“Fabulous Flight and Barr 1783 to 1840” by Charles Dawson



Our Lecturer in April was Charles Dawson, President of the English Ceramics Circle.Flight Period:

Our story starts with the sale of Dr. Wall’s Worcester factory to his London Agent, Thomas Flight, on behalf of his sons Joseph and John.

Despite initial difficulties and competition from the dozens of competing factories within the square mile such as Derby and New Hall, the company survived and grew.  However when Robert Chamberlain,  the main decorator and guilder, left to set up his own workshop producing porcelain the Company struggled for a few years but  continued to produce earlier patterns, evidence of which were found in John Flight’s diaries after his untimely death. The Mosaic, Blue Lily and some Japanese patterns are still being produced.

Fortunes changed after John Flight’s visit to Paris in the 1780’s when he went to the Duke of D’Angouleme’s porcelain factory.   He copied the latest French styles and subsequently continued to keep up with current tastes such as spiral fluted shapes.  The factory also re-discovered the art of fine gilding .

In 1788 following the visit of George III and Queen Charlotte to the factory, an order was placed for a dinner service and the hence Royal Lily was created.  In addition  a breakfast service was renamed Queen Charlotte having previously been called Catherine Wheel.  We were told that everyone wanted a ‘posh looking’ plate and every major family would have a memorial plate which were impressive as gold was in good supply.  This heralded a period of great success for the Worcester factory with its tableware gracing the tables of Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace.

In 1789 the Duke of Clarence (later William IV) ordered a new armorial dinner service to celebrate his new title of Duke of St Andrews, in a stunning blue and green. In complete contrast to the armorial set he also commissioned a service painted with allegories of Hope in sepia  monochrome, with a blue and gold border painted by the top figure painter John Pennington. This service was put on exhibition in London and won considerable acclaim.

In 1790 the sales tax was removed from tea meaning that it was now available to the masses. The wealthy gentry wanted new tea services to impress their friends, and most were finished off with gold.


Following the death of John Flight in 1792, Joseph Flight brought Martin Barr into the partnership.  The history of ownership over the following   decades, passing through the two families was explained through the porcelain they produced.  Many Royal Warrants followed and Charles gave us an insight of those heady years of change from George lll, to George IV to William IV.  Lord Nelson ordered a service in rich Imari colours of dark blue, red and gold to celebrate his victory over Napoleon. Porcelain decorated with a family’s Coat of Arms became a must have status symbol and immediately became the height of fashion.

In 1804 Martin Barr Jr joined the partnership and for the next ten years   porcelain showing landscapes, stately homes and castles became increasingly popular. Samuel Smith was the principal landscape artist at the factory in the early 1800’s and epitomized English Regency porcelain design. Porcelain painters were the ‘film stars’ of the day and their services were so sought after they moved from factory to factory.  Many of the finest pieces are now in museum collections.  By the time we reach the 1830’s tastes were changing again and the Flight and Barr Worcester factory failed to move with the times quickly enough and were forced to amalgamate with their rivals, Chamberlains. Thus the Royal Worcester Company was created.

Our members were treated to splendid examples of porcelain in the Flight and Barr period which was complicated by the number of partnerships that were formed with changes to family names.  However, our lecturer, Charles Dawson steered us through  60 glorious years, feeding us anecdotes and snippets of gossip with wit and dry humour which was much appreciated.


“Ceramics and Celebrity, the Influence of Popular Culture on the Potting Industry”. by Claire Durham


Following our AGM at the March 2019 meeting we were delighted to welcome Clare Durham introducing ‘Ceramics and Celebrity’, the Influence of Popular Culture on the Potting Industry.  Clare is actively involved in several collecting groups and societies, both as a speaker and as a member of the English Ceramic Circle, the Oxford Ceramics Group and the French Porcelain Society.

Clare began by explaining that influences on ceramics are contemporary to the time. In the 17th century the monarchy was the biggest influence on the aristocracy who were then the only collectors of fine porcelain. We were introduced to the first example of ‘celebrity’ which was the recognisable image of Charles I appearing on Delftware dated 1625-1649.  She then showed a piece dating to the reign of Charles II 1660-1685 and a James II pot, which would have been dangerous to be seen to own following the King’s deposition as a Roman Catholic.  The progression to the throne of William III and Mary II who ruled Britain jointly after James II was deposed in 1688 cemented the Protestant Cause and by the start of the 18th century there were a large number of examples of items showing William and Mary on porcelain.

Celebrating the House of Hanover, German exported stoneware depicted George Royal (bearing marks GR) William Royal (WR) and Queen Anne (AR). By the mid-18th century popular foreign figures and the last titled King of Prussia were celebrated. There followed  George III and Queen Charlotte, being shown on porcelain and as it became more affordable and mass produced, trade classes showed their support for King George during his illness by purchasing commemorative pieces.

Returning to Charles II, we saw a fine example of a Jackfield teapot or silk glaze chocolate pot depicting the King hiding in the oak tree. Such hidden messages were used in of supporting renewed efforts to reinstate James Stewart during the 1688 Revolution. Military success was celebrated with naval conflict being depicted with subtle nods to George Brydges Rodney and later Lord Nelson and Lord Welby. and In classical war triumph, a bust of Wellington who was a source of national pride.  Claire also showed examples of the venerated Napolean Bonaparte after the Treaty of Amiens of October 1801. However by 1803 there were also mugs mocking enemies being produced after the recommenced war over Russia.

There followed examples of figures depicting prime ministers, elections, key politicians including foreign politicians such as George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. Clare pointed out that the two Staffordshire figures of Washington and Franklin have exactly the same features. The factory producing these figures had no idea what the individuals looked like at that time!

By the 19th century, London Theatre was inspiring sculptures and as printing techniques developed famous actors were depicted in their roles on ceramic tiles. These popular tiles were affordable for the general public to purchase and in addition prints of John Liston were reproduced as figures in Pearl Ware, Derby, Rockingham and Staffordshire. Figures of female performers and actresses and singers such as Jenny Lind were also produced. In addition there are several representations of Billy Waters including a fine Derby example. More actors followed and as newspaper pictures improved in quality, so the precision in painting of porcelain improved. Eccentrics, preachers, famous individuals, abolitionists, evangelists all featured, as well as a quite grisly example of an infamous murderer. Figures of high profile animals too, such as Jumbo the Elephant from Barnum and Bailey Circus were made and we were also shown a transferware blue, featuring the Durham Ox dated 1802.

Royal weddings, royal babies and Jubilees brought us back to 21st century production. And as Clare explained, commemorative ceramics are still produced and continue to be popular. Early Derby collectables are profitable today but the value of others is dependent upon the personality of the celebrity depicted. Clare brought her talk to an interesting conclusion by showing examples of Brexit mugs and Donald Trump!