The Chelsea porcelain factory was one of the earliest and most important porcelain factories in England. It was founded sometime between 1743 and 1745 by two Frenchman, Charles Gouyn and Nicholas Sprimont. Gouyn was a goldsmith, while Sprimont had been a silversmith before starting the factory. The two remained joint owners of the factory until Gouyn’s retirement in 1749, when Sprimont became sole owner. When the company started production, they intended to cater for the aristocracy with their soft-paste porcelain. Sprimont’s time as a silversmith heavily influenced much of the company’s early porcelain designs.
Early on the company was well known for its tableware, which was being produced in large quantities by 1750. Much of the early designs relied heavily on Meissen porcelain and silver for its inspiration. However, this changed quickly and by 1760 the company had gotten a reputation for its figurines, which drew their inspiration more from Sevres porcelain than Meissen porcelain. This change was made in part to better appeal to the rich aristocracy that Sprimont wished to attract. By 1770 the Chelsea porcelain factory had been purchased by William Duesbury, already well known for Derby porcelain, and he ran it until it was demolished in 1784.
During the company’s early years, from around 1743 to 1749, the company was mostly making white tableware with design heavily influenced by Sprimont’s silversmith background. Pieces from this period are marked with an incised triangle, making them easy to distinguish. Around 1749 the company changed their soft-paste and glaze in order to make a surface that was slightly opaque and better to paint on. During this period Chelsea porcelain also started to become known for its figures and design influences moved away from silver and towards Meissen. Sometime around this period the company also changed their mark twice, first from the incised triangle to an anchor, and then again to a red anchor.
From around 1756, with French tastes starting to become extremely popular, the company began manufacturing pieces which were heavily influenced by the French Sevres porcelain company. Once again Chelsea porcelain changed their mark, this time to a gold anchor. There are a number of forgeries from this period, as the gold mark proved easy to fake without a need to try and copy the glaze. From the purchase of the factory by Duesbury in 1770, Chelsea and Derby porcelain became more or less indistinguishable. Duesbury changed the mark into a hybrid version of the two already being used by the companies. Pieces were now marked with a combination of the Derby ‘D’ and the Chelsea anchor.