The Rockingham china factory, at Swinton in Yorkshire, was
established by Thomas Brameld about 1820 as an outgrowth of the
potteries that had flourished for some time previously. The work was under the
patronage of Earl Fitzwilliam, Marquis of Rockingham and, for this
reason, was called Rockingham china. A few years after the start of the
enterprise, Brameld was financially embarrassed, but the Marquis of
Rockingham came to the rescue and continued generous support as long as the
factory lasted. Despite the ambitious designs of Brameld, the excellence
of the body and glaze, and the acclaim with which the ware was
received, the works did not pay and were closed in 1842.
The body was bone porcelain of the best quality, dense in
texture and creamy white in colour.
The glaze was clear, transparent, perfectly distributed
ARTICLES MADE AND CONTOUR.
Besides the usual production of table
services, dessert services, tea services and all the customary smaller
decorative accessories, a number of large and exceedingly elaborate vases
and cabinet pieces were made and also statuettes in biscuit, in the
Derby manner. The contours were those that distinguished the period when a
certain diluted remainder of Neo-Grec influence still survived.
Although some of the shapes were fairly good, none of them possessed any real
distinction. The best were survivals from former periods. Moulded edges
were of common occurrence on dessert services.
TYPES OF DECORATION.
Although all the technical processes of
manufacture and decoration were perfect, and although no expense was spared to
secure the services of the best artists and decorators of the period,
the prevailing taste of the time was sinking to lower and lower levels,
and the only distinction apparently left for Rockingham china to
achieve was in the way of gorgeousness.
All the possible decorative processes, enumerated and explained in
earlier pages, were understood and employed and all the earlier modes of
decoration, as understood and interpreted at that particular time, were
made use of. Ground colours with reserved panels, in
which were flowers, fruits, birds or landscapes, were particularly
favoured, and lavish gilding was extensively practised. Elaborate dessert
services with landscapes and still life subjects became a speciality of the
works. Most of the pieces were very much over-decorated. Rockingham
china is famed both for its beautiful ground colours and for the exquisite
finish of its painting. Amongst the favourite ground colours were the
noted "Rockingham green," popular for dessert and tea services,
apple-green, a darker blue-green, deep mazarine blue, bright blue, azure, three
grades of pink, the darkest of which closely approached the famous
Chelsea "claret," yellow somewhat deeper then the well-known Derby canary,
buff or biscuit colour with gold for borders, pale orange, and a cool
grey which, in conjunction with a little gilding, was favourably
regarded by Quakers and was presumably devised for their use. Diaper patterns
were also occasionally employed to good effect.
The marks that usually occur are the words "Rockingham
Works, Brameld," or "Royal Rockingham Works, Brameld," printed or else
impressed in the paste, along with a griffin, the crest of the
Fitzwilliam family, impressed or painted in red. The crest is said not to have
been used till 1826. Sometimes a royal crown also appears.