This is an extremely rare dessert service made by Chamberlain & Company (Worcester) between 1840 and 1851.
Robert Chamberlain started his own porcelain company in 1791, initially mainly decorating other factories' blanks, but then increasingly producing his own distinctive hard-paste porcelain. The company became very successful, but ultimately couldn't compete with the Barr & Flight factory and merged with them in 1840. The company was called Chamberlain & Company for the next decade or so, after which it ended up in the hands of Richard Binns and William Kerr, who modernised the factory and ultimately created the famous Royal Worcester factory in the 1860s.
This dessert service was most probably made for the US market. It is a pattern that was popular in the 18th Century, called "Blind Earl", but this version is extremely rare: instead of the usual polychrome, this was done in simple underglaze flow blue on white, with gilt highlights. This combination of colours was not popular in Britain, but customers in the US loved it, so most probably this was made for export.
The "Blind Earl" pattern consists of cheerful large foliage with closed flower buds that are moulded onto the surface. This 18th Century pattern has been repeated many times up to only several decades ago. The pattern was called after George William Coventry, the fifth Earl of Coventry (1722-1809), who was the Lord Lieutenant of Worcestershire. In 1780, George William suffered from a hunting accident and lost his sight completely. It is said that he first ordered a service like this (although in polychrome colours with bright greens) because he wanted to be able to feel his beautiful china, since he couldn't see anymore.
Although this is a fabulous story, historians tend to disagree as the first blind earl china was produced by the Worcester Porcelain Company in the 1750’s while George William’s accident occurred in 1780. There can be two explanations: either the story was wrongly attributed to George William's accident after the fact, or perhaps already in the 1750s there was hereditary blindness in the family, and the hunting accident story was made up to explain away George William's blindness - either way, it is a good story and this pattern will be called "Blind Earl" forever!
Most items are marked with the printed puce mark for Chamberlain & Company, pointing to a date between 1840 and 1851; one plate and one tureen are marked with the Worcester crescent mark. This makes sense as during this period the factory worked from both sites (as visible from the double address in the mark).
CONDITION REPORT The service is in excellent antique condition without any structural damage, no repairs and hardly and crazing or wear. The Worcester plate and sauce tureen are crazed; there are two or three minute chips off rims of plates (not visible from the front) and there is some rubbing to the gilt mainly on the lozenge shaped dishes, as visible in the pictures. There are no cracks anywhere.
Antique British 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 plates 22.2cm (8.75") diameter; sauce tureens stand 21cm (8.25") high and are 24cm (9.5") wide; lozenge shape dishes 31 X 23cm (12 X 9"); square dish 23 X 23cm (9 X 9").
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.
Rare Chamberlain & Co dessert service, Blind Earl 1840-1851
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