The New Hall Company was an interesting project from its inception as, unlike many of the other porcelain manufacturing concerns of the 18th century which came about through varying degrees of trial, error, favour and fortune, it was a deliberately conceived business plan set up with a specific aim from the outset.
The development of hard-paste porcelain in the South West of England under the direction of William Cookworthy and one of Bristol's many Quaker merchants, Richard Champion, had carried on with considerable success for a decade or so before the business engaged in its production began to suffer under export restrictions imposed during the course of the American War of Independence. Champion attempted without success to circumvent these measures, before resolving to sell the patents for the production of his by now well regarded hard-paste material, and he managed to dispose of them to a consortium of Staffordshire potters who had come together purposefully with a view to obtaining control of these same licenses and to then carry on production under their own remit.
And so it was that the syndicate of Messrs Hollins, Keeling, Warburton, Turner, Clowes and Bagnall was formalised, took control of Champion's business, and – in 1781 – started production in an existing pot-works belonging to Keeling in Tunstall, Staffordshire. However, this arrangement proved to be short-lived and disagreements between the partners resulted in the prompt departure of Turner and Keeling, with the remaining gentlemen having to relocate their business to Shelton Hall, another existing pot-works belong to one Thomas Palmer.
Shelton Hall was near the centre of Hanley in the heart of the growing conurbation now known as Stoke on Trent, and it was a common name with at least two other properties sharing it in the immediate vicinity; to avoid confusion, it duly became known as Shelton New Hall, and in short order just New Hall. The nascent business performed very favourably, to the extent whereby the partners were able to purchase the (formerly rented) works from the Palmer family and buy a considerable amount of additional adjoining land, to a point that by the turn of the 18th century the business consisted of three separate manufactories and numerous houses over an area of some 120 acres.
Strictly speaking, New Hall did not produce classic hard paste porcelain exactly as per Champion's blueprint; ever mindful of costs in a competitive marketplace, the Staffordshire confederates devised a new two-stage firing process which finished pieces at lower temperatures than the originally prescribed procedure, resulting in a product with its own unique properties which has become known as hybrid hard-paste as it was a basically a fusion of two separate manufacturing techniques.
The out-turn of the New Hall manufactory – in a milky white, translucent porcelain with a signature grey cast – tended to be made up of pieces intended for practical domestic use; jugs, bowls, dinner services, dessert wares and a great many tea sets were the order of the day – with few decorative pieces and virtually no figurines at all. The intention was to make these formerly rather luxurious items available to a broader swathe of the community than had previously been the case. Any figurines which do reach market and are listed as being of New Hall provenance are far more likely to have actually been made by the separate company belonging to John Turner – one of the founding fathers - at its own Lane End works whilst under the direction of his sons, William and (another) John.
A further significant part of the income of the business was provided by the sale of its leaded glaze to other potteries; this material sold at an inflated and highly profitable price, as it was of the highest quality and gave a uniformly thin, clear and almost iridescent finish when properly applied.
Eventually, after three decades or so of taking full advantage of Cookworthy and Champion's initial hard paste endeavours, and its own successful research and development, the New Hall works began to inexorably follow public demand and drift towards bone china production – popularised by Spode - and it was this sphere of endeavour that sustained it until closure in 1835.
Decoratively, New Hall did not really set any new trends, with the resident artists happy to utilise simple floral sprays, figured borders and the ubiquitous Oriental style blue print designs. Gilding was to become more prevalent towards the end of the 18th century, often incorporated in to intricate and expensive patterns, but it was the quality of the porcelain itself which ensured that New Hall would remain popular and become increasingly collectible long after production had come to a close.
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