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It is superfluous to add anything to the weighty words of M. Solon and Mr. Chaffers. That Dwight was a great and original artist, who has received something less than his meed of fame, is a fact that may hardly now be disputed by unprejudiced people.
The Gentleman's Magazine records the death, at Fulham in 1737, of Dr. Dwight, “author of several curious treatises in physick ; he was the first who found out the secret of colouring earthenware like china.” This Dr. Dwight has been rather hastily assumed to have
been the original John Dwight. This, however, is impossible, for
three reasons: first, that as John Dwight must have been a man of mature years when he filled the post of secretary to Brian Walton, who died in the year of the Restoration (1660), a comparison of dates would show him to have been at least a centenarian if he had survived until 1737; but John Dwight never had any claim to the title of Doctor, and, lastly, the learned author of “De febribus symptomaticis deque earum curatione,” “De hydropibus,” and “De vomitatione ejusque excessu curando necnon de emeticis medicamentis,” was not a John Dwight at all, but Dr. Samuel Dwight. Mr. Llewellyn Jewitt suggests that he was the son and successor of John Dwight— which seems probable. They were a talented family, and there is no reason why John Dwight's son should not have been a doctor and man of science first and a potter afterwards. Probably his chemical knowledge taught him some valuable secret in colouring earthenware, which justifies the paragraph in the Gentleman's Magazine. He apparently had not much sympathy with the artistic side of the business, for the buried porcelain models were not dug up, and the production of the finely modelled figures...in grey clay was stopped at this time. There was, according to Falkner, a Dr. Dwight who was Vicar of Fulham from 1708 to 1733. This could hardly have been either potter or physician. In all probability he was another son or a nephew of the first Dwight. The representative of the family when Samuel Dwight died was his daughter Margaret, who carried on the Pottery in partnership with Mr. Warland. It took them nine years to land the business in bankruptcy. Then Margaret married William White, who re-established the Pottery, which remained in the White family from generation to generation, until the last of the Whites died in 1862. The next proprietors, Messrs. Mackintosh & Clements, sold the Pottery in 1864 to Mr. Bailey, whose connection with it still continues, although the concern has recently been converted into a joint-stock company. Although Fulham has finally, as it may seem, deserted the artistic for the utilitarian side of the potter's craft, the genius loci makes occasional manifestations. Once, in 1873, Mr. Bailey started the manufacture of china, the body being from John Dwight's original receipt as revealed in the MS. memorandum book to which I have already referred. I do not know what became of the experiment; probably it was discontinued as not being commercially successful. What is most interesting, however, is the curious fact that the only art pottery that is executed in or about London nowadays owes in one sense its origin to Fulham. John Doulton, the father of Sir Henry Doulton, who started stoneware works at Vauxhall in partnership with John Watts in 1818, and afterwards removed to the now world-renowned Pottery at High Street, Lambeth, served his time as an apprentice to White, of Fulham. Robert Wallace Martin, the sculptor, the eldest of the Martin Brothers, who produced the beautiful and artistic Martin-ware at their own little Southall Pottery, began his work also at Fulham. Mr. Llewellyn Jewitt is incorrect, by-the-by, in stating that Wallace Martin was ever engaged as modeller and designer by the Fulham Pottery proprietors." He designed his own ware at their Pottery, and it was fired in their kilns under special and independent terms of arrangement. There is nevertheless something extremely interesting in the circumstance that connects the first production of the Martins' brilliant revival of the glories of artistic stoneware with the old works where John Dwight successfully essayed in his day to rival the celebrated grès of continental Europe. Lambeth, to whose great modern Pottery reference has already been made, may be regarded as having been the centre of the Metropolitan pottery industry in the seventeenth century. It was from early times a perfect nest of Dutchmen, who came over and set up manufactories of delft, which has little or nothing to distinguish it from ware of the same character made in other parts of England, or in Holland. The delft makers eventually gave way to stoneware manufacturers. China was made in 1760. There is a patent for “the art of making Tiles and Porcelane" on record as having been granted to John Ariens von Hamm in 1676. At the close of the seventeenth century there were at least twenty potteries at work in Lambeth. Although possibly existing works may occupy the sites of some of these, they have no history. The High Street Pottery of Messrs. Doulton occupies one of these old sites. It is itself but a comparatively recent establishment, whose origin dates from the present century only.
Coade's Lithodipyra, terra-cotta, or artificial stone manufactory at Pedlar's Acre, opposite Whitehall Stairs, enjoyed some considerable reputation in its time. The works were established by Mrs. Coade, of Lyme Regis, in 1760, and were finally closed in 1840. Flaxman, John Bacon, Banks, Rossi, and Panzetta were employed as modellers. John Bacon, the sculptor, had, by-the-by, been apprenticed to a Mr. Crispe, who owned a china manufactory in Lambeth. Among the noteworthy productions of Coade's artificial stoneworks are the rood screen of St. George's Chapel, Windsor, and the bas-relief in the pediment over the western portico of Greenwich Hospital—“The Death of Nelson,” which was designed by Benjamin West, and modelled by Bacon and Panzetta. The oldest existing Pottery about London next to Fulham is that of Messrs. Stiff, which was founded in a small way on part of the site of old Hereford House, Lambeth, in 1751, and is nowadays a very flourishing stoneware pottery. There are few places in the vicinity of London where small potteries have not existed some time or other within the past three hundred years—Vauxhall, Aldgate, Millwall, Stepney, Greenwich, Deptford, Kentish Town, Isleworth, Hounslow, Mortlake (there are some interesting examples of Mortlake delft and Isleworth redware in the South Kensington Museum), and Southwark. A luckless potter of Southwark, Nathaniel Oade, has achieved unenviable immortality as the victim of a terrible domestic tragedy, the details of which are given in the Post-Boy of March 1, 1718. Because Oade refused to give up his house and trade to his four sons they swore to have them in spite of him. So, with the aid of an attorney, they procured their father's arrest in a sham action for £500, and then seized the house by force. The mother, who refused to give up the books, was shot dead in the struggle, as was also another woman, and the premises were only retaken after a regular siege by the police and military. The youngest son and an accomplice were hanged for murder, and the others convicted of manslaughter and transported. The mention of old London potteries suggests to most people Chelsea and Bow et practerca nihil. Under what precise circumstances the making of soft porcelain was begun at the riverside “Village of Palaces” it is difficult to say. Its beginning dates from the close of the seventeenth century, and Llewellyn Jewitt is probably not far wrong in suggesting that it was inspired by the example of Dwight at the adjoining village of Fulham. In the train of William of Orange there came over to England a Dutchman of good family and great attainments, John Philip Elers. Elers was possessed of some important pottery secrets, and first introduced salt glazing into England. In partnership with his brother he started a pottery near Burslem where, it is said, they adopted extraordinary precautions to prevent the revelation of their trade secrets to the natives. They were even at pains, it was declared, to find deaf and dumb workmen and congenital idiots for light jobs. Eventually they were hoist by their own petard, for one Samuel Astbury, an aspiring potter, feigned idiocy for two years, and having in the course of that time mastered all the Dutchmen's mysterious processes, he threw off the mask and started an opposition. The story appears to be one that should be received with respectful reserve. However that may be, it seems that, after twenty years' contention with his neighbours, John Philip Elers had enough of North Staffordshire, and, his brother being dead, removed to Chelsea, where he did a great deal towards improving the already existing manufacture of soft porcelain. Elers left a son, Paul Elers, who was the father of Richard Lovell Edgworth's first wife. Paul does not seem to have inherited much of the paternal ability. He was a tiresome, rather impertinent busybody who worried Josiah Wedgwood terribly with his correspondence some years later. Wedgwood executed a medallion in jasper of John Philip Elers, from a portrait which had been sent to him by Paul, who desired to claim for his father the distinction of having been the inventor of British porcelain, which Wedgwood would by no means concede. It is astonishing how often British porcelain seems to have been invented in the course of a hundred years. Then the irrepressible Elers wrote and suggested to Wedgwood the desirability of issuing a series of medallion portraits of celebrities. The idea was not worth much at this juncture, seeing that Wedgwood and Bentley had already produced some hundreds out of a series which was ultimately to number 881. Then Paul Elers suggested that the application of the black basalt body, invented by Wedgwood, to the making of reservoirs and bombproof powder magazines, on account of its extreme hardness, would be an important public work. Finally, he was urgent upon Mr. Wedgwood to abandon such trivialities as cameos, plaques, &c., and to turn his serious attention to the manufacture of earthenware water-pipes for London and other great towns. At this point the great potter's overstrained patience seems to have given way at last, and we hear no more of the correspondence. This, however, is anticipating. Returning to John Philip Elers
it does not seem clear at what date his connection with the Chelsea works terminated. The organisation under which Chelsea became celebrated came into existence about 1745, according to Mr. Chaffers. Mason, who was employed as an artist in the works, fixes the date as 1748 or 1749, but as his own connection with them did not begin before 1751 he may have been mistaken. The really halcyon days of Chelsea porcelain did not endure for more than fifteen years—1750 to 1765—but large profits were doubtless made in that period, a circumstance due, mainly, notwithstanding the great merit of the manufacture, to the fact that it was really a protected industry. It received not only the substantial money support and vigorous patronage of the Royal Family, but opposition was practically stamped out by the importation of foreign porcelain for sale being prohibited by law. The Duke of Cumberland was the main support of the undertaking, and the manager was a clever foreigner of the name of Spermont, by profession a silversmith. Mason, whom I have already quoted, says that the Duke of Cumberland and Sir Everard Fawkener were the first proprietors, and that Spermont “was made manager at a salary of a guinea a day, with allowances for apprentices and other emoluments. Sir Everard died in 1755, much reduced in circumstances, when Mr. Spermont became sole proprietor and amassed a fortune. He retired in 1765 and travelled about England, and the manufactory was shut up for two years, for he neither would let it nor carry it on himself.” Probably Mr. Spermont, as a shrewd business man, knew perfectly well what he was about, and realised exactly wherein lay the strength of the position of the Chelsea Porcelain Works. When the Duke of Cumberland died an able friend and patron had been lost, and the interests of rival manufacturers were now so strongly backed that the protection and support of the Government was no longer to be relied upon. Spermont understood his privileges, and was tenacious about them, as appears from an interesting memorial from “the undertaker of the Chelsea manufacture of porcelain,” which is preserved among the Lansdowne MSS. in the British Museum. This memorial is directed against the systematic evasion of the Act prohibiting the importation of Dresden china for sale. Certain exemptions were made in favour of private persons receiving the china for their own use, and of foreign ministers in England ; the effect of which was that the house of one of the ambassadors was turned into a warehouse, where trade in Dresden china was unblushingly carried on.