Potting in Staffordshire has had an uninterrupted history of over 300 years, with many household names originating from, what were often, very small, family potteries. Principals amongst these are names such as Wedgwood, Minton and Spode, many of these famous names now amalgamated into large international companies.
In 1775, Josiah Wedgwood developed and refined solid coloured jasper ware and introduced it to the market and it is his name that we normally associate with ceramic jasper. Natural jasper is a naturally occurring opaque quartz; red, yellow, brown or dark green in colour, used for decorative ornamentation and polished as a gemstone.
Captivated by the antique Roman intaglios and medallions carved in this semi precious stone and with typical determination, Wedgwood worked tirelessly to replicate jasper as a ceramic body. He is known to have experimented with numerous systematically recorded trials and the trial tiles of coloured jasper with his carefully written notes are held today by the Wedgwood Museum Trust.
By 1774, Wedgwood wrote with great satisfaction, that his new jasper ceramic body, in fact, white stoneware, could take any tint of fine blue, from dark Lapis Lazuli to the lightest Onyx. It is around this time that we see jasper appearing cut, polished and set like gems in a wonderful range of rings, buttons, lockets and bracelets. The great 18th century English furniture makers soon began inlaying jasper medallions into cabinets, writing tables and bookcases.
Wedgwood, of course, is the big name when it comes to English pottery and porcelain, but, as mentioned, Staffordshire was the hub of English ceramics with an estimated number of 150 factories, large and small, operating in this ceramic county with many of these small factories having now disappeared and little information regarding them remaining.
The potter, Richard Dudson, came from a family of potters and was also one of the great survivors, with a unique, unbroken history of over 200 years. Founded in 1800, the Dudson pottery has descended in a direct line ever since.
A very fine and elegant, mid 19thcentury, Dudson, pale blue and white, jasperware urn and cover as an accent lamp.
The pale blue jasper with classical decorative subjects in white jasper bas relief. The urn in neo classic style with deep swags suspended from rams’ heads, the swags interspersed with figures derived from classical antiquity, including Polymnia, goddess of music, song and dance, Winged Victory, Venus Victrix, Aesculapius, the god of healing, the goddess Venus and Andromache, the wife of the Trojan hero, Hector.
The upper border of the urn decorated with a continuous border of classical, white jasper, acorns and oak leaves.
The neck and socle of the urn with a border of formal, stiff leaved, Acanthus. The urn with a domed cover, the knop modelled as an acorn.
This delightful little lamp in original / perfect condition.
The lamp on an understated, custom made, gold plated, bronze stand.
This beautiful accent lamp shown with a gathered ivory silk shade overlaid with fine silk georgette, the bronze, gold plated finial, custom designed to reflect the acorn knop of the urn.
The ultimate lamp for a lady’s writing desk, pretty enough to be called a confection! Circa 1850 Overall height including shade 19″ / 48 cm
Richard Dudson was born in Staffordshire in 1768 into a typically rural economy with the Staffordshire potteries just coming into existence. Small market towns and villages were just a few miles apart. As the pottery industry began to grow, gradually the gaps between them began to narrow.
At this time, place names such as Burslem, Etruria, Longton and Stoke were small rural villages, which, in time, merged, to become “The Potteries”. From the early 18th century, the country potters had their small workshops and kilns at the edges of these farms and villages.
While we know very little of Richard’s early life, it is more than likely that his family moved from a small rural farming village to the centre of the flourishing pottery industry.
As the industry developed through the final quarter of the 18th century, significant improvements were made to both factory and pottery techniques, although, by modern standards, the conditions of the poor work force were shocking, with a six day working week being the norm – a working day from 6 am to 6 pm.
We know that Richard started work in 1777, probably in one of the larger potteries in Shelton, where he lived. It was usual for children of 8-9 years old to begin their working life and Richard would have been no exception to this. As a “pot boy” he would have learned much about potting and colours used by potters, the skill of the potter’s wheel, the decorator’s workshop and the final glazing and firing of the finished product.
Throughout this period, the Staffordshire potteries worked around the clock as the export trade was vast, with orders going to many parts of Europe, India and North America. Goods were shipped from the port of Liverpool and by the last quarter of the 18th century, the principal exports of wares from Staffordshire were destined for America.
While we do not know very much about Richard, other than to assume he had learned his trade, advancing from pot boy to apprentice and eventually to master potter, we do know that at the age of 32 years, he started his own business in 1800.
The competition amongst the Staffordshire potteries was fierce and it appears that Richard was surrounded by several large companies, both potters and porcelain makers such as New Hall and Ridgway. Compared to these, Richard’s concern was small and it certainly appears that his business was built by his own efforts, which must have been considerable.
While the backbone of the Staffordshire potteries was creamware, there are records to show a wide range of wares being produced by the Dudson factory. We know that Dudson was producing stoneware, caneware, pearlware and several types of porcelain, which, for such a small factory, was a diverse range.
Although Josiah Wedgwood is credited with the invention of jasper, by the early 19th century, many other makers were producing jasperware, including James Neale, Elijah Mayer and William Adams, some of the great names associated with early Staffordshire ceramics. Richard Dudson is also recorded as an early maker of jasperware and produced both types, solid and dipped jasper.
Solid jasper, as the name suggests, is coloured throughout, the various colours produced with different metallic oxides, whereas dipped jasper, is as white stoneware, dipped into a vat of metallic oxide receiving a surface colour, technically, an applied slip of coloured jasper.
The white jasper decoration we usually see on coloured jasper, known as “applied relief”, was made separately in plaster moulds from a design and typically carved in solid wax. The cast relief was then “sprigged on”, a ceramic term meaning “to apply”, the relief to the surface of the jasper shape, before its single firing.
The best known jasper today is the pale blue with white relief decoration. When we see this, it is usual to assume that we are looking at Wedgwood jasper, but remember, it may not be so!
Richard Dudson died in 1833 with the factory being passed on to his son, Thomas, now a master potter.
Today, Dudson manufacture products for an ever expanding market and remain a privately owned family business; the oldest in the English tableware industry.