This is a very rare Belleek cabaret set for two, or "tête a tête", made in the famous Echinus series brought out in 1867. The tray, teapot and milk jug carry the 1st Black Mark, used between 1863 and 1891; the teacups carry the 2nd Black Mark, used between 1891 and 1926. 

 

If you ever thought Belleek fine china looks, sounds and feels unique, you are right. There is a back story to this extraordinarily fine Irish eggshell porcelain, which has an unusually high amount of "frit" and therefore is thinner and finer than any other china.

 

Pottery in Belleek (in the now Northern-Irish area of Fermanagh) had started in 1849 with John Caldwell Bloomfield, who was a wealthy land owner. During the Irish famine he realised that unless he would find a way for his tenants to make a profit off the land, they would starve. Agriculture had become impossible due to the agricultural diseases. This caused millions to starve and more millions to leave. As an amateur mineralogist, John Caldwell Bloomfield realised that his land had exactly the right mineral deposits to be used as clay for porcelain. He involved several investors and scientists and after many years of research, trial, error, the building of a railway line to import coal from England, and building a factory, the Belleek pottery resulted, employing the local people and soon producing the finest china made with clay from the Belleek area.

 

What had started as a way to fend off famine among the local tenants had became a story of incredible success by the 1880s as Queen Victoria fell in love with the fine white china and the many homely, slightly bizarre but nature-loving designs; this was different from English tradition, yet it was very much to the taste of the British who had developed a real love for home-made fine china since it was introduced in the late 18th Century. Belleek not only brought out many tea services, but started a new tradition of intricately woven porcelain baskets. Soon the English nobility started to place big orders and the pottery is still flourishing today and selling its wares the world over, while in England most potteries have long disappeared.

 

The Echinus series is one of the most famous series Belleek brought out. Queen Victoria loved it and ordered a little breakfast set just like this, which she used every morning the rest of her life. Echinus is the name of a sea urchin, and you can see why: the belly of the teapot is shaped and moulded like a sea urchin. But the references to sea life don't stop there: the handle, foot and spout are all shaped like coral, and the finial of the teapot is a little shell held up by little twigs of sea asparagus. The artwork of the moulding is exquisite, all the way from the urchin surface to the rather wild and slightly spooky coral handle. The milk jug and teacups have beautiful lustre inside; the teacups a little darker than the jug. The tray has a beautiful imprinted pattern of what looks like large kelp leaves, and the same charming choral pattern around the edges matching the handles of the teapot and milk jug.

 

These items are extremely rare to find these days so even to find this set is a unique opportunity.

 

CONDITION REPORT The set is in excellent antique condition, with a few professional repairs. The teapot has a repair to the inside of the rim - but if handled carefully and washed carefully (without submerging, and in water that is not too hot) it should still be possible to use the pot. There is also some emulsion on the uderside of the pot, presumably hiding a superficial hairline, but there is no crack in the bottom so again this should not stop you from using the pot as long it is washed carefully. Other than this, there is no damage and no wear. The tray has some imperfections baked into the glaze, which is normal for items of this ear; the glaze is also a bit bubbly on the underside, which cannot be seen when it is in position. 

 

Antique porcelain is never perfect. Kilns were fired on coal in the 1800s, and this meant that china from that period can have some firing specks from flying particles. British makers were also known for their experimentation, and sometimes this resulted in technically imperfect results. Due to the shrinkage in the kiln, items can have small firing lines or develop crazing over time, which should not be seen as damage but as an imperfection of the maker's recipes, probably unknown at the time of making. Items have often been used for many years and can have normal signs of wear, and gilt can have signs of slight disintegration even if never handled. I will reflect any damage, repairs, obvious stress marks, crazing or heavy wear in the item description but some minor scratches, nicks, stains and gilt disintegration can be normal for vintage items and need to be taken into account.

 

There is widespread confusion on the internet about the difference between chips and nicks, or hairlines and cracks. I will reflect any damage as truthfully as I can, i.e. a nick is a tiny bit of damage smaller than 1mm and a chip is something you can easily see with the eye; a glazing line is a break in the glazing only; hairline is extremely tight and/or superficial and not picked up by the finger; and a crack is obvious both to the eye and the finger. Etcetera - I try to be as accurate as I can and please feel free to ask questions or request more detailed pictures!

 

DIMENSIONS The pot stands 16cm (6.25") high to the top of the finial and handle, and measures 23.5cm (9.25") from handle to spout. The jug stands 9cm (3.5") high and measures 12cm (4.75") from mouth to handle. Teacup is 8.5cm (3.75") diameter and 5cm (2") high, saucer is 13.5cm (5.25") diameter. The tray measures 46cm (18") by 37cm (14.5").

 

SHIPPING I ship worldwide from the UK, mostly by Royal Mail 2nd Class for the UK and International Tracked and Signed for the rest of the world. I am happy to combine shipping charges on multiple items - please contact me to discuss. In principle I do not make a profit on shipping although for simplicity's sake I charge flat shipping fees. If the fee charged greatly exceeds the actual cost I will gladly refund you the difference - at the same time if it is slightly lower I will gladly make up the difference. In some countries shipping will end up significantly more than the expected fees and I will contact you to discuss our options. PLEASE CONTACT ME FOR ANY QUESTIONS REGARDING SHIPPING COSTS AND OPTIONS.
 

Belleek cabaret set, cream Echinus, 1867-1926

SKU: A-BEL22
£2,250Price
  • Your item will be shipped after receipt of funds, unless agreed otherwise in writing. 

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    We always aim to have happy customers so if you have an issue with or questions about your item, please contact us and we will do anything we can to resolve the issue with you! 

© 2019 by Gentle Rattle of China - copyright on all images and text

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