Antique Central - A Historical Perspective on Antique English Porcelain Collectibles.

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Antique English Porcelain

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English Porcelain Royal Worchester cobalt blue, gilded dessert platter, c1921

Rare double handle Derby porcelain covered  bowl

This highly collectible English porcelain Brown Transferware water pitcher and bowl is especially popular today.  Blue English transferware is easiest to find while black, green and red colors have recently wained in popularity.

It was China that first produced many English porcelain shapes for export to Europe. An inexperienced collector my mistake a tureen shaped like a bird as being English porcelain. Conversely, English importation of Chinese porcelain during the 17th century increased the interest of English potters in discovering the techniques used by the Chinese and many imitated the Chinese shapes. So, many antique English porcelain pieces may be mistaken as Chinese. 

English potters began experimenting with the Chinese porcelain processes. Potters throughout the west were influenced by the Chinese porcelain technique, and English potter began experimenting with the porcelain process. As the English potters became more skilled in their methods of producing English porcelain, the shapes and materials used made it easier to distinguish their origin.

One particularly fascinating thing about collecting antique English porcelain is the incredible variety of functional pieces available to the collector.  There seems to be a porcelain shape for every imaginable need. The first porcelain tea and coffee pieces, teapots, coffee pots, cream jugs, sugar bowls, tea bowls, slop bowls for disposing of used tea bags, spoon trays for holding wet spoons, canisters, large and small, were made in the late 17th century, and were found in England as early as 1748. 

Feldspar china was a type of English porcelain in which feldspar replaced china stone in the bone china formula. Spode was one of the first to begin experimenting with this English porcelain material which was even harder and more robust than bone china, as well as less expensive.

During the mid-eighteenth century many European factories, especially Derby porcelain factories, used a technique referred to as biscuit. Biscuit refers to a stage in the production of pottery or porcelain after it has been fired once and not glazed, specifically applied to porcelain pieces sold in the unglazed state.

Many collectors when speaking of antique English porcelain consider bone china, made of ox bone powder mixed with hard-paste and invented in 1794, as characteristically. The porcelain body is translucent, but denser. Examples of English bone china include Spode, Rockingham, Minton, Derby, and Flight & Barr. After the introduction of bone china, experimentation with new materials began and shapes and styles of English porcelain changed, beginning with the Neoclassical styles of 1780 to the Regency styles. 

In the late 18th century English porcelain production was largely dominated by various soft-paste and soapstone porcelain made outside of the Staffordshire area. But, by 1820 bone china came to be predominately manufactured by Staffordshire potters. The popularity of English porcelain began to decline sharply after 1820 with many of the factories having to close. Although Wedgwood was unsuccessful with commercial production of porcelain at this time, the company adopted bone china as an important and useful material, which later resulted in the company's future success.

The English were also influenced by the Chinese reticulation technique of cutting small holes or shapes in the ceramic body before firing. By the late 19th century, the process had reached its height of popularity at Worchester. George Owen, a master potter, worked many years on molded shapes until he had perfected the process with thousands of intricate shapes, creating some of the most unique and exquisite examples of fine English porcelain.

An exquisite example of antique English porcelain with reticulation can be seen in the Royal Worchester Vase by George Owen c1907. With great skill and concentration, Owen would begin at the top of the piece, individually hand-cutting each hole being careful that the cut sections did not fall to the inside.






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