These plates tell a story
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This beautiful set of plates made by Bloor Derby can tell us a rich family history.
The famous Crown Derby factory, owned and made great by William Duysbury in the 18th Century, had been struggling ever since the founder had died. William's son suffered from ill health and died young, leaving behind his wife Elisabeth and a 10-year old son, who developed no interest in the company. A clever employee, the brilliant Irish miniature painter Michael Kean, then married Elisabeth and took over ownership of the company.
Their marriage, however, soon fell apart and Kean lost interest in the company. He had employed Robert Bloor to run the factory and once Kean had disappeared, Bloor bought up the by now failing company. He soon discovered a large stock of rejected items, all of which had imperfections. As he had no money left, he decided to decorate this entire stock. He managed to conceal the blemishes by decorating them with a strongly coloured ground, often the cobalt blue you see in this set of plates. Decorations were rich and covered the entire surface of the items, and there was lots of gilt.
Interestingly these items, made out of desperation and looked down upon by other factories, became very popular with the general public!
Bloor proved to be a brilliant leader and decorator and received a Royal Appointment. However, Bloor's luck ran out as well. Having been exposed to so many chemicals in the decoration process, he suffered from mental incapacity - this happened to many potters and particularly the decorators. He ended his days in an asylum. His granddaughter and only heir had married a maltster who took control of the factory.
Making pots is different from making malt though - in fact porcelain is one of the most difficult things one can produce. The factory soon failed and, sadly, was closed in 1848.
It wasn't the last we have heard from the Derby factory though... it was revived in later years, and is still producing beautiful wares today. When you have dinner or high tea in one of the world's great hotels, have a look at the mark of your crockery - it often is custom-made by Royal Crown Derby.
Today I have two sets of Bloor Derby plates from when Bloor used up the abandoned stock he found in the warehouse. There is a set of 8 dessert plates, and a set of 4 dinner plates.
They are beautifully decorated but if you look carefully, you can see the little imperfections in the glaze under the stunning cobalt blue ground, exquisite flowers and lavish gilt. All plates are a bit crazed as well - but none of this detracts from their great beauty, and they have suffered virtually no wear and no damage at all.
Enjoy your weekend!
This week's new treasures: