When discussing English pottery and porcelain, most would instantly think of Staffordshire as the home of English ceramics. Here the industry flourished, utilising the skills of French Huguenots. Perhaps some would think first of the 18th century porcelain factories such as Chelsea, Bow, Derby and Worcester, who were pioneers in our country. Few not deeply associated with collecting and the antiques trade would think of Yorkshire.
However, there was ceramic production in the county from the Middle Ages. The industry grew throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, the emerging middle classes supporting a thriving industry. The wares produced in Yorkshire, mostly pottery and earthenware, were incredibly varied, ranging from traditional pearlwares and creamwares from Leeds, Castleford and South Yorkshire to stunning and imaginative art pottery at Burmantofts.
Undoubtably the most famous of all the Yorkshire potters were the Brameld brothers at Swinton in Rotherham, South Yorkshire. Production of pottery began in 1745, but by 1826 the Bramelds were successful in making porcelain. They enjoyed patronage from the Earl Fitzwilliam, their landlord, and the Brameld pottery was renamed The Rockingham Works in honour of the Earl’s uncle the 2nd Marquis of Rockingham.
Earl Fitzwilliam’s aristocratic and Royal connections were a great boon for the Bramelds, from whom they earned many important and valuable commissions. Indeed, they were commissioned to produce a dessert service for William IV, a service so lavish in its design it took the factory’s top craftsmen seven years to complete. It was originally billed at £5,000 but cost the Bramelds much more to produce and sadly led to the financial ruin and demise of the factory. It is perhaps the Bramelds attention to art rather than business that made the wares that survive today such a beacon for many collectors and the reason that so many unmarked pieces from other factories are wrongly attributed to this great pottery.
The Antiques & Interiors Auction at Tennants on 28th May saw 30 lots of pottery and porcelain from the Robert and Betty Clark Collection come under the hammer. The collection was dominated by wares from the Yorkshire potters including Brameld, Rockingham, Leeds and Castleford. Highlights included a Hawley Pearlware Jug decorated in strong Pratt colours, made circa 1800-15 at Rawmarsh, Rotherham (sold for £350 plus buyer's premium). The top lot, selling for £1,300 (plus buyer's premium) was a Brameld plate commissioned by the Dundee and Hull Steamer Packet Company and printed with a depiction of their Forfarshire Steamer that was to meet a tragic end. On 5th September 1838, the Forfarshire left Hull bound for Dundee. At 4 o’clock the following day the ship ran aground off Bamburgh on the Northumbrian coast. All aboard perished, save for nine who were rescued by Grace Darling and her father, the local lighthouse keeper, in what became the most romantic and well known of sea rescues of the Victorian era. It is not known if the present plate was salvaged from the wreck, or if it was a spare from the factory.