Pickle dish, attributed to Limehouse, England. Soft-paste magnesian-phosphatic (Mg-P) porcelain. Ex Godden Collection (Bonhams, May 2011, Sale 19105, Lot 254). Excavations on the Limehouse site at 20 Fore Street have recognised two compositional variants amongst the wasters recovered, namely a Si-Al type and a Si-Al-Ca type. More recently, further work by Jay and Cashion has identified a compositional intermediary between these two end members.
In addition, anecdotal claims in the literature state that Limehouse also employed steatite/soapstone in some of its output, but till now no documentary evidence in the form of published analyses, method of analysis, the name of the analyst, or precision levels has appeared in the literature. Such a state of affairs is more in keeping with the hobby science period in English ceramic studies, which developed subsequently to the pioneering work by Eccles and Rackham in the early 1920's. Our joint research (2013) on the Limehouse manufactory is the first to document the presence of a magnesian-phosphorus (Mg-P) body with accompanying illustrations.
Discriminatory features, both chemical and physical, to distinguish between all three major bodies have been published in our 2013 Limehouse monograph where we tentatively attribute such Mg-P porcelains to Limehouse. However, to date 47 waster analyses from 20 Fore Street have failed to identify either a magnesian or a magnesian-phosphatic body.
Likewise on-site excavations have failed to unearth raw materials supporting the use of either soaprock or bone ash. We have suggested that possibly, if of Limehouse origin, such magnesian porcelains may not have been manufactured at 20 Fore Street but rather on another site shared with Rayner and Stanton on the north side of Fore Street. Alternatively the possibility arises that these magnesian wares are not Limehouse and if so, two other considerations arise. Firstly these wares as documented by us in our Limehouse monograph derive from earlier Bow or secondly from later Lund's Bristol. The former suggestion of a Bow derivation takes on added significance now that we have demonstrated that Bow was producing both Mg-P-Pb and Mg-Pb porcelains as found in the George II busts and associated wall brackets by 1745 (Daniels, Ramsay, and Ramsay, 2013).
On the other hand our research into Lund's Bristol (2011) has likewise shown the presence of both Mg-P-Pb and Mg-Pb bodies. The possibility that Limehouse did not employ soaprock in its porcelains takes on added weight in view of the perceived problems experienced by that concern by mid 1747 coupled with our claim based on correspondence by William Borlase (FRS) that by that date the Kynance Cove deposits on the Lizard, Cornwall had become depleted and no longer economically viable.
Although the jury is still out in regard to a Limehouse attribution for this group of Mg-P wares, unqualified claims in the literature that such wares are Limehouse underscores the fallacies associated with notions as to the primacy of the artistic pursuit divorced from both archaeological and compositional evidence. In addition, perceptions that Limehouse was highly innovative in regard to the use of moulding, the replication of silver shapes, the use of soapstone, and the first to use underglaze blue decoration have possibly held up our understanding of the development early English porcelains for the last 20 years. One glance at the brilliant moulding of the George II busts and wall brackets, dated by us to 1745-46 demonstrates the significance of Bow at a very early date.
Continually we see in the literature the deleterious influence of the millstone syndrome that real Bow did not commence to make real porcelains for real people till c. 1747 and hence the unsubstantiated and in our opinion fallacious assumption that the commercial Bow output including the use of bone ash and soapstone, the use of moulding, and the employment of underglaze blue decoration was preceded by Limehouse.
The porcelain web site of W. R. H. and E. G. Ramsay (February, 2014)