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Rockingham Pottery 1820-1842

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 and brilliant.

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.

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.

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