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NANTGARW CHINA - 1811-1822

HISTORY. The Nantgarw porcelain factory was established at the little village of Nantgarw, near Cardiff, in 1811 by that vagrant porcelain painter William Billings ley and a little group of associates who had been induced to support the scheme. The early efforts were marked by discouraging failures and by I814 all the funds were exhausted. Mr. Dillwyn, a pottery manufacturer of Swansea, however, was persuaded that Billingsley could make good china if he had the proper facilities and the scene of operations was transferred to Swansea.

There the work was attended with more success, but the methods of manufacture were uncertain and the ware was often completely spoiled in the firing. In 1817 Dillwyn, exasperated at the loose methods and the constant waste, sent Billingsley and his assistants packing.

They then returned to Nantgarw where some other associates came to the rescue with fresh capital. Better results now rewarded the endeavours and the Nantgarw china achieved a sudden popularity. The leading London dealers engaged to take as much of it as the factory could make and the Prince Regent ordered a dinner service. The production was limited and a great quantity was spoiled in the firing. Finally, in 1819, the business broke down and the plant was sold at auction. W. Weston Young bought the plant and turned over the management to Thomas Pardoe of Bristol. In 1822 the ultimate collapse came and the factory was closed.

THE BODY. The body was a soft paste, very white and of exceptionally mellow appearance, and remarkably translucent-more translucent, in fact, than any of the other English porcelains.

THE GLAZE. The glaze was clear, soft and mellow, with a rich velvety quality.

ARTICLES MADE AND CONTOUR. Dinner services, tea and coffee services and dessert services were the articles chiefly made, although a certain number of small vases, inkstands and other decorative accessories were also fashioned. The contours were those of the Neo-Grec period and, while agreeable enough, shewed no especial distinction.

TYPES OF DECORATION. The most characteristic motif of decoration employed at Nantgarw consisted of flowers. These flowers were painted in the Billingsley manner, so often seen on Derby china, where a number of blossoms grouped in composition are realistically rendered in rich colouring, or else they were painted in the Young manner, single flowers being copied most meticulously as though intended to serve as illustrations of botanical specimens. Fruits were also treated in the same manner and, occasionally, birds supplied the theme. The favourite flowers were Billingsley's admirably painted double roses, along with tulips, lilies and other blooms of brilliant and contrasting colors. Very often butterflies and small insects figured in the decorations, and Pardoe painted birds on branches as well as flowers while, in some instances, single birds executed with the exactitude of ornithological colored illustration supplied the theme. The Billingsley roses and other flowers frequently occur massed in panels reserved on gold grounds. For rims and borders ground colors were largely used, sometimes with reserved panels and sometimes without. Molded ornament in low relief was often employed and, in many cases, the relief was left in the white, the colored decorations occupying the smooth surfaces. A great deal of the Nantgarw china was decorated not at the works but in London, by Mortlock. Gilding was sparingly applied at Nantgarw; the pieces decorated in London are apt to exhibit much fuller gilding.

THE MARKS. The most usual mark was the name NANT-GARW, impressed in the paste, oftentimes accom panied by the letters C. W., also impressed.Any mark or marks other than this, or not impressed in the paste, should be regarded with distrust. Very rare marks are the name Nantgarw beneath a crown, name and crown both being painted in puce colour, or NANT-GARW, in capital letters, in gold, enclosed within a line. The name NANTGARW printed in red is a mark to excite suspicion. A great deal of spurious Nantgarw china is to be found.

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