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DERBY CHINA - 1755 TO 1848; 1848 TO PRESENT DAY.
History The Derby china factory was established by William Duesbury in 1755. Duesbury was the son of a Longton potter and for some years prior to the establishment of the porcelain factory he had been a china painter in London, executing commissions for Chelsea and Bow, now and again, purchasing undecorated wares and painting them, or painting special pieces to the order of private customers. About 1754 he seems to have been at Longton Hall helping "Littler" with his porcelain factory.
In 1755, with the financial aid of John Heath, he -,arted the factory at Derby, converting a few cottages vao workshops and erecting kilns. Comparatively little is known of the factory and its work until 1770 when Duesbury bought the Chelsea factory. As we have already seen, he kept both factories in operation until 1784, in the meantime buying out the establishment at Bow when it was offered for sale. After1784 all the work was conducted at the Derby factory.
William Duesbury, who was apparently a clever business man and an able manager, died in 1786 and was succeeded in the conduct of the works by his son, the younger William Duesbury who carried on the business until 1795. In 1795, during the minority of the third William Duesbury the factory was conducted by his stepfather, Mr. Kean and the firm was known as Duesbury & Kean. This partnership was dissolved in 1811, owing to family dissensions, and the business was sold to Robert Bloor who had been a clerk and salesman during the former partnership.
Bloor was altogether commercially minded and forsook the standards that had previously prevailed. For a while the factory was highly prosperous, but the cheap ened wares and the lowered standard of decoration brought the inevitable nemesis and the business fell off sadly. In1828 Bloor became deranged and the factory was carried on under a managing clerk, its fortunes sinking lower and lower until it was finally closed in 1848.
A small factory was then started by a group of the old Derby workmen with a Mr. Locker, formerly chief clerk, as the manager. From this nucleus a business grew up which has been carried on to the present day. In 1876 a new and altogether distinct company was formed which is known as the Royal Crown Derby Porcelain Company.
THE BODY. While there is no definite information to be obtained respecting the body and glaze of the earliest Derby ware, it was almost certainly a glassy or soft paste like the body first in use at Bow and Chelsea. By 1764 experiments had evidently been in progress for improving the composition of the body. It was then that Richard Holdship, one of the partners of the Worcester company, in a most unprincipled and dishonest manner, betrayed the interest of his own organisation and engaged "to impart in writing to Duesbury and Heath his secret process for making china according to the proofs already made by him, and to supply them with all sufficient quantities of soapy rock at fair prices." Presumably the Derby body was improved and hardened as a result of this underhand deal. There seems also to have been a change about 1770 for one of the first things Duesbury did on buying the Chelsea factory was to send ten bags of boneash from there to the plant at Derby. About the end of the century the regular bone porcelain composition, comprising, china clay, china-stone and bone-ash, was adopted. The early body had a mellow creamy tone, and this mellowness was never wholly lost, although in the later, harder body it was not so noticeable.
THE GLAZE. From the first the Derby glaze was good. The early glaze was soft and velvet-like; the later glaze was harder and more brilliant but not obtrusively so.
ARTICLES MADE AND CONTOUR. In the early days of the factory, besides the making of tableware and all the other distinctly "useful" items of chinaware, small figures were produced in large quantities and the establishment seems to have done a particularly thriving business in that direction. Before the absorption of Chelsea, figures and groups in biscuit were made. With the acquisition of the Chelsea works and Chelsea traditions, the Derby establishment continued to make all the diversity of wares produced under Sprimont.
In the matter of contour, however, as already pointed out, Duesbury made a change and supplanted the exuberant Rococo forms by the soberer contours dictated by the Neo-Classic mode . At a later date still, the Neo-Grec forms had their vogue in the Derby chinaware. TYPES OF DECORATION. Under the Chelsea-Derby regime the Chelsea methods of decoration were continued so that, save for the evidence of marks, it would often be difficult to say whether a piece was Chelsea or ChelseaDerby. Attention, however, has been called to the growing tendency to load on too much decoration , and to a somewhat "tighter" and less spontaneous character in the painting. It is unnecessary to recapitulate all the characteristic forms of Chelsea decoration, but it must be pointed out in addition to these that a very rich and ornate adaptation of the Japanese Imari patterns was characteristic of the Derby factory and that, in the late period, a great use was made of flowing gold scrolls in conjunction with one or two rich colors to complete the scheme of arabesques. Under the second William Duesbury both the flower painting and the other painted decorations and reached the height of excellence. At this time, too, not only figures and statuettes in biscuit were produced, but likewise very excellent portrait medallions in biscuit.
THE MARKS. The earliest mark of Derby was a script D, but it is of the rarest occurrence. The usual mark is a D beneath a crown and this was used down to about 1782. It was usually applied in underglaze blue, but is found also in purple, green, and rose. The Chelsea-Derby marks have already been given. Not long after 1782 crossed batons and six dots accompanied the crowned D. This mark is generally in purple or mauve, though it may occur in blue or in gold. While Kean was a partner the letter K occasionally appears in company with the D. When Bloor bought the works the pieces were marked "Bloor, Derby," with or without the crown. The Bloor marks were generally printed. A Gothic D crowned and printed in red belongs to the Bloor period, when the marks were commonly in red. Forged Dresden and Sevres marks in underglaze blue are not uncommon on Derby pieces.