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Bow Porcelain

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Bow Porcelain Research Topics 16-20

16) PAT DANIELS, ROSS RAMSAY, & GAEL RAMSAY, 2013. The George II busts and historic wall brackets: The motivation, symbolism and technology by which the models can be dated to 1745-6 and attributed to the first Bow factory in Middlesex

92 pages. 77 black & white illustrations & 4 colour & 6 charts. Soft covers. Limited edition of 150 copies. £ 20.00.

This contribution to English porcelains follows on from a number of previous publications which can be traced back to our initial work recognising that 'A'-marked porcelains were made at Bow commencing by around 1743. This monograph researches the social and political setting of the day, the iconography of both bust and bracket, the chronological succession in the manufacture of these busts and brackets, the reasons for their production, and their chemical composition. Two broad groups are recognised, namely a pre-Culloden group and a post-Culloden group and this two-fold grouping is further subdivided chronologically. A total of 19 busts is recognised but if the Willett bust is not the Edkins bust and if the Fox bust and bracket are not the Darragh/Newton bust and bracket the number rises to 21. The authors conclude that a significant re-evaluation of the early development of the English porcelain industry is now more than timely.

17) PAT and PRISCILLA DANIELS AND DR ROSS RAMSAY, 2015. New research into the Potteries of West Cumberland following the discovery of a Whitehaven creamware ship bowl inscribed Success to the Mary and Betty/Capt Joseph Benn

25 pages, 1 black and white illustration & 2 colour illustrations including the cover. Soft cover, limited edition.

Copies of this publication may be obtained at:-

 Resurgat Publishers <resurgat@outlook.com> Phone + 44 (0)1367 243163 for the cost of £ 7.00 UK and £ 10 overseas including both postage and packing. Payment can be by cheque, paypal, or bank transfer. If necessary please ring to confirm which method.

It might appear that the Whitehaven region has been a major potting site dating back to the 1600's and associated with some of England's more illustrious potting families including Aaron Wedgwood I, II, II; Tunstalls, Gouldings, and Shaws; yet a casual glance at the ceramic literature might suggest that this area has been all but airbrushed out of existence. As we conclude in our publication;

It seems incredulous that the extensive Cumbrian potting industry is so consistently ignored and that an outstanding potter such as Aaron Wedgwood III is given no attention in ceramic history. Considering Aaron Wedgwood senior was actually born in Burslem of the same family as the renowned Staffordshire potters you would think he might have gained some reflected glory instead of being reduced to a mere "Staffordshire expert"! Hopefully, by further investigations into this region's potteries, we can endeavour to correct these injustices.

What does emerge is that if a pottery item is impressed with Wedgwood this does not necessarily mean that it has anything to do with Staffordshire.
18) W. R. H. RAMSAY, PAT DANIELS, AND E. G. RAMSAY, 2015. Limehouse Porcelain: Are 'Limehouse' porcelains in fact all Limehouse? Evidence from archaeology, science, and historical documents.

16 pages, 2 black and white and 1 colour illustrations including soft cover. Limited edition.

Geochemical studies of a total of 47 wasters and sherds from the Limehouse porcelain site have recognised three refractory ceramic bodies, a siliceous-aluminous (Si-Al) body, a siliceous-aluminous-calcic (Si-Al-Ca) body, and a transitional type between these two end-members. A lead-bearing member of the Si-Al-Ca type is also identified. Analyses of porcelains held in private collections have identified a soft-paste magnesian-phosphatic (Mg-P) body, which for over 20 years has also been attributed to Limehouse, based on decorative idioms. Predicated on archaeology, science, and historical documents it is proposed that these porcelains with a soft-paste body are not Limehouse in origin and an attribution to other mid-18th C manufactories is discussed.

19) W. R. H. RAMSAY, AND E. G. RAMSAY, 2015. The evolution and compositional development of English porcelains from the 16thC to Lund's Bristol c. 1750 and Worcester c. 1752 - the Golden Chain

Abstract of Lecture given to the English Ceramic Circle, Kensington Town Hall and Library, London, November 21st 2015.

The compositional evolution of the English porcelain tradition is traced and elucidated from the production of refractory ceramic crucibles from Stamford and the Blackwater Valley in Elizabethan times.

Recipe types recognised and demonstrated to relate to early English porcelains include the silica-aluminium body (Si-Al), the silica-aluminium-calcium body (Si-Al-Ca), the magnesium (Mg), the magnesium-phosphorus body (Mg-P), and a range of phosphatic types. Both the Si-Al and the Si-Al-Ca bodies coupled with the associated aluminous-lime-alkali glaze were produced in London some 35 years before Meissen. 

Bow is deduced to have been the conduit for these various ceramic recipes, which can be traced to subsequent derivative manufactories, yet still today Bow is the most misunderstood of all early English concerns being subjugated by the millstone syndrome and consequently has been regarded as producing little of significance prior to c. 1747. In fact, by the 1740's London was the world centre for porcelain experimentation and development.

These indigenous, technical developments, pre-eminent in the Western world, have been both obscured and overlooked in previous ceramic studies (prior to the work by Daniels in 2007), predicated on notions pertaining to the primacy of the artistic pursuit. Although considerable attention has been given to the Meissen influence, the Baroque influence, and the Rococo, little consideration or enquiry has been afforded the far more significant influence of the Royal Society of London on English porcelain development. We suggest that the father of the English Porcelain Tradition was Robert Boyle, FRS stretching back to Wadham College, Oxford in the 1650's.

This English achievement will only be appreciated and understood if and when rational science and ceramic composition are integrated with other forms of enquiry.


20) W. R. H. RAMSAY AND E. G. RAMSAY, 2019. The Contribution by Analytical Science to our understanding of Western Porcelains

 Extended Abstract of invited Lecture Gardiner Museum, Toronto, Canada, September 25th, 2019.

Porcelains are first and foremost an exercise in materials science - body, glaze, and painting. The understanding of that contribution to Western porcelains is, after many years, becoming a major contributor in reaching a more holistic understanding of these ceramics - raw materials, firing conditions, glaze compositions, attribution, dating, and technology transfer pathways set against a better understanding of historical documents and societal conditions of those times. Such studies appeared  with the development of gravimetric chemical analyses by the late 18th C and these initial analytical attempts appear to have grown out of alchemy, burning mirrors, and the assaying of metalliferous deposits through the use of furnaces.

 Early ceramic analysts included Brongniart, Klaproth, Vauquelin, and in the UK during the 19th C, Simeon Shaw, Sir Humphrey Davey, and Sir Arthur Church. It appears that Nicholas Vauquelin was the first to undertake full gravimetric analyses of a Hessian crucible and various associated raw materials by 1799. Subsequently, Brongniart at Sèvres by 1844 undertook analyses of a wide range of wares and even writing to Silliman's Journal (American Journal of Science) for donations of North American ceramics including prehistoric wares to a collection he was building at Sèvres dedicated to the Art of Pottery.

In Britain Simeon Shaw initiated gravimetric analyses of Staffordshire ceramics and hard-paste porcelains from Europe (Meissen, Vienna, Sèvres, and Berlin) by the 1830s. An early summary of  British ceramics including full chemical analyses was that by Sir Arthur Church in his Cantor Lectures (1880-1881). Subsequently Eccles and Rackham (1922) undertook a range of analyses of English porcelains and divided these ceramics into five groups based on their compositions.

  • phosphatic, bone ash
  • magnesian, soapstone
  • calciferous, glassy
  • hard-paste
  • hybrid hard-paste

 By the mid-1900s spectrographic analytical methods were applied to ceramic bodies, an example being the analyses of two George II busts by Watney in 1968. This was followed by the application of X-ray diffraction (XRD) to identify the mineral composition in various porcelain bodies by the British Museum Research Laboratories. Modern analytical methods are now non-destructive and these include SEM with energy dispersive attachments and variable chamber pressures, hand-held XRF, and Raman spectroscopy among other techniques.

Scientific analyses of the Burghley House jars are discussed and our deduction based on historical documents and compositional science, is that these jars highlight the most significant fallacy in Western ceramic decorative arts, in that these refractory and high-fired porcelains pre-date Meissen by some 35 years as shown by Morgan Wesley. Based on the balance of probability we contend that the author of these porcelains was John Dwight, widely regarded as a failure when it came to porcelain production.

Our research into the 'A'-marked porcelains has resulted in the identification of the most likely raw materials used, coupled with analogue firing of the porcelain body, an attribution, and a dating of these refractory wares to Bow in the early - mid 1740s. As one commentator has noted,

But it has gone further, because its corollary is that  automatically it must lead to a re-assessment of the assumed premier position of Chelsea, an assumed position which has dominated English porcelain scholarship for very many decades.

Our analyses and those by Dr W. Jay of Limehouse porcelains and wasters recognise that wares of the magnesian-phosphatic composition are not Limehouse and a discussion is given as to where these wares best fit. Likewise analytical science has demonstrated that crazed, so-called Broad Street Worcester porcelains are magnesian - phosphatic-lead (Mg-P-Pb) in composition and better reside as early Lund's Bristol. Our science supports the initial work by Owen and Hillis who have shown that there is a close link between early Bow and William Reid of Liverpool and this technology pathway now includes the manufacture of a newly recognised  refractory, aluminous (15-20wt% Al2O3) bone-ash body at both factories. This in turn supports the argument by Victor Owen that the classification of English porcelains, both so-called hard-and soft-paste, needs to be revised as the traditional classification dating back to Eccles and Rackham - soapstone, bone-ash etc - is too limiting. An analogy can be drawn with possible attempts to classify English porcelains based on but five decorative features - in the white, underglaze blue, famille rose, famille vert, and polychrome flowers.

Closer to home, research into Bartlam's porcelains from Cain Hoy, South Carolina demonstrates a good confluence between archaeology, science, historical documents, and connoisseurship. We suggest that John Bartlam 'pirated' the Bowcock period recipe used at Bow 1755-c. 1770 and replicated it at Cain Hoy. Currently, analytical science is helping to arrive at more secure attributions for a number of factories including Bovey Tracy, Isleworth, William Reid, and Chaffers Liverpool.

Raman investigations into European ceramics were pioneered by Colomban and co-workers while in the UK, K. A. Leslie appears to have been the first to utilise Raman. Professor Howell Edwards has applied such studies to Nantgarw and Swansea porcelains to gain a more holistic understanding of these wares. More recently Jay and co-workers using Raman and SEM studies have recognised the use of Carrickfergus magnesian clay in Lincolnshire ceramics, thus identifying trade routes out of Ireland and demonstrating that not all magnesian ceramics  must contain soapstone.

 Claims, often out of Britain, still question whether science has a role in understanding and interpreting ceramics. To this end Edwards (2018, Chapter 9) highlights the current division between scientific analyses and expert opinions based on visual examination of porcelains or as David Battey (1994) has argued, the eyes have it. Edwards points out,

I think experts can see science as challenging their hierarchical authority and they vigorously defend that perceived assault by rubbishing it or simply downgrading it ! (Edwards, pers. comm. July 2018).

We wonder whether scientific input would have recognised and exposed a number of alleged recent ceramic fakes such as a Chelsea bust of a young girl, all apparently enthusiastically accepted by ceramic connoisseurs. Based on science and porcelain composition, and not on decorative idioms, the shade of grey in the glaze, or the presence of pinholes in the glaze, the overriding conclusion we have come to is that the English porcelain tradition is pre-eminent in the Western world, pre-dating Meissen to produce a refractory porcelain body or bodies. This tradition in turn has led to the production of a plethora of English porcelain bodies both lower-fired and refractory using combinations of primary and secondary clays, bone ash, soapstone, and lime-bearing frit. This tradition has in the past suffered under what we believe to be an inherent inferiority complex among English ceramic experts based on notions that their porcelain tradition is essentially derivative being handed down by wandering Continental gardeners/potters.

In summary, modern analytical science is contributing to a holistic understanding of porcelains, an approach that mere visual inspection could never hope to imitate. The impression that we have is that the ceramic community in North America is far more receptive to such an approach than in Britain today.