Industries: Pottery, Fulham stoneware

Pages 142-146

A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 2, General; Ashford, East Bedfont With Hatton, Feltham, Hampton With Hampton Wick, Hanworth, Laleham, Littleton. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.

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It was not until the beginning of the reign of Charles II that the secret of this manufacture was discovered in England, and the credit of the discovery belongs to John Dwight of Fulham. Dr. Plot, writing in 1677, (fn. 1) says:

The ingenious John Dwight, formerly M.A. of Christ Church College, Oxon., hath discovered the mystery of the Stone or Cologne wares (such as D'Alva bottles, jugs, noggins) heretofore made only in Germany, and by the Dutch brought over into England in great quantities, and hath set up a manufacture of the same, which (by methods and contrivances of his own, altogether unlike those used by the Germans) in three or four years' time he hath brought it to a greater perfection than it has attained where it hath been used for many ages, insomuch that the Company of Glass-Sellers, London, who are the dealers for that commodity, have contracted with the inventor to buy only of his English manufacture, and refuse the foreign.

Dwight, who is said to have been a native of Oxfordshire, took his Oxford degree of B.C.L. in 1661, and afterwards became secretary to Bryan Walton, Bishop of Chester, and his episcopal successors Henry Ferne and Joseph Hall. After a long series of trials and experiments upon the properties of clays and mineral products as materials for porcelain and stoneware, he obtained, in April 1671, a patent for his discoveries. (fn. 2) In his petition he claimed to have 'discovered (fn. 3) the mistery of transparent earthenware comonly knowne by the name of porcelaine or China and Persian ware, as alsoe the misterie of the Stone ware vulgarly called Cologne ware.' As regards his first claim, Professor Church (fn. 4) admits that Dwight 'did make some approach to success in producing a body which if not porcelain is distinctly porcellanous.'

Dwight's experiments and researches into the properties of various clays and their proper treatment for the production of china ware must have extended over a considerable number of years before he took the patent for his 'discovery' in 1671. An interesting confirmation of his claim occurs in a periodical work, entitled A Collection for the Improvement of Husbandry and Trade, by a contemporary writer, John Houghton, who was a Fellow of the Royal Society. (fn. 5) He is speaking (12 January 1693-4) of the tobacco-pipe clays, 'gotten at or nigh Pool, a port town in Dorsetshire, and there dug in square pieces, of the bigness of about half a hundredweight each; from thence 'tis brought to London, and sold in peaceable times at about eighteen shillings a ton, but now in this time of war is worth about threeand-twenty shillings.' He proceeds: 'This sort of clay, as I hinted formerly, is used to clay sugar and the best sort of mugs are made with it, and the ingenious Mr. Dwight of Fulham tells me that 'tis the same earth China-ware is made of, and 'tis made not by lying long in the earth but in the fire; and if it were worth while, we may make as good China here as any is in the world. And so for this time farewell clay.' In another letter, (fn. 6) dated 13 March 1695-6, he writes:-

Of China-ware I see but little imported in the year 1694, I presume by reason of the war and our bad luck at sea. There came only from Spain certain, and from India certain twice. 'Tis a curious manufacture and deserves to be encourag'd here, which without doubt money would do, and Mr. Dwoit of Fulham has done it, and can again in anything that is flat. But the difficulty is that if a hollow dish be made, it must be burnt so much, that the heat of the fire will make the sides fall. He tells me that our clay will very well do it, the main skill is in managing the fire. By my consent, the man that would bring it to perfection should have for his encouragement 1,000£. from the Publick, tho' I help'd to pay a tax towards it.

Dwight's discovery seems to have stopped short at the practical point, the time and expense involved in the manufacture proving totally unremunerative. Mr. L. M. Solon, (fn. 7) however, after a careful analysis of all the evidence, including the recipes and memoranda contained in two little books in Dwight's own hand, concludes that he got no further than making transparent specimens of his stoneware by casting it thin and firing it hard.

His claim to the discovery of the composition of stoneware is beyond question. Dwight's stoneware vessels were equal if not superior to those imported from Germany, and very soon superseded them. A list of his wares is given in the specification of his second patent granted in 1684 for a further term of fourteen years. This description is as follows:- 'Severall new manufactures of earthenwares called by the names of white gorges, marbled porcellane vessels, statues, and figures, and fine stone gorges and vessells, never before made in England or elsewhere.'

Mr. Solon, in his work above quoted, (fn. 8) pays the following high tribute to Dwight's skill and genius:-'To him must be attributed the foundation of an important industry; by his unremitting researches and their practical application, he not only found the means of supplying in large quantities the daily wants of the people with an article superior to anything that had ever been known before, but besides, by the exercise of his refined taste and uncommon skill, he raised his craft to a high level; nothing among the masterpieces of ceramic art of all other countries can excel the beauty of Dwight's brown stone-ware figures, either of design, modelling, or fineness of material.'

Very little is known of Dwight's personal history; the facts are few and somewhat obscure. Professor Church (fn. 9) conjectures 1637 or 1638 as the year of his birth, and states that his eldest child John was born at Chester in 1662. In the patent which he obtained in 1671 Dwight states that he has set up at Fulham a manufactory, but in 1683 when his son George matriculated at Oxford he is described as 'of the city of Chester.' The year following, his second patent describes him as a manufacturer at Fulham, whilst in 1687 and 1689 in the matriculation entries of his sons Samuel and Philip he is styled John Dwight of Wigan. It is not till the matriculation of his son Edmund in 1692 that the university register gives his address as Fulham. Professor Church (fn. 10) states that this child was born at Fulham in 1676. He also says that 'until 1665 Dwight lived at Chester, but before the end of 1668 he moved to Wigan; some time between March 1671 and August 1676 he settled at Fulham.'

This does not, however, agree with the statements in the matriculation registers. A more probable explanation is that Dwight opened his factory at Fulham before he left Chester and carried it on whilst still living there and at Wigan. He may have had friends or relatives in Middlesex, as a family of that name was living at Sudbury near Harrow in 1637. Lysons states (fn. 11) that Mr. William Dwight in that year gave 40s. per annum out of his lands at Sudbury to the poor of Harrow. John Dwight died (fn. 12) at Fulham in 1703, and was buried there on 13 October. His widow Lydia was buried at Fulham on 3 November 1709.

Dwight had the habit of hiding money, and left memoranda in his note-books of places, such as holes in the fireplace, holes in the furnace, &c., where packets of guineas were concealed. He also buried specimens of his stoneware which were found during some excavations for new buildings at the Fulham factory in a vaulted chamber or cellar which had been firmly walled up. The objects thus discovered were chiefly bellarmines and ale-jugs, identical in form with those imported from Cologne. Another authentic collection of examples from the Fulham works, which had been kept by the family, was sold to Mr. Baylis of Prior's Bank about the year 1862. These pieces were shortly afterwards disposed of to Mr. C. W. Reynolds, and finally dispersed by auction at Christie's in 1871.

The two collections have afforded valuable criteria for assigning to the Fulham factory specimens of stoneware about which collectors previously were in considerable doubt. The Baylis-Reynolds collection also revealed the high artistic merit of Dwight's pottery, the variety of his productions, and the great perfection to which he had brought the potter's art, both in the manipulation and in the employment of enamel colours for decoration. The collection contained twentyeight specimens which had been carefully preserved by members of the Dwight family, and kept as heirlooms from the time of their manufacture. The most interesting piece, and probably the earliest in date, is a beautiful halflength figure in hard stoneware of the artist's little daughter, inscribed 'Lydia Dwight, dyd March the 3rd, 1762.' The child lies upon a pillow with eyes closed, her hands clasping to her breast a bouquet of flowers, and a broad lace band over her forehead. The figure, evidently modelled after death, exhibits, as Mr. Solon well remarks, 'the loving care of a bereaved father in the reproduction of the features and the minute perfection with which the accessories, such as flowers and lace, are treated.' This beautiful work was purchased for £150 at the Reynolds sale, and is now n the Victoria and Albert Museum. Another figure, also at South Kensington, was bought at the Reynolds sale for £30, and is believed to represent Lydia Dwight; she is figured standing, wrapped in a shroud, with a skull at her feet. The fine life-size statue of Prince Rupert, now in the British Museum, was bought at the Reynolds sale for thirty-eight guineas, and is a magnificent specimen of modelling. The 'Meleager,' also in the British Museum, and the 'Jupiter' in the Liverpool Museum, are declared by Mr. Solon to be worthy of an Italian artist of the Renaissance. Other specimens in the collection (fn. 13) were a lifesize bust of Charles II, smaller busts of Charles II and Catherine of Braganza, others of James II and his queen Mary, full-length figures of Flora and Minerva, a sportsman in the costume of the reign of Charles II, a girl holding flowers with two lambs by her side, and five stoneware statuettes (in imitation of bronze) of Jupiter, Mars, Neptune, Meleager, and Saturn. Speaking of the above collection of pieces, Mr. Burton remarks (fn. 14) :-'It is still more remarkable to find a series of figures displaying such finished modelling, perfect proportion, and breadth of treatment. Finer artistic work than this, in clay, has never been produced in this country, and the knowledge, taste, and skill shown in their production fully entitle Dwight to be reckoned among the great potters of Europe.'

The characteristics of Dwight's pottery have been described as follows (fn. 15) :-

The Fulham stone-ware, in imitation of that of Cologne, is of exceedingly hard and close texture, very compact and sonorous and usually of a grey colour, ornamented with a brilliant blue enamel, in bands, leaves, and flowers. The stalks have frequently four or more lines running parallel, as though drawn with a flat notched stick on the moist clay; the flowers, as well as the outlines, are raised, and painted a purple or marone colour, sometimes with small ornaments of flowers and cherubs' heads, and medallions of kings and queens of England in front, with Latin names and titles, and initials of Charles II, William III, William and Mary, Anne, and George I. The forms are mugs, jugs, butterpots, cylindrical or barrel-shaped, &c.; the jugs are spherical, with straight narrow necks, frequently mounted in pewter, and raised medallions in front with the letters cr wr ar gr, &c. These were in very common use, and superseded the Bellarmines and longbeards of Cologne manufacture.

The quality of hardness which distinguishes stoneware from other kinds of pottery is imparted to it, says Professor Church, (fn. 16) partly by the nature and proportions of the materials used in making the body or paste, partly by the temperature at which it is fired. The saltglaze employed for European stoneware is formed on the ware itself and in part out of its constituents. It is produced by throwing into the kiln moist common salt towards the end of the firing when the pieces have acquired a very high temperature. The salt is volatilized, and reacting with the watervapour present is decomposed into hydrochloric acid gas, which escapes, and into soda, which attacking and combining with the silica of the clay in the body, forms with it a hard glass or glaze of silicate of soda, in which a little alumina is also always present. This was the two-fold secret which Dwight at length succeeded in discovering. His note-books (fn. 17) contain many curious recipes for the composition of his various pastes or 'cleys' which were the results of his numerous and laborious experiments. Large extracts from these memoranda have been published. (fn. 18) There is a tradition in the family (fn. 19) that besides concealing the vessels found in the bricked-up chamber, Dwight buried all his models, tools, and moulds connected with the finer branches of his manufactory in some secret place on the premises at Fulham, observing that the production of such matters was expensive and unremunerative; and that his successors might not be tempted to perpetuate this part of the business he put it out of their power by concealing the means. Search has often been made for these hidden treasures, but hitherto without success.

For a long time after Dwight's death his descendants [continued to manufacture the same sort of jugs and mugs. In a private collection there is a flip-can of historical interest, which once belonged to the original of Defoe's Robinson Crusoe. It is inscribed 'Alexander Silkirke. This is my one. When you take me on bord of ship, Pray fill me full of punch or flipp, Fulham.' It is said to have been made for Selkirk in or about 1703. In cottages along the Thames bank have been found many large tankards with the names of well-known public houses. Some of the jugs have hunting scenes and others bear decorations of a loyal or political character. For example, a mug with a medallion portrait of Queen Anne, supported by two beefeaters, is inscribed round the top, 'Drink to the pious memory of good Queen Anne, 1729.'

John Dwight had five sons, but it is not known whether all of them survived him or which was his successor in business. Some writers say he was succeeded by his son Dr. Samuel Dwight, who died in November 1737; the Gentleman's Magazine, (fn. 20) in his obituary notice, after mentioning his authorship of 'several curious treatises on physic,' states that 'he was the first that found out the secret to colour earthenware like china.' He is said to have practised in his profession as a physician, and wrote some Latin medical treatises between 1722 and 1731. It is possible that he was a partner only, and that the business was carried on jointly with another brother. The male descendants seem to have disappeared by the end of the 18th century.

Lysons, who wrote in 1795, (fn. 21) says, 'These manufactures are still carried on at Fulham by Mr. White, a descendant in the female line of the first proprietor. Mr. White's father, who married one of the Dwight family (a niece of Dr. Dwight, vicar of Fulham), obtained a premium anno 1761 from the Society for the Encouragement of Arts &c., for making crucibles of British materials.' The niece of Dr. Dwight above mentioned was probably the Margaret Dwight who with her partner, Thomas Warland, became bankrupt in 1746. (fn. 22)

William White, whom she is said to have married, described as 'of Fulham in the county of Middlesex, potter,' took out a patent in 1762 for the manufacture of 'white crucibles or melting potts made of British materials, and never before made in England or elsewhere and which I have lately sett up at Fulham aforesaid.'

The earliest dated piece of Fulham stoneware known to exist is in the collection of Mr. J. E. Hodgkin. It is a mug ornamented with a ship and figure of a shipwright caulking the seams of a hull, and bearing an inscription in script, 'Robert Asslet London Street 1721.' Another specimen of quaint design, belonging to Mr. H. C. Moffat, is a large mug with pewter mount; its decoration consists of a centre medallion representing Hogarth's 'Midnight modern conversation,' another medallion bearing the Butchers' Arms of Hereford, and the inscription 'Waller Vaughan of Hereford, His mug must not be brock, 1740.'

Speaking of the later history of this manufactory Chaffers says- (fn. 23)

In Mr. Llewellynn Jewitt's sale there was a gallon flipcan of stoneware with strongly hinged cover of the same material and a grated spout. It was ornamented with raised borders and figures of a woman milling, a church in the distance, a hunting scene, Hope, Peace, and other figures ; with a well-modelled head on the spout, marked at the bottom in letters scratched into the soft clay 'W. J. White fecit Dec. 8, 1800.' On the heart-shaped termination of the handle is 'W. W. 1800.' In 1813 the manufactory was in the hands of Mr. White, a son of the above, and the articles then made were chiefly stoneware jars, pots, jugs, &c. The Fulham works remained in the family until 1862, when the last Mr. White died, and he was succeeded by Messrs. MacIntosh and Clements; but in consequence of the death of the leading partner, the works were disposed of to Mr. C. J. C. Bailey, the present proprietor, in 1864. This gentleman has made considerable alterations and fitted up a quantity of machinery with a view of facilitating the manufacture and extending the business.

Writing in 1883 Jewitt speaks (fn. 24) very highly of the improvements introduced by Mr. Bailey. The output in stoneware included all the usual domestic vessels, besides sanitary and chemical appliances of various kinds. In addition, works of art of a high order in stoneware, terra-cotta, china, and other materials were produced, thus restoring the ancient reputation of the firm. For the stoneware department the services of M. Cazin, formerly director of the school of art at Tours, were engaged. A cannette in his own collection bearing the artist's name, "Cazin, 1872, Study," Jewitt praises as remarkably good. (fn. 25) Also another example made expressly for him, which bears an admirably modelled armorial medallion and other incised and relief ornaments, with the date 1873, and artist's name, C. Cazin, also incised. The coloured stone or 'sgraffito' ware has a high repute, and Mr. Bailey in 1872 received a medal at the Dublin Exhibition for his stoneware and terra-cotta. In the latter ware were produced vases, statues, architectural enrichments, chimney shafts, stoves, &c., of very good quality and of admirable design, Mr. Martin, sculptor, having been engaged as modeller and designer, and giving to some of the productions the name of Martin ware. The manufacture of chinaware was added during the year 1873, with the aid of good workmen and of Mr. E. Bennet and Mr. Hopkinson as artists. As the beginning of a new manufacture which had done much to establish a fresh fame for Fulham, Jewitt thus describes the composition of the ware: (fn. 26) 'The body is made from Dwight's original recipe, the very body of which the first chinaware made in England was produced, and therefore the "Fulham china" of to-day has an historical interest attached to it which is possessed by no other.' The business has since passed into other hands and is now the property of the Fulham Pottery and Cheavin Filter Company, Limited.

A factory of stoneware, galley-pots, mugs, pans, dishes, &c., was carried on by James Ruel at Sandford House, Sand End, King's Road, Fulham. The undertaking proved unsuccessful, and in 1798 the factory and stock in trade were advertised for sale by auction by order of the sheriff, but were disposed of previously by private contract.

The pottery of William de Morgan & Co. has since 1888 been carried on at Fulham. The business was started in 1870 by Mr. William de Morgan, who began by decorating tiles and pots in Fitzroy Square. Removing afterwards to Chelsea, he continued to paint Dutch pottery, and that made by Stiff & Co. of Lambeth and by Staffordshire potters; whilst at Chelsea he built an oven, and engaged in the practical business of a potter. On removing to Fulham in 1888, he entered into partnership with Mr. Halsey Ricardo, a new pottery was built, and the wares stamped 'W. de Morgan & Co., Sands End Pottery, Fulham, S.W.,' and with a small floral device surmounted with the initials DM. The output of this firm also includes lustre ware, an imitation of the Hispano-Moresco work of the 15th and 16th centuries, and pottery decorated in the Persian style and with Dutch scenes.

At Southall is a small pottery carried on by the four brothers Martin, with an office in Brownlow Street, Holborn, for the sale of their wares. (fn. 27) The founder of the firm was Robert Wallace Martin, a Royal Academy student, and pupil of Alexander Munro the sculptor, who revived in this country the glazed stoneware of the 16th and 17th centuries. After an unsuccessful co-operation with Mr. Bailey, who was then proprietor of the Fulham Pottery, Martin entered into partnership in the early seventies with his three brothers, Charles Douglas, Walter Fraser, and Edwin Bruce. This ware, which is greatly appreciated by connoisseurs, is the outcome of a long series of experiments with clays and colours and methods of firing them. A special feature with the makers is that the decoration of a specimen is never repeated, so that each piece is in its way a unique example of the handiwork of the potter. The style varies greatly from the classical to the grotesque, and the colouring is frequently as original as the decoration, which is incised, modelled, or carved. The mark consists of the name and address of the firm, with the month and year of production, incised in cursive lettering.


  • 1. Nat. Hist. Oxon. (2nd ed. 1705), 255.
  • 2. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1671-2, p. 420.
  • 3. Ibid. 335.
  • 4. Engl. Earthenware (1904), 44.
  • 5. Houghton, op. cit. iv, no. 76.
  • 6. Ibid. viii, no. 189.
  • 7. The Art of the Old English Potter (ed. 2, 1885), 32-5.
  • 8. Ibid. 31.
  • 9. A. H. Churcn, op. cit. 46.
  • 10. Ibid. 44.
  • 11. Environs of Lond. (1795), ii, 582-3.
  • 12. Church, op. cit. 47.
  • 13. An account of his collection before its purchase by Mr. Reynolds was contributed by Mr. Baylis to the Art Journ. Oct. 1862, p. 204.
  • 14. W. Burton, Hist. of Engl. Earthenware (1904), 43.
  • 15. W. Chaffers, Marks and Monograms on Pottery and Porcelain (ed. 7, 1886), 805.
  • 16. A. H. Church in Some Minor Arts as practised in Engl. (1894), 33.
  • 17. These were found by Lady Charlotte Schreiber in 1869 on a visit to the Fulham Potteries. A manuscript copy made by her is in the British Museum, but the original note-books have disappeared.
  • 18. Chaffers, op. cit. 808-9.
  • 19. Art Journ. 1862, p. 204.
  • 20. Gent. Mag. 1737, p. 702.
  • 21. Environs of Lond. (1795), ii, 400.
  • 22. Gent. Mag. 1746, p. 45. Prof. Church considers that Margaret was the widow of Dr. Samuel Dwight, and that their only daughter Lydia was married to Thomas Warland, her mother's partner, and after his death to William White.
  • 23. Chaffers, op. cit. 811.
  • 24. Ceramic Art (1883), 91.
  • 25. Ibid.
  • 26. Ibid. 92.
  • 27. Chaffers, Marks and Monograms (ed. 9, revised by Frederick Litchfield, 1900), 882-3.