'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.
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.
Blue for Printing the uprightJars 36in made Apl 1818for the King
3 Banding Blue & 2 White Leadfor the first time over, whenHardened printed again withCommon Blue
Many, many different blues******* were used at Spode
'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]'.
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'|
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|