EARLY WORCESTER PORCELAIN
The Worcester factory was one of the first, probably the best, and certainly the most long-lived of the 18th-century porcelain makers. Pieces from its first 100 years are widely admired and collected.
The first two porcelain manufacturers in England were close to the city of London, at Bow in the east and Chelsea in the west. Both were founded in the 1740s and both made soft-paste porcelain. However, neither factory survived to the end of the century, although by this time Britain was a major manufacturer and exporter of porcelain.
A porcelain factory was founded in the city of Worcester in 1751, and although it underwent several changes of name, splits and mergers, it can trace its history continuously from that time up to the present day.
The factory's guiding light in its first years was Dr John Wall, a chemist and artist as well as a physician, who set out to emulate the great European factories of
Sevres and Meissen. The company's soft-paste porcelain was denser and yet more delicately potted than that of its British rivals.
The soapstone-style body of Worcester proved immensely popular. Wall retired in 1774. When his former partner died in 1783, the factory was bought by a Thomas Flight, and continued for more than 50 years under various members of the Flight and Barr families.
THE DOCTOR'S APPRENTICE
One of Dr Wall's apprentices, Robert Chamberlain, set up in business for himself at a separate factory when Flight took over. At first he concentrated in decorating wares made elsewhere, but in the 1790s Chamberlain's Worcester began making fine, hard-paste porcelain of their own. Several craftsmen worked for both Worcester factories, which had a broadly similar style. They remained rivals until 1840, when they were merged under the name Chamberlain & Co.
The Worcester factories excelled at making tableware, particularly tea and coffee sets, jugs, comports and tureens, and vases. The soapstone body was suitable for everything except large dinner plates.
Worcester was famous for its decoration, too, particularly its background colours in rich shades of blue, green, turquoise and claret. These usually framed panels of white that were decorated with paintings, many by artists who moved there following the failure of the Chelsea factory. Blue grounds were lightened by wiping off the colour to make patterns resembling fish scales. This scale blue ground is particularly prized by collectors.
WORCESTER PORCELAIN COLLECTOR'S INFORMATION
Complete or partial sets of early Worcester in good condition are rare, but single pieces or place settings are much more realistic goals for collectors. You might want to specialize in a particular decorative style or type of piece, or on a particular period in the firms' history.
The best way to get a feel for the factory's products, and decide what you might want to collect, is to look at pieces in museums or at dealers. The real enthusiast will want to visit the city, and particularly the Dyson Perrins Museum, which is entirely devoted to its history of ceramics manufacture.
Many early Worcester pieces are marked, and it is well worth taking a book of ceramic marks with you when you shop. The style of mark and the factory name gives some clue to date. A blue crescent, in outline or filled in, is among the marks found on very early pieces.
At first, marking was far from compulsory and tended to be haphazardly applied. After 1793, pieces tended to be clearly marked with the name or initials of the factory. Flight & Barr marks appear on wares made before 1807. From then to 1813, the factory was known as Barr, Flight & Barr, and from 1813 to 1840 as Flight, Barr & Barr.
A word of warning; Worcester porcelain has been collected for a very long time, and subjected to faking and forgery for almost as long. Many marks, particularly those in ink, can be faked; marks should be seen as a guide to authenticity rather than proof of it. The easiest way to tell if a piece is porcelain is to hold it up to a strong light, such as a bare bulb, to see if it's translucent. True soapstone Worcester has a greenish tinge under a strong light. It's a good idea to examine a piece in sunlight as well as under artificial light, as this makes it easier to detect restoration, tampering or over-painting.
SKINNING AND CLOBBERING
Because some decorative styles are more highly valued than others, original pieces are sometimes doctored to make them more valuable. The piece may either be 'skinned' the original decoration is removed and replaced with a more sought-after design - or 'clobbered' - where a new decoration is applied over the original. Usually it is the ground colour that is altered in this way.
As always, check very carefully for hairline cracks, small chips, rubbed gilding or other blemishes, all of which should bring down the price. Avoid pieces pretending to be early Worcester that have a crackled glaze. The soapstone body never crazed. Also avoid pieces which are glazed around the foot rim; these too are likely to be fakes.
This plate is an early product of the Worcester porcelain factory, dating from the late 1760s. Some of the bud and foliage decoration is painted on, and the rest is applied to create a
three dimensional effect. According to a widely circulated legend, which has since proved to be untrue, the service from which it came was first made for a blind nobleman.
Read articles and references:
Good standards are Warman's
English & Continental Pottery & Porcelain (Susan and Al Bagdade), and Marks
& Monograms on European and Oriental Pottery and Porcelain (William Chaffers).
Royal Worcester Factory Marks
used on bone china from 1862 to 2006
The Worcester Royal Porcelain Co. Ltd. was formed in 1862. Over the years
factory marking of pieces has evolved and although marks vary from impressed
and hand written to printed emblems, the majority of bone china produced was
marked in the way described below.
The standard printed factory mark, included the number 51 in the centre that
refers to the year 1751 when the Worcester Porcelain Company was founded by
Dr.John Wall. The mark can appear in any colour, and on a variety of
The marks almost always included a code to indicate the year of manufacture.
Between 1862 and 1875 specific indications of the year of manufacture are
rare but may sometimes be found in the form of the last two figures of the
date, e.g. 75 for 1875, printed below the standard mark.
From 1867 a letter system was also used to indicate the year of manufacture.
From 1876 the crown sits down to fit the circle.
A = 1867 K = 1875 U = 1883
B = 1868 L = 1876 V = 1884
C = 1869 M = 1877 W = 1885
D = 1870 N = 1878 X = 1886
E = 1871 P = 1879 Y = 1887
G = 1872 R = 1880 Z = 1888
H = 1873 S = 1881 O = 1889
I = 1874 T = 1882 a = 1890
From 1891 pieces were coded with a system of dots and/or symbols with the
addition of the words ‘ROYAL WORCESTER ENGLAND’. 1891 ‘ROYAL WORCESTER
ENGLAND’ added 1892 One dot 1893 Two dots 1894 Three dots
From 1916 a small star or asterisk appears below the mark.
1916 * below the mark
1917 * and one dot
1918 * and two dots
An extra dot was added each year until 1927 when
11 dots are arranged around the standard printed mark.
1928 Oblong shape & the words MADE IN ENGLAND added 1929 Diamond shape &
MADE IN ENGLAND 1930 Division mark & MADE IN ENGLAND 1931 Two circles & MADE
IN ENGLAND 1932 Three circles & MADE IN ENGLAND 1933 Three circles & 1 dot &
MADE IN ENGLAND 1934 Three circles & 2 dots & MADE IN ENGLAND 1935 Three
circles & 3 dots & MADE IN ENGLAND This continued until 1941 when there were
9 dots and the triple circle mark.
Between 1942 and 1948 no date code was used in the mark.
1949 the letter V was introduced,
1950 the letter W
1951 the letter W . (with one dot)
1952 the letter W .. (with 2 dots)
1953 the letter W … (with 3 dots)
1954 the letter W …. (with 4 dots)
1955 the letter W ….. (with 5 dots)
1956 the letter W or R in a circle …….(with 6 dots)
This series of codes continued until the 1960s when the dots are arranged
around the R (signifying registered) in a circle.
From 1966 the date coding system was rarely used.
From the mid 1960s, a different format of factory stamp was also adopted for
bone china tableware. The date included is the year of introduction of the
design, not the date of manufacture.
In April 1988 a system of year of manufacture identification that fitted
with that used by Spode was introduced and an M within a diamond was
incorporated below the factory mark. In January 1989 new factory stamps were
used with an N in a diamond under the mark. Soon afterward black numbers
were introduced to identify the lithographer. These numbers were replaced
with grey ones in August to reduce their visual impact.
In 1990 all factory stamps reverted to the R in a circle under the mark. A
printed grey lithographer identification number (eg.39) was used, plus a
suffix to signify the year of manufacture.
Printed in grey Printed in white 39 - 0 = 1990 39 - 00 = 2000 39 - 1 = 1991
39 - 01 = 2001 39 - 2 = 1992 39 - 02 = 2002 39 - 3 = 1993 39 – 03 = 2003 39
- 4 = 1994 39 – 04 = 2004 39 - 5 = 1995 39 - 05 = 2005 39 - 6 = 1996 39 – 06
= 2006 39 – 7 = 1997 39 – 8 = 1998 39 – 9 = 1999
In the 1980s and 1990s some ranges of decorative pieces such as collectors
plates and figurines were printed with very elaborate marks that include
designers names, issue numbers and series names. A huge variety of marks
were used and most are self explanatory.
Other materials – Since the 1880s separate systems of marks have been used
for items made of earthenware (crownware) and Royal Worcester Vitreous.
These sometimes follow the same dot code system, but hard porcelain rarely
has any code and is therefore much more difficult to identify.
Worcester Porcelain Museum
The Worcester Porcelain Museum
Severn Street, Worcester WR1 2ND Telephone +44 (0)1905 21247