04 June 2021

Spode & the Royal Pavilion (Part 3): Jars for the King

'Jars for the King'
This blogpost follows 'Spode & the Royal Pavilion...' (Part 1 & Part 2). In the final part of this mini-series, I am paying homage to my colleague and Spode mentor Robert Copeland (1925-2010). Much of what follows is from his research* which is how I became interested in Spode's Royal Pavilion connections in the first place. I also love that his huge knowledge and experience of ceramic technology helped to unravel some of the mystery of the making of these jars.

The top image shows 'The Banqueting Room at the Royal Pavilion'** in 1826. You need to peer carefully to see the Spode connection! The rich blue and very tall oil-fuelled torchères, or standard lamps, down each side of the Banqueting Room had large components made by Spode. I'll help you out below, with a close up of 4 of the 8 made***
Four of the torchères
The above image shows detail from Nash's illustration giving a feel of the size of the torchères. Compare the men standing by them.
Spode's making record of the Jars (detail) and how they fit in the torchères
Jar is an old word for vase. In this case a 'jar' was a fundamental part of the each torchère. The image above shows the 'Upright Jar' with some of its making instructions from a shape book of c1820. Another document records that the jars were made in April 1818.

The shape book includes the note 'this jar is thrown in 4 parts'. **** The measurements you can see are instructions for the thrower. Also included were measurements for the turner, which were smaller, and the finished article would be smaller still after shrinkage in firing. All were carefully calculated by those expert potters. The record also notes that the jars were made from Spode's stone china.***** 

Robert Copeland explained that:
    'Down one side of the room [Banqueting  Room] the torchères were fitted into long side tables, whilst on the window side of the room they were free-standing; these were further embellished with carved and gilt wood dolphins at the base. These torchères consist of circular drums of wood carrying tall jars richly mounted in ormolu borders, top and bottoms with dragon handles, the tails supporting a ground glass painted lotus; the lamps are 9ft 9in high [approx. 300cm]. The jars and the drums are royal blue in colour and it is about the jars that I [Copeland] am interested because they were made by Spode, who not only held the Prince's Warrant but was also regarded as one of the leading porcelain manufacturers in Europe at the time.
    ...visitors to the Royal Pavilion may be overawed by the magnificence of the Banqueting Room and its extraordinary decoration. They may note the unusual lamps. But a potter will marvel not only at the size of the jars, which are 36 inches [approx. 91.5cm] tall, but especially at the evenness of blue over the whole surface. Cobalt blue tends to 'run' in the glaze and it is exceptionally difficult to apply evenly by hand-held brush. Ground-laying was the method which would have been the most likely to yield an even distribution but how did Josiah Spode II's craftsmen solve the problem?'

Following a chance find at Spode of a copper [plate] 'stipple punched all over, i.e. covered neatly with dots' ******, Copeland was curious as to its use. As he remarked it would have made a very dull pattern! It reminded him of a 'sheet pattern' and the closest I can find of something similarly dull is an engraved apprentice copper.
Apprentice copper plate (detail)
In his article Copeland states that he later found a reference in an old recipe book.
It reads:
Blue for Printing the upright
Jars 36in made Apl 1818
for the King
3 Banding Blue & 2 White Lead
for the first time over, when
Hardened printed again with
Common Blue

Many, many different blues******* were used at Spode

Copeland continued:
     'I believe that the stipple sheet copper was used to apply an even coating of blue to these great jars. The formula for Banding Blue was: 10lb Best Blue Calx, 2lb Flint Glass. Banding Blue was for the blue bands [on a pot] normally applied by pencil - the potters' name for a brush. This blue was also used for groundlaying. After transferring the stipple sheet the jars were hardened on in a kiln at about 650ᵒC. This firing was to fasten the colour to the pot.
    Then they were printed again with Common Blue (10lb of Blue Calx, 18lb Cornwall Stone), when the transfer paper could be placed over any joins which showed from the first printing. They [the jars] would have to be hardened on again before the glaze was applied and then fired at about 1050ᵒC to develop the rich blue colour of Cobalt silicate.
    After this some gilded ornamentation was added at the base to link up with the ormolu mounts. This gilding would require a decorating kiln fire of about 720ᵒC followed by burnishing to render the gold shiny'.
Burnishing tools can be seen at Staffordshire Past Track
For clarification, the 1050ᵒC firing was the glost firing. In total, the jars had at least 5 firings - biscuit, 2 hardening on, glost and decorating kiln - all it bottle ovens].+
Spode factory and bottle ovens c1800
Copeland then goes on to discuss the making of the jars:
    'The shaping of the jars was by throwing in four parts which were then joined carefully by the thrower; later they were turned and, because of their great size, I suppose they would have been turned in an upright position [the norm would have been to turn objects in a horizontal position - see image below]. The exact measurements to be observed by the thrower and the turner are recorded in two Shape Books. One of these gives turner's measurements for two different bodies, one of which is marked S China [Stone China]'.
Turning a cup at Spode c1975
Other parts of the torchères were made by other craftsmen including by Vulliamy who also worked on the oil lamps and pagodas mentioned in my previous two posts.

These, then, are just some of the items made for the Royal Pavilion by Spode. Copeland mentions that Spode also supplied '4 oval blue china vases for celerets'. These measured approx. 82cm wide by 56cm high and 56cm across. They were ordered on 5th Jan 1822 according to Copeland citing The Royal Pavilion Requisitions Book. 
'Oval blue china vase for celerets'
Copeland also mentions Spode panels with painted flowers on an Imperial yellow ground set into wooden pedestals on which Chinese figures holding banners stood.
Spode ceramic panels in wooden base
Acknowledgments and notes:

Taken from my lecture 'The Josiah Spodes: Pottery Pioneers'

*My huge thanks to Robert Copeland (1925-2010) who sparked my interest in and researched and wrote about this subject sharing his knowledge with me. In particular his work on this subject around the 1970s/1980s, culminating in his article 'Jars for the King', published in the Spode Society's 'Recorder'. Although a member of the family who owned Spode, Copeland served 3 years 'at the bench' gaining experience of all the processes of ceramic manufacture on the factory floor. Later this gave him an advantage as a ceramic historian to understand the techniques of pottery production. I continue to be deeply grateful to Copeland who generously shared his Spode researches with me. We often did a swap and amalgamation of finds! He would be thrilled, I know, to be a part of the blogosphere. See below for a selection of his publications and also look at my booklist HERE>

In his article Copeland gives his thanks to Jessica Rutherford, then Principal Keeper at the Royal Pavilion. His references include:

'The Making of the Royal Pavilion, Brighton Designs and Drawings' by J. Morley, Sotheby, 1984

'The Royal Pavilion, Brighton' by John Dinkel, Philip Wilson 1983

** 'The Banqueting Room at the Royal Pavilion' from John Nash's Views of the Royal Pavilion 1826

*** @BrightonMuseums on Twitter; @brighton_museums on Instagram

****The majority of the pieces in the Spode shape books of this period are for items solely made by throwing and in bone china. So when there is an exception to this a note is usually included. The technical details included are for the Thrower (measurements on the left-hand page) and for the Turner (measurements on the right-hand page). Shape books can be seen online at Spode Exhibition Online.

***** More on the previous blogpost - click here

****** Pattern decoration could be applied by transfer printing method using hand engraved copper plates. The copper plates were simply referred to as coppers at the Spode factory.

******* For more on ceramic blues see: 'Spode's Willow Pattern & Other designs after the Chinese' 3rd edition, by Robert Copeland, Studio Vista, 1999 ISBN 0 289 80177-X Opposite page 70.

Other indispensable books by Robert Copeland: 

'Manufacturing Processes of Tableware during the Eighteenth & Nineteenth Centuries', Northern Ceramic Society, 2009 ISBN 978-0-9563159-0-8 [Much is illustrated from his photographs at Spode]

'Spode & Copeland Marks & Other Relevant Intelligence', Studio Vista, 2nd edition 1997 ISBN 0 289 80069 2

'Parian: Copeland's Statuary Porcelain', Antique Collectors' Club, 2007 ISBN 10: 1 85149 499 5, ISBN 13: 1 85149 499 6

The New Pocket Cyclopædia contains a report of the Prince's visit to Spode in 1806.

+ Please see Terry Woolliscroft's Potbank Dictionary for explanation of words associated with the Pottery Industry.

Thanks to Pat Halfpenny with whom I swapped notes, images, information and enthusiasm about this subject.

Royal Pavilion history - click HERE

Royal Pavilion objects in the Royal Collection Trust (RCT) - click HERE>

HM King George IV (1762-1830): Regent (1811-1820); King (1820-1830)
HM King George IV by Thomas Lawrence

27 March 2021

Spode & the Royal Pavilion (Part 2): Porcelain Pagodas

This blogpost follows 'Spode & the Royal Pavilion (Part I): Oil Lamps & an Old Chinese Vase' which has my information on the background and introduction to the main players in this story. For more click here>
Antique Chinese Porcelain Pagodas.
Impressive... but are they really big enough?
Chinese porcelain pagodas seem to have been something of 'A Thing' in the early 1800s and several, some in sets, are in the Royal Collections (RCT). I confess to getting a bit confused early on in this research with so many similar porcelain pagodas!

In the top photo*** you can see 4 magnificent 518cm (17ft) high pagodas in situ at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton which was 'the seaside pleasure palace for HM King George IV'. They are also described by RCT as 'colossal Chinese towers' which I rather like. And they use the word 'pyramid' for other pagodas in their collections too. 
Pagoda 17ft high (RCT no.RCIN1)
To make the original pagodas, which were already pretty impressive, even taller and to fit in with the scale of rooms in the Royal Pavilion, bases were added. The 'blue scagliola double plinths' were by Henry Westmacott. Josiah Spode II (Potter to the King) was commissioned to make the 'Chinese' landscape panels for the main part of the new bases. These beautiful panels are decorated with transfer printed borders in a blue fretwork pattern which surrounds the handpainted Chinese scenes. They show the great technical skill of Spode's early 19th century ceramic manufacture. The gilded metal work was by Benjamin Vulliamy*
Detail of Spode panels for the base
Spode's ceramic panels are likely to have been made from their stone china body which was developed to imitate, and match, Chinese porcelain in look, feel and quality. It was in production by 1812 but the exact date of introduction is unknown. Certainly some of the other pagodas in the Royal Pavilion have bases which are marked with the Stone China backstamp (mark) which is in the style of a pseudo-Chinese seal.
Backstamp used on another set of pagodas (RCT no.RCIN2400)
Together with this set of four pagodas, two more pairs are in the RCT (RCIN812 and RCIN 2400) and were installed at the Royal Pavilion. These also had ceramic base panels made by Spode. The two other pairs of Chinese porcelain pagodas were of different designs and had different panels made by Spode for their bases.
Detail of Spode panels made for the base (RCT no.RCIN2400)

Pagoda, bottom 2 tiers by Spode (RCT no.RCIN812)

All these pagodas can be viewed in detail on the RCT website.**

Here you can also find other Spode items, as well as those made at a later date when the company was owned by the Copeland family, which are in the RCT. To view them use the link at the end of this post. Then use the search option and search on Spode, select the tab 'What' to find the details of the various Spode objects including the pagoda sets. Unfortunately it is not possible to link directly to the Spode pagodas.

If you would like to marvel at the skill of how to put a pagoda together from all its component parts, please click Assembling a Pagoda and page down to watch a time-lapse film which is great fun. 
Acknowledgments and notes:

Taken from my lecture 'The Josiah Spodes: Pottery Pioneers'

Thanks to Robert Copeland (1925-2010) who sparked my interest in and researched and wrote about this subject sharing his knowledge with me. In particular his article 'Jars for the King', published in the Spode Society's 'Recorder'. More about the 'Jars' will appear in the next instalment.

* Benjamin Lewis Vulliamy (1780–1854), succeeded his father as head of the firm and Clockmaker to the King. Although his formal education is unknown, he evidently received a thorough training in both the theoretical and practical aspects of the business. By 1800 he was already helping to run the firm and after he became a partner in 1801 his involvement rapidly increased, so there was little immediate change in the firm's direction when he took over in 1811. 

The New Pocket Cyclopædia contains a report of the Prince's visit to Spode in 1806.

Terry Woolliscroft's Potbank Dictionary for explanation of words associated with the Pottery Industry.

Thanks to Pat Halfpenny with whom I swapped notes images, information and enthusiasm about this subject.

Royal Pavilion history - click HERE

**Royal Pavilion objects in the Royal Collection Trust (RCT) - click HERE>
***Thank you to Patricia Ferguson for the photo showing pagodas in situ at the Royal Pavilion. Patricia is on Instagram: @vasemadness 

More images from another blog called 'RosemaryandPorkBelly' here> and specifically Spode here> 

HM King George IV (1762-1830): Regent (1811-1820); King (1820-1830)
HM King George IV by Thomas Lawrence