Exquisitely crafted antique pottery pieces from the Far East began to find their way across Europe and in to Great Britain as a consequence of increased communication with - and exploration of - the countries in which it had been produced. As a result the name China was to quickly become synonymous with the finer grades of material, and it persists to this day as a generic term for antique ceramic ware.
Naturally, as manufacturing industries in Britain and Western Europe evolved and improved production processes became available from the late 17th century onwards, the logical progression was to look to produce home-grown versions of these once-imported and therefore expensive wares. With the impetus of the industrial revolution behind them, British manufacturers refined more broadly-used techniques and began to develop their own unique styles and decorative proficiencies, peculiar to specific locations and factories as they sought to replicate the sought-after pottery from overseas.
As a result, rather than the mass production of English porcelain as a largely homogenous and indistinct range of products, the roll-call of individual manufacturers with which we are still familiar quickly became part of the 18th century British industrial fabric – Worcester, Royal Crown Derby, numerous Staffordshire potteries, Spode, Chelsea, Rockingham and Coalport to name but a few.
They would all go on to develop their own areas of expertise and specialisation, looking to carve a niche in the market place in which they could excel, which means that the modern collector has the option to pursue as narrow or wide-ranging a selection of antique china products as they choose – from something as non-specific as blue and white underglazed dining plates, to – exclusively – Staffordshire salt-glazed stoneware teapots or Alcock’s Cobridge flare-topped spill vases.
Although pattern books and decorator’s templates mean that there was perhaps less scope for individual expression with the manufacture of what were essentially factory-made products than one might find with contemporary glassware, the creation of entire sets and collections of antique porcelain to common designs mean that the acquisitive completist will find ample scope to indulge their fancy with English porcelain – we hope that we may be able to provide you with that particularly elusive item for which you have been searching…