BRIEF HISTORY OF SPODE

Josiah Spode I

Josiah Spode I

Creamware Devonia shape dish

Creamware Devonia shape dish in Pattern number 136 c.1800

An early heart-shaped in dish in Bone China

An early heart-shaped in dish in Bone China decorated with Pattern number 319 c.1803. Hand painted and finely gilded in an understated Georgian style and emphasizing the whiteness of the Bone China body, at the time superior to that of any English competitor.

A very early Low Scent Jar

A very early Low Scent Jar made pre 1800 in an early experimental Bone China body. The pattern number, 671, dates from around 1803-5, indicating that the piece was decorated some years after its manufacture.

Dessert plate in Bone China

Dessert plate in Bone China c1806. A spectacular effect is achieved with just two ground-laid colours (iron red and cobalt blue) and gilding.

Japanese inspired Imari designs

Spode’s Bone China glazes were particularly good in the way they accepted gilding. In particular, Spode introduced hundreds of Japanese inspired Imari designs, generously gilded. These are sometimes called “candlelight patterns” as in flickering candlelight, the gilding comes alive and sparkles. This plate in Pattern number 1495, c.1810, is typical.

Green glazed earthenware pierced Violet Pot c.1820

Spode ‘Girl at the Well’ pattern earthenware plate, transfer printed in blue, c.1823.  Spode are credited with introducing this pattern which was copies by at least five other manufactories.  It uses the same border as Union Wreath Third.

Light grey earthenware Hydra jug with applied sprig mouldings in blue c.1825

The First Spode Period 1776-1833

Spode is one of the greatest names of the Industrial Revolution. Josiah Spode I was born in 1733 and after several years working for other local potters, established his own company in 1776 in Church Street, (then known as High Street) Stoke and, like his neighbour and friend Josiah Wedgwood, concentrating on the production of ceramic wares of the finest quality in a variety of bodies.

He is particularly recognised as having developed the technique for underglaze transfer printing on earthenware c.1784 and to have produced the first printed “Willow” patterns 1784-90s. He focused his attention on the manufacture of porcelain, a technically more difficult but much finer material than he had previously made, introducing in 1796 a new type of porcelain which he first called “Stoke China” but shortly afterwards renamed “Bone China”, because of the high proportion of calcined ox-bone in its formula.

Josiah Spode I died suddenly in 1797 and it fell to his son Josiah Spode II to continue and perfect his father’s developments. In partnership with William Copeland, Josiah II continued the business for the next thirty years Under their management in the early 19th century, considered by many to be the “Golden Age” of English ceramics, the company grew to be the largest pottery in Stoke and a pre-eminent manufacturer of fine ceramics of every kind. Spode II was appointed “Potter to the Prince of Wales” when the Prince Regent visited the factory in 1806.

Josiah II’s china bodies, first Bone China and, from 1822, its derivative, Felspar Porcelain, outclassed all other contemporary English porcelains not just in terms of beauty but also of reliability of manufacture. Spode’s Felspar Porcelain is recognised as the forerunner of all modern English Bone China.

As the technique for transfer printing on earthenwares was perfected, Spode’s blue and white transfer printed wares were generally considered to be among the finest ever made. The most famous pattern of which, “Italian”, introduced in 1816, continues to be made in quantity to this day.

The portrait of Josiah Spode II shown on the right is hand painted on a Spode’s Felspar porcelain plaque, c.1820. It is copied from an earlier painting by Keeling in 1806 and engraved by William Greatbach, chief engraver for Spode.

Also shown on this page are a small selection of typical Spode wares made during this period, demonstrating how designs and shapes evolved from the highly restrained Georgian styles through the more ebullient decorative forms of the Regency period. The pattern books show 5,000 different “standard” patterns were produced during this period, but many more special order patterns were also made.

Bow-handled bucket in Bone China

Bow-handled bucket in Bone China, decorated with pattern number 878, c.1806. From around 1805, Spode introduced new techniques in ground-laying, resulting in an outburst of finely executed colour on ceramics, which ushered in Regency, as opposed to Georgian, style. This pattern, along with many others, is comprised only of a single coloured ground (here iron red) and gilding. Yet the effect is spectacular.

Bone china Claw footed "beakers” in two sizes

Bone china Claw footed "beakers” in two sizes, in Pattern number 2575, c.1815-17. The intricate gilding shows up well on the cobalt blue ground. The flower painting and the gilding are all done by hand.

underglaze blue printing techniques

By 1815, underglaze blue printing techniques on earthenware had been perfected and large quantities of services were made, with designs based on a variety of topographical, botanical, Oriental and other subjects. The dish illustrated is from the Caramanian series, taken from Luigi Mayer’s ‘Views in the Ottoman Empire’ published in 1803. The Caramanian series alone included over a dozen different views.

Spode teawares bat printed in black on drabware, a form of coloured earthenware. The technique of bat printing, which produced an effect similar to that of copperplate engraving on paper, was used at a number of potteries during the Regency period, but none so much as at Spode, who printed many series of designs, often on Bone China. Ball shape tea pot , sugar box and creamer with Bute shape tea cup and saucer c.1820

Spode Octagonal shape tea wares in Felspar Porcelain. Spode’s Felspar Porcelain, a variety of Bone China, was developed in 1821 and subsequently became the standard formula for most English Bone China. The trade name Felspar Porcelain was used in order to compete with Coalport, who were successfully branding their wares as Felspar Porcelain. Pattern number 3073 c.1821