The Coalport China Company began simply in 1750 as the Salopian China Warehouse when Squire Edward Browne of Caughley Hall in Shropshire England, decided to supplement his farming by producing earthenwares. This area had been a center of earthenware production for centuries due to the rich abundance of salopian clay and coal needed for the kilns.
The success of Squire Browne’s factory varied as it passed thru several generations of owners. Then Thomas Turner married into the family. Turner, who had been apprenticed at an early age to the Worcester Porcelain Company, brought several engravers from Worchester to work at Caughley. With them came the secret of transfer printing on porcelain, a much guarded process at Worcester. So highly guarded, in fact, that the engravers and printers were literally locked up and kept apart from the other workmen.
In 1780, Turner traveled to France where he gained information about the production of French porcelain. Returning with French artists and workers, he introduced the blues of the Sevres factory, (turquoise and lapis) into the line. Turner also returned with a Chinese blue and white plate of the famous Willow Pattern and Coalport became the first English factory to produce this popular design. Its great sales proved the backbone of the company’s financial success.
When Thomas Turner decided to retire in 1799, he sold the Salopian China Warehouse to his competitor and one time apprentice, John Rose, who had created a thriving porcelain factory down the river in Coalbrookdale. Rose kept production at Caughley for about fifteen years until the coal supply was exhausted and he moved the factory, brick by brick to Coalbrookdale. Under the direction of Rose the factory experienced great growth.
The long-term objectives of English porcelain factories had been to imitate the fine texture, translucent quality, color and patterns of the Sevres and Chinese porcelains. To this end, there was always competition to find the best paste for the body, artists and kilns to produce the effect.
The Coalport Company was so successful at reproducing the color, pattern and maker’s marks that today they may be mistaken for real Sevres. And copies were not limited to French porcelain, but Rose’s company also make expert copies of Dresden and Chelsea along with a forged maker’s mark.
John Rose died in 1841 and his son, brother and two outsiders inherited the company. For the next thirty years the company focused on copying the designs and colors of other successful porcelain companies, with the emphasis on Sevres. While well done, the practice proved to be its downfall. In 1885 Peter Bruff bought the struggling factory and under the vision of his son Charles Bruff the Coalport factory was re-invented. His mission was to foster original designs with the new Coalport mark, a crown with the words “England” above and “Coalport” below.
After a successful showing at the Chicago World’s fair in 1893, the American and Canadian markets imported an abundance of the porcelain. Although Charles Bruff had invigorated the Coalport factory and the area along the Severn River, the profits were never large and the combination of World War I followed by a drawn out labor strike, forced the selling of the company in 1926 to the Cauldon Potteries Ltd., at which time the factory was moved to Shelton in Staffordshire. Although there have been several owners since, Coalport is currently part of the Wedgewood group, still producing dinnerware and figurines. Many people believe the real Coalport was made from clay by the river Severn.
*Published in NFocus magazine in April 2000.