This is an extremely rare Belleek cabaret set for one, or "solitaire", made in the famous Echinus series brought out in 1867. The items carry the 1st Black Mark, used between 1863 and 1891. The set consists of a tiny teapot, a milk jug, a footed bowl, a teacup and saucer, and a large matching tray.


If desired, we are able to add more teacups and saucers to this set, however they would be white.


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 very much 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 tray has a beautiful imprinted pattern of what looks like large kelp leaves, and the same charming choral pattern around the edges matching the handle and foot of the teapot.


The teapot, tray and teacup are rare, but even rarer are the milk jug and bowl. The jug has an unusual type of handle for this series (usually they have the same handle as the teapot), and the bowl is rather big; you could use it for sugar but it would also be perfect for some scones or similar baked goods.


The items carry the First Black Mark, as well as date codes for 1869 (the tray) and 1878 (the other items).


CONDITION REPORT The set is in excellent antique condition, with only one small flaw. The teapot has a repair to the tip of the spout, which is invisible (see last picture). 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. Other than this there is no damage, repiars, crazing or wear. 


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 11.5cm (4.5") high to the top of the finial and handle, and measures 16.5cm (6.5") from handle to spout. The jug stands 9cm (3.5") high and measures 11cm (4.25") from mouth to handle. Bowl stands 8.5cm (3.4") high and is 11.5cm (4.5") in diameter. 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").

Belleek solitaire cabaret set, pink Echinus, 1869-1878

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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!