Queen's Ware

By 1750 there were about 130 potteries in North Staffordshire, the majority of which would have been manufacturing products such as salt-glazed stoneware, black glazed wares, and red wares. Many would have been moving into the production of the newly developed cream coloured earthenware, which was similar in chemical composition to salt-glazed stoneware. Whereas creamware was being produced by the 1740s, Josiah Wedgwood's innovation came in transforming this earthenware body into a highly refined ceramic material which was described by Dr.Aiken as "a species of pottery of a firm and durable body and covered with a rich and brilliant glaze and bearing sudden vicissitudes of heat and cold without injury; it was manufactured with the ease of expedition; was sold cheap". The refinement of the cream coloured earthenware took a considerable amount of time and patience until finally Josiah was able to write in his 'Experiment Book' at last; 'A Good wt. [white] Glaze'.

Throughout the 18th century, creamware became successfully more refined, technically perfect and more aesthetically excellent, until it reached its zenith with a fine form, thin body, clear and brilliant glaze which formed a perfect background for the ingenious enamellers as well as other more mechanical forms of decoration. Creamware is one of the most versatile and long-lived ceramic bodies, it was perfect for its purpose being used for everything from elaborate and ornamental vases to humble utilitarian wares. Its widespread use and popularity are exemplified in the writings of the Frenchman, Faujas de Saint Fond, in 'Voyage en Angleterre': "Its excellent workmanship, its solidarity, the advantage which it possesses of standing the action of the fire, its fine glaze, impervious to acid, the beauty, convenience and variety of its forms and its moderate price have created a commerce so active and so universal, that in travelling from Paris to St Petersburg, from Amsterdam to the furthest points of Sweden, from Dunkirk to the southern extremity of France, one is served at every inn from English earthenware. The same fine articles adorn the tables of Spain, Portugal, & Italy, and it provides the cargoes of ships to the East Indies, the West Indies and America."

Despite Wedgwood's initial success, the trials for cream coloured earthenware continued. He commented on the 6th March 1765 in a letter to his elder brother John, 'I have begun a course of experiments for a white body & glaze which promises well hitherto'. Wedgwood's innovatory cream coloured earthenware was called Queen's Ware after the successful completion of his first commission for Queen Charlotte secured in the summer of 1765. With the delivery of 'A complete sett of tea things' which included a dozen cups for coffee, six fruit baskets and stands, six melon preserve pots and six hand candlesticks, Josiah was permitted to title his cream coloured earthenware 'Queen’s Ware'. No evidence has been discovered to determine exactly when the service was delivered to London but it was evidently sometime before the 9 June 1766, when a notice in Aris Birmingham Gazette, (a pre-eminent Midlands newspaper) announced: "Mr Josiah Wedgwood, of Burslem, has had the honour of being appointed Potter to Her Majesty."

The appearance of numerous advertisements in the London papers, especially the Public Advertiser of March 1769 specifically refer to 'Queen’s Ware', these as well as the Royal patronage brought Wedgwood to the attention of the nobility naturally increasing his orders for Queen’s Ware dramatically, causing him to comment in September 1767 to his closest friend, Thomas Bentley, about this phenomenon when he wrote: "The demand for this sd. Creamcolour, Alias Queens Ware, alias, Ivory still increases - It is really amazing how rapidly the use of it has spread allmost over the whole Globe, & how universally it is liked.- How much of this general use, & estimation, is owing to the mode of its introduction - & how much to its real utility & beauty?" It is interesting, that Mrs Papendiek, Assistant Keeper to the Wardrobe of Queen Charlotte (an honorary position of considerable rank at the Court) wrote, some years later, that: "Our tea and coffee set were of common India China (known today as Chinese Export Porcelain), our dinner service of earthenware, to which, for our rank, there is nothing superior. Chelsea porcelain and fine India China being only for the wealthy. Pewter and Delft ware could be had, but they were inferior." Cream coloured earthenware was so widely used that people no longer referred to 'Common pewter' but to 'Common Wedgwood' instead.

Images

Entry in Josiah's experiment book, © Wedgwood Museum

Entry in Josiah's experiment book
© Wedgwood Museum