NewslettersRuby Lane's newsletters are designed to celebrate the antiques and art, vintage collectibles and jewelry communities around the world. Our Past Times newsletter focuses on antiques and collectibles. Our Creative Hands newsletter celebrates fine art and handcrafted jewelry on Ruby Lane. Our shop owners are frequent article contributors, sharing their expertise and their passions for the items they collect and create. Enjoy!
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Ruby Lane's Past Times Newsletter for April 2007
IN THIS ISSUE:
- Coalport China Works: The History of the Factory from John Rose to Charles Bruff by Glebe Bells Ceramics
- A Travelog: The Braderie de Lille by AbbyGail Hacker of Tiny's Antiques Barn
- April Editor's Pick: Life Is Just A Bowl of Cherries
COALPORT CHINA WORKS: THE HISTORY OF THE FACTORY FROM JOHN ROSE TO CHARLES BRUFF BY GLEBE BELLS CERAMICS
With a history reaching back 130 years from the late C18th to 1925, the Coalport factory production reached every corner of the ceramic compass, from the every-day utilitarian to the most splendid and magnificent.
My introduction to the wares of this dearly loved factory had its early roots in my paternal Grandmother's collection when I was barely more than a toddler. Grandmother had accumulated an enormous collection of English ceramics but her favourite and mine was always those wonderful early Coalport pieces. I was allowed to handle the precious teapots and splendid dessert dishes while she told me stories of the painters and potters who had produced them; her passion was infectious and began for me a life-long love affair with antique English pots! As I approached adulthood, like a many wayward, capricious young woman I would be easily and often seduced by a handsome newcomer: a Worcester pickle dish or a dashing Vauxhall jug, but the products from John Rose and Co were never abandoned.
Coalport as a place arose from riverside meadows when the Shropshire canal serving the East Shropshire coalfields was connected through the meadows by William Reynolds in 1788. With the work completed, this vital transport centre spawned new industries and the area was named from its importance as a connection between the coal and its transport. The new settlement attracted the most important industry: the china manufactory of John Rose, known then as Blakeney and Rose, moving his smaller concern at Jackfield to the canal side in 1795 with his previous partner, Edward Blakeney. Rose served his apprenticeship on the other side of the river at the Caughley factory and when this concern failed in 1799, it was purchased by Rose, running both factories for a time in tandem. For fourteen years from 1800, a confusion can arise in the attribution of "Coalport" china as Rose's brother, Thomas, opened a second factory on the opposite side of the canal to his elder brother, in partnership with William Reynolds and William Horton (Reynolds replaced a few years later by Robert Anstice). The two businesses at times were almost shadows, producing similar shapes and patterns, an obfuscation ended by John Rose in 1814 when he bought out his younger brother and merged the two factories.
*In these early years, the factory had already secured some notable commissions such as the service for Spencer Perceval, the son of the second Lord of Egmont and the only British Prime Minister to be assassinated. Elected to parliament as MP for Northampton in 1796, Perceval was a strong supporter of William Pitt, serving as Solicitor General and Chancellor of the Exchequer before accepting the offer from King George 111 to become Prime Minister in 1809. He was shot in the House of Commons by a Russian merchant, John Bellingham, a failed businessman from Liverpool, on 11th May 1812. Bellingham, who blamed Perceval for his financial difficulties, was later hanged for his crime. The plate illustrated here has a shaped and gilded rim, and bears the Perceval monogram to the outer border and the crest to the centre, inside a foliate wreath.
After the merger of the two factories, the lease was allowed to lapse on the Caughley site and from this period, the production was centred on the Coalport site, by which time there had been a change of financial backers and the concern was known as John Rose & Company. Much of the fabric of the abandoned Caughley site was dismantled and rebuilt at the Coalport works.
The factory flourished, acquiring a reputation for the finest decoration, boosted by the acquisition in 1820 of painters from the Swansea and Nantgarw manufactories in Wales, bringing in William Billingsley and Walker, and having the dual benefit of shutting down a serious market competitor. Like many of the early china works, the Nantgarw concern was always struggling with a lack of adequate funding and while it would almost certainly follow those others and ultimately fail, Rose was an astute businessman and seized his chance to accomplish the double benefit of adding the skills and knowledge of his competitors to his own concern.
**A successful production in the first quarter of the 19thC were the more utilitarian tablewares, moulded with flowers and scrolls and painted with bold flowers which are shown off very well against the creamy white porcelain body. An amazing survivor is the rare egg stand, still complete with its eggcups. Brought to the Regency breakfast table by the maid, carrying it with her finger hooked through the ring handle, this delightful item might easily have been destroyed by a careless cook or a heavy-handed scullery maid and yet, miraculously, here it still is and looking as good as the day it left the factory!
The China Works continued to thrive, continually improving the quality of the porcelain body and adding to its stable of the very best painters and gilders, with an illustrious roll call of names including such masters as Jabey Aston, James Rouse, Kelshall and the Birbecks, so that by the time of Rose's death in 1841 the company was one of the leading producers of the time. Its success continued under the ownership of William Rose and William Pugh, with international recognition of excellence at exhibitions, showcasing the works of Robert Abraham specialising in the outstanding cherubs, William Cook and his superb flower painting and John Randall, the master of bird studies. The production by this period shows the clear influence of the Sevres factory, the Coalport concern successfully developing the vibrant Sevres ground colours, as shown with the Rose du Barry pink produced triumphantly in time for the 1851 Great Exhibition. The artistic glory of this period was nevertheless overshadowed by increasing financial difficulties and, following the death of William Pugh, the company went into receivership in 1876, in which this sorry state it languished for five years until it was rescued by its purchase in 1881 by an Ipswich businessman, Charles Bruff, who tackled its revival with the vigour of fresh blood and enterprise, employing an art director in Thomas Bott, and set about restoring the works to their previous glory, improving again the body and producing top quality
decoration. Alongside the ornamental wares, the factory produced table and tea wares making use of the vast back catalogue of designs.
***The factory kept pace with the times and latest fashions and towards the last quarter of the century, the rage in London was for all things Japanese, fanned by the first production of Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta The Mikado. Combining seamlessly with the taste of the Aesthetic Period, Coalport produced some of the finest ornamental wares of this period. A perfect example is the Japanesque vase with the solid gilt ground and elegantly decorated in a clean design of black and white.
All might have been very well, but the factory could not remain immune from the First World War and the subsequent worldwide depression which affected the potteries. The difficulties were compounded by the factory's geographical separation from the Staffordshire potteries with its consequent isolation and distribution problems. Once again, financial losses loomed over Bruff and Bott, this time not to be averted, ultimately forcing the sale of the concern to the Cauldon works in 1925, transferring production to the Staffordshire potteries in Stoke on Trent and closing the factory at Coalport. Although some painters and potters moved to Stoke on Trent, most of the workforce was laid off and the Coalport enterprise as it was when begun by John Rose as a china producer came to an end. The Coalport name as a backstamp still appears, but it is now within the Wedgwood group, producing collectible figurines.
Contemporary wares under the Coalport label may well prove to be the antiques of the future, only time and a hundred years will tell – a future longevity unlikely to be granted to me! Increasingly, as we age, we prefer our new conquests to have the backing of a good vintage: the roving eye remains but the palate has grown more discerning. John Rose and I have embraced the modern age and co-habit in an open relationship. Now approaching my sixtieth year, I am merrily resigned to the evidence that surrounds me of my ceramic infidelities, secure in the knowledge that they dwell amicably alongside my most faithful and enduring love.
We invite you to visit: Glebe Bells Ceramics.
©Glebe Bells Antique Ceramics
A TRAVELOG: THE BRADERIE DE LILLE BY ABBYGAIL HACKER OF TINY'S ANTIQUES BARN
Hunting for antiques is my passion, and my hunting ground is Northern France, where I live. The French call France "The World's Attic", because of the all the old treasures you find stashed away, and here in the North we call ourselves "France's Attic". We have as many names for Flea Market as Eskimos have for snow, but the most common one is "Brocante". Legally, brocantes are limited to one per year, per location, so buyers and sellers go to brocantes in different villages every day - a lovely way to see the country, especially since there are no cars allowed within.
The biggest flea market in all of Europe takes place the first weekend in September of every year, since the 15th century: it's called the Braderie de Lille. Lille is France's fourth-largest city, and the Braderie is city-wide and open 24 hours a day (in theory, anyway; dealers are usually too drunk to trade much after dusk, and anyway it's dark out.) The Braderie also hosts a mussel-fries-and-beer-fest: French Fries actually come from here*, we eat them often and respect them highly; at the festival, mussel shells are piled high outside every restaurant in a competition to see which one sells the most mussels. Another local competition is cock-fighting. Our 21st century Gallodrome, http://www.legallodrome.com/, pits tee-shirt designers to the death-winning designs, voted for online by the public, are sold in limited editions on the site and also in Gallodrome boutiques. Since all entries must be of local interest, it's a good place to buy a souvenir of your visit. (There are several "Braderie de Lille" styles available.)
Because the Braderie is so huge, and people come from far and wide, hundreds of smaller brocantes have sprung up around Lille in August and September, so that it's worthwhile for a professional to come here for a month or more of trading. The local rag, "La Voix du Nord," highlights a single antique each year, and tracks its progress as it makes its way to Lille, getting bought and sold along the way, with the price rising at each transaction. The "Voix" also publishes a Saturday supplement with maps of the different areas within the Braderie. There is a book, too, "Officiel des Braderies," published annually and available at most newsstands, which lists all regional fleas by date.
Some other very big flea events in the area are Maroilles (a town-wide in an adorable storybook village that smells like the smelly cheese named after it); La Rederie d'Amiens (very popular with Parisian antiquaires, it is said there is nothing good to be found there after sunrise, even though the event goes on all day long--not true!); and antiques fairs in the nearby belgian city of Tournai several times a year. But the Braderie de Lille is the biggest and most amazing of all, and Lille is a beautiful city to visit. There is good shopping (Cartier, Vuitton, Hermes, etc., are all conveniently located on the same block) and great eating (Paul, a local business who now has bakeries worldwide--and gazillions of them in and around Lille--has the best snacking and the best hot chocolate which you can also take home in vacuum-packed cartons.)
The museums rival Paris, and the people are friendly (for the duration of the Braderie only; afterwards, they revert to snooty, surly Frenchness.) Just walking around the city is a joy in itself. If you do decide to come, of course you will be doing a lot of walking and schlepping, and you will need a flashlight. Vendors advise you to bring your own labels for the purchased items you can carry, so that when you go back they can identify you. If you don't book a hotel well in advance, stay outside of the city and drive to a metro or tram line for park and ride. Don't bring kids or pets because they will be crushed by the crowds. Do bring euros because A.T.M. lines get very long. Most of all, be safe, have fun, and bring lots of empty suitcases for your purchases. Prices can be very reasonable!
*The story goes that here in Flanders people used to fish for tiny fish, and fry them up, and these were called "Friture." In the winter, when the water would freeze over and there were no tiny fish to be had, people would cut potatoes into appropriately-shaped bits, and fry them up, and call them "Friture." Eventually the potatoes surpassed the fish in popularity....
We invite you to visit: Tiny's Antiques Barn.
APRIL EDITOR'S PICK: LIFE IS JUST A BOWL OF CHERRIES
Prized both for their fruit and for blossoms in the Spring, rootstock for cherry trees went West with settlers in covered wagons on the Oregon Trail. Later, in 1876, the fruit of a big Oregon cultivar named ‘Bing' was shipped back East and presented with pride to crowds at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Sweet Bing cherries were such a hit at the Exposition they sold for the rather astounding price for the time of three cents each.
Fresh, plump, ripe cherries can be enjoyed by nearly everyone, young or old. A big bowl of sweet cherries would have made a fine dessert for a large Victorian family and would not have been an uncommon, happy sight to see on the dinner table after every harvest. But in the days before ready refrigeration, fresh cherries could be enjoyed in this way only for a short period of time. All too soon they would pass their prime and be relegated to jams or pies.
The idiom, ‘life is a bowl of cherries' no doubt was already established in the vernacular before entering popular culture in another form in 1931. That was the year that the Tin Pan Alley song "Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries" hit the circuit. In 1931 the world suffered in the grip of the Great Depression, and in singing such a sentiment during such a time, the crooner Rudy Vallee helped to remind everyone that happiness could be found in simple pleasures, regardless of circumstance. The tune was also an unknowing homage to a great truth. That even the small moments of life should be appreciated and enjoyed, for it, like happiness, can be fleeting.
"Life is just a bowl of cherries So live and laugh at it all."
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