many years previously.
The truth is that Spode first introduced the use of china-clay and china-stone from Cornwall, with a proportion of bone ash. This was the body which was generally adopted by potters during the early years of the nineteenth century. It proved more durable than the old soft paste, and could be fired without the risks attending that body.
Later on, Spode made a " felspar porcelain," generally so marked, in which he used pure felspar instead of china-stone. He also manufactured an " opaque china," which became so popular upon the Continent, and had such an enormous sale that it is said to have almost ruined the French trade in faience.
During its latter days the firm invented a kind of " biscuit," or un-glazed white porcelain, known as Parian ware. This also became very popular, and suited the somewhat inartistic taste of the time ; but in these days Parian figures, vases, and other ornamental pieces are not sought after. They do not compare at all favourably with the biscuit porcelain of Bristol and Derby, which is something altogether finer in texture, and more delicate and dainty in modelling.
Much of the Spode porcelain bears a strong resemblance in the form of its decoration to that of Swansea and Nantgarw. We find tea, dinner, and dessert services ornamented with raised white designs, between and over which flowers, foliage, butterflies, and other insects are painted.
Such services are often sold as Swansea, particularly if they are painted with roses, which are described as being the handiwork of William Billingsley, but are not recognised as such by those competent to judge. If the body of these services be examined before a strong light, the difference will be easily detected. Spode porcelain is fine, thin, and very translucent, but it is a cold grey colour when looked through, and lacks the duck's egg green tinge of the Swansea ware.
Some of the marks found on Spode pottery and porcelain. The
Swastika fret was a very favourite motif in Chinese art and adopted therefrom by English potters
A shallow dish of Spode ware, with view in pale blue transfer. This piece is marked "Spode" in blue
Every kind and form of decoration was used by Spode. He copied the Japan patterns of Derby, but was careful to mark these with his name. He also used patterns copied from old Japanese Imari ware. Here the colours consisted of dark blue, red, and gold, but he introduced also a very delicate lilac shade. This colour was also used with good effect as a border
In the South Kensington Museum may be seen an interesting collection of the finer wares made by this firm, and bequeathed to the Museum by a niece of the second Josiah
Some of these specimens are very decorative, and are noted for their excellency of body, solid gilding, and beautiful painting. Most of the dinner services made by the Spodes are of stone ware, which was considered more durable for the purpose than the porcelain which it greatly resembles. These services were frequently marked at the bottom of plates and dishes with the name of the pattern with or without the name of the firm.
This practice is apt to mystify the owner, for whose benefit we append the following list of the names of some of the patterns used, and the date at which they were invented.
"Castle," 1806; "Roman," 1811; "Turk 1813 ; " Milkmaid," " Dagger Border," "Tower," "Peacock," "New Temple," 1814; " New Nankin," " New Japan." " India." 1815 ; " Italian," " Woodman," 1816 ; "Blossom" and "Pale Brosley," 1817 " Waterloo " and " Arcade," 1818; " Lucano " and " Ship," 1819 ; panel Japan,"
" Geranium," and " Oriental." 1820; " Font" and " Marble," 1821 ; " Bud and Flower," "Sun," " Bowpot," " Union," 1822 ; " Double Bowpot," " Blue Border," and " Filigree." 1823 ; " Image," " Persian," 1824 ; " Etruscan," " Bamboo," 1825 ; " Blue Imperial," " Union Wreath," 1826.