On 9 October 2019, we were very pleased to welcome Mr Philip Mernick to our meeting. Philip is a retired industrial chemist, living in London and a collector of salt glazed pottery, mostly brown.
It was whilst visiting local London antique markets that he found a salt glazed jug in the hunting style similar to Doulton by John Vauxhall. It was the utilitarian quality of this distinctive pottery and the mystery of “who made what and when” that appealed to him. Philip joined societies to learn more about salt glaze pottery and became a member and ultimately a lecturer at Morley College. There are now over 1000 pieces in his collection!
Philip went on to explain that it was John Dwight who identified the method of the salt glaze process for rendering earthenware impermeable. In 1672, Dwight was granted a patent of 14 years for “the mistery of transparent earthenware, commonly known by the names of porcelain or china, and of stoneware, vulgarly called Cologne ware”. He then established the Fulham Pottery. The staple output was brown stoneware thus breaking the German monopoly on Bellarmine.
The British Museum contains several of the best of Dwight’s pieces, including a bust of Prince Rupert. Other specimens are in the Victoria and Albert Museum and The London Museum. Sadly, Dwight’s six-year-old daughter Lydia died in 1674 and in her memory, he produced two very personal ceramic sculptures in order to capture her likeness and perpetuate her memory. These are among the oldest examples of this type in Europe.
Many of Dwight’s stoneware bottles were personalised with applied medallions containing initials, names, dates or inn signs, in the same way as contemporary sealed wine bottles. The beer bottles supplied for use at the famous Cock Alehouse at Temple Bar (on the south side of the Strand in London and much frequented by the diarist Samuel Pepys) are the most numerous to survive, while fragmentary ‘Cock’ medallions from many slightly-differing moulds were excavated at the Fulham Pottery in 1971-9 .
It was Henry Doulton in the nineteenth century who exploited the salt glaze process on an industrial scale in Lambeth, especially in the profitable fields of bottle-making and drainpipes. A glaze is formed by throwing common salt into the kiln at about 1,800F (1,000C) during the firing and thus releasing hydrochloric acid into the atmosphere.