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( Originally Published 1913 )
My old schoolfellow's car had carried me over our native shire, which everywhere waves with the most beautiful of English trees, the elm. And on a vernal September afternoon I came into the " faithful city " again, Worcester, the stately pilgrim-place of my boyish years. In a booth near the timbered house where Charles II slept the night before the battle, I picked up a " Toby " of rare mould and uncommon size for a pound. But that is a mere by the by.In a collector's mind, Worcester equals porcelain ; but it was Saturday afternoon, and a policeman in the Foregate was quite sure the Royal Porcelain Works would be closed. Yet I went to the works, to be quite sure of it myself.
The Showroom. The showroom was not closednot yet quite four o'clock-and there I could admire the most modern results of the long and persistent effort made, successfully, to keep the quality and name of Worcester porcelain to the front. When one remembers that no Royal subsidies ever aided " Worcester," as they did " Berlin " and " Dresden " and " Sevres," the history of the works becomes one long triumph of art and business capacity such as only this country can show.
No earthenware at Worcester; always china. It is a thundering shame, therefore, that certain blue and white crockery, closely resembling blue and white old Worcester, is on the market. But you need not be deceived; hold the stuff up to a light, and its opacity will betray it, if nothing else.
No earthenware made at Worcester, I say; no ugliness, either; no cheap-and-nastiness in Worcester ware to this day. A steady, honourable adherence to art and quality, mere profit coming second. Zest in the work, and craftsmanship always, and finish, delicate strength, beauty, taste, the art of true artists, and the skill of hereditary potters " to the manner born."
The Museum. " Is it quite impossible to see the museum ? " The immediate attendant regretted that it was. Saturday afternoon, you see-the museum had been closed at two ; the curator would be gone home.
But these poor screeds of mine form a passport for me often. So that when my visiting-card passed in to superior authority, out came a daughter and grand-daughter of Worcester craftsmen, who, enthusiastic for the works, declared that I should see the museum, anyhow, Saturday afternoon or no.
So that presently I was studying and admiring the finest public collection of " Old Worcester " extant. The museum was begun some fifty years ago, by an enthusiast and writer on old porcelain, the late Mr. R. W. Binns. The old pattern pieces and remainders have been added to, by purchase in the curio-markets.
You will understand that it is the "Dr. Wall" pieces which most attract the eye. " Dr. Wall Worcester " was the best simulacrum of blue and white " Oriental" ever produced. I can conceive the periwigged old gentleman patriotically determining to compete with Nankin, and seeing good money in it, too. What he and his potters made is, I think, the most delightful of all old artificial porcelains. And Time has waved his wand of magic over it, so that it is better than when new. Touch it, eye it, enjoy the finely pitted glaze of it, never quite covering the paste ; enjoy the tender paste, the creamy whiteness, the beautiful cobalt, the quaintness of the semi-Oriental designs, and the fineness of the transfer-printing, that purely English art. A china-lover's tactile and visual pleasure are at their highest with a bit of " Wall Worcester " in hand. But the museum contains the later triumphs of the works, down to this very day.
The Pedigree. Collectors have told me that the many sorts and periods of the ware rather puzzled them; let me try to make these clear. Dr. Wall's own period was from 1751 to 1756. His influence lasted till 1783, when Mr. Flight, the London agent, became sole proprietor. In 1793 the firm of Flight & Barr began. In 1807 it was Barr, Flight & Barr. From 1813 to 1840 it was Flight, Barr & Barr.
But what about " Chamberlain Worcester " ? Well, Robert Chamberlain set up for himself in 1786, and this rival firm lasted till 1840 separately. In that year they took over the old firm and works as well. In 1850 a Kerr came into the business. In 1852 the style of the firm became " Kerr & Binns." In 1862 the Royal Worcester Porcelain Company took over the concern.
But what about " Grainger Worcester " ? Less important; but Thomas Grainger left Chamberlain's employ and set up for himself in 1801. In 1889 the Grainger concern was acquired by the present company.
" Worcester," for collecting purposes, embraces porcelain made under Wall, the Flights, the Barrs, the Chamberlains, the Graingers, and the Kerrs.