In September 2016, Gaye Blake-Roberts made a return visit to our Group, with a talk on Caughley Porcelain. Gaye is currently a Trustee of both the Wedgwood Museum and the Spode Museum, Chairman of the Raven Mason Trust, Chair of the Academic and Curatorial Committee of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust and inaugural President of the College of Fellows at Keele University.
Gaye gave us a fascinating talk on the history of Caughley Porcelain supported by very informative slides. Caughley was only manufactured from 1775 to 1799, at Caughley near Broseley in Shropshire. Ambrose Gallimore and Thomas Turner produced some of the finest soft-paste porcelain made in England in the 18th century. Many shapes and patterns were produced, mainly practical products: tea services, dinner services, and everyday objects that would be used in the households of the then-emerging middle classes. The porcelain was decorated largely in underglaze blue, although enamel colours and gilding were also used.
Gaye explained how the painting and printing ran in parallel, and that while a lot of the designs were similar to those used at the Worcester factory, they were also influenced by the Chinese ware which was being imported at the time. As an example, Gaye explained the subtle differences between Caughley and Worcester were that on a design of two fishermen – on Caughley a long thin man with a fat fish, and on Worcester a fat man with a very thin fish.
Thomas Turner raised the profile of Caughley by opening a warehouse in Portugal Street in London, which later moved to the West End.
Caughley also made children’s porcelain, which has mistakenly been described as “salesmen’s samples” – but was in fact a teaching aid for the children of the period learning how to serve tea to visiting ladies.
Caughley also made very high-end porcelain, which was commissioned by William V, Prince of Orange – this was a really exceptional dinner service – gilded and enamelled colour, with exquisite armorial work. Pieces were also commissioned by the Prince Regent, later George 1V.
Examples of Caughley can be found in the British Museum, the V&A, and the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.