Caughley Polychrome Procelain in all its finery. Courtesy Coalport China Museum.
24 Hour Museum Renaissance Student Journalist Roslyn Tappenden headed for the birthplace of industry to check out some perfect porcelain...
An exhibition of Caughley Polychrome Porcelain is currently on display at Coalport China Museum, Ironbridge, until October 30.
The story of Caughley Porcelain goes hand in hand with the story of the 1700s when world trade and mass production techniques began to change the face of industry.
It was the first porcelain to be made in Shropshire, but if you ask anyone about Caughley, they will usually associate the name with white and blue bowls, plates and jugs decorated with birds, fruit and flowers, similar to the oriental styles being imported at the time.
The Target Pattern Coffee Pot (c.1786-1793). Courtesy Coalport China Museum.
Pottery connoisseurs might know however, that Caughley also produced some very colourful pieces between 1775 and 1799 when white porcelain was sent to Chamberlains of Worcester to be painted. The result of this agreement was a raft of colourful designs, known as Caughley Polychrome.
This latest exhibition forms a timeline of Caughley’s polychrome from early items thought to be painted by James Giles, through the golden years of the 1780s and 90s with Chamberlains, and to the decline in the late 1790s.
Among the most impressive items is the Target Pattern Coffee Pot (c.1786-1793), so called because the pattern on the centre resembles a dart-board, and a plate made to commemorate the visit to the Ironbridge Gorge in 1796 by the Dutch Prince Stadtholder Willem V.
Caughley Porcelain was founded in 1772 and is inextricably linked with the birth of the industrial revolution. The company was established close to the historic Ironbridge Gorge on the banks of the River Severn and is still in business today, located just 15 miles away from its original home in Shropshire.
It was Caughley Porcelain that introduced the well-known willow pattern design to the nation, inspired by Chinese designs that were coming into the country from the Far East.
Ironbridge Gorge in Shropshire has become known as the birthplace of industry. Courtesy Coalport China Museum.
These days Caughley specialises in equestrian figures but the techniques employed by the craftsmen have remained the same for over 250 years.
The polychrome exhibition has been brought together from other museums and collections and is the first time the exhibits have been on display. It demonstrates the history of Caughley Polychrome which, in the early days of the 1770s, was decorated by outside artists then was later sent to Chamberlains of Worcester to be finely decorated.
The Chamberlains agreement lasted throughout the 1780s but lapsed in the 1790s when the decoration returned the Shropshire factory near Ironbridge before it finally ceased.
Entry to the exhibition is included in the admission charge to Coalport China Museum and some hands-on activities will be available to visitors.
Roslyn Tappenden is the 24 Hour Museum Renaissance Student Writer in the West Midlands region. Renaissance is the groundbreaking initiative to transform England's regional museums, led by MLA, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.