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MADELEY CHINA - c.1827-1840
HISTORY. The manufacture and decoration of China at Madeley, in Shropshire, seems to have been the immediate outcome of the discontinuance of the Nantgarw and Swansea china. In its general character the Madeley china was virtually the direct successor of these wares.
The china factory at Madeley was established and conducted by Thomas Martin Randall who, prior to engaging in this enterprise, was a member of the firm of Robins and Randall, Burnsbury Street, Islington, china decorators. During the great popularity of Nantgarw and Swansea china, Mortlock, the London china dealer of Orchard Street, was ready to take every bit of it he could get, whether decorated or "in the white." As a matter of fact, a great deal of it was shipped to London in the white and there decorated, as already mentioned in the account of Nantgarw china. One of the firms that executed much of the decoration was that of Robins and Randall. A considerable amount of the Welsh china, when decorated in the Sevres manner was profitably sold as "Old Sevres," for its highly translucent, glassy body closely resembled the earlier French paste. Randall was well aware of the lucrative business to be done in both the Welsh and the old French chinaware, and this knowledge doubtless encouraged him to undertake his manufacturing scheme. Being an experienced chemist, as well as a capable decorator, he was thoroughly familiar with all the processes of making soft paste porcelain. When he severed his connexion with the London firm and went to Madeley, in 1825, he was well prepared for the making of soft paste porcelain.
Two kinds of china were made at Madeley and a third kind was decorated there. There was a soft paste china that was very like the porcelain of Nantgarw, Swansea and the earlier Sevres; there was a china whose body was somewhat harder and this was produced in a more essentially commercial manner; and there was French chinaware imported in the white, or bearing only slight decorations that could be removed with acid, and of this large quantities were decorated.
In I840 Randall, having acquired a comfortable fortune and being well advanced in years, retired from business and the Madeley factory was closed.
THE BODY. The china dealers considered the Madeley body the nearest approximation to the old Sevres soft paste ever made. It was just as translucent as the finest Nantgarw porcelain, but more creamy in tone and, therefore, possessed of the mellow quality characteristic of the best old Sevres. The Nantgarw was often like snow in the whiteness of its tone; the Madeley paste was more like cream or rich milk. The harder paste had much the same appearance. There was no bone-ash used in the composition.
THE GLAZE. The glaze had the same general resemblance to the old French glaze as the body had to the Sevres paste.
ARTICLES MADE AND CONTOUR. The articles chiefly made at the Madeley works were tea services, sweetmeat dishes, cake trays, wine coolers, candlesticks, spill vases, cabinet cups and covers, dishes, plates and general tableware and decorative accessories. Besides, there were occasional plaques for furniture inlay and a few statuettes and figures. The contours were both those characteristic of the period and those typical of Sevres and the other Parisian factories in the latter portion of the eighteenth century.
TYPES OF DECORATION. At Madeley the most capable decorators were employed and nearly all the decoration was distinctly in the French eighteenth century manner, especially in the particulars more or less typical of Sevres. This following of French fashions was so much the case that not a little of the Madeley china was habitually sold by the dealers at high prices as old Sevres, and some of them were exceedingly annoyed at "the old Quaker," as they called Randall, because he would not forge the Sevres marks. On both varieties of paste produced at Madeley the decorations included flowers, fruit, birds, amorini, delicately executed landscapes and pastoral scenes after the fashion of Watteau and the painters of his school, along with Rococo scrolls and other incidents of embellishment. The gilding was good and was often of an elaborate character. A number of good ground colors were used, the most successful of which were rose Pompadour, turquoise blue, apple-green, and pink.
THE MARKS. Neither kind of Madeley paste shows any marks. This absence of marks made it very easy for dealers when they wished to do so-as it seems a number of them did-to forge marks. Whatever marks were on the French china decorated at Madeley were allowed to remain.