Derby porcelain is known for its elegance, with the tableware and figures in high demand amongst antique ceramics collectors. Although the exact date is not known, Derby porcelain started being manufactured sometime in the first half of the 18th century. Around this time Derby started to get a reputation as a major centre for ceramics manufacturing within England, with several factories creating pottery in the area.
A French immigrant by the name of Andrew Planche settled in the area after fleeing from religious persecution. Arriving in Derby, he decided to open a porcelain factory sometime before 1750. Lacking the necessary funds to open the factory by himself, he teamed up with a wealthy English Merchant named William Duesbury and the Chelsea Works factory was born. The factory benefitted from being by the River Derwent, which meant it could easily import the necessary raw materials and export the finished product widely. This ensured their high quality porcelain quickly spread throughout the country and into much of Europe.
As the Chelsea Works became increasingly popular, with much of its wares being sold in Europe, the factory started to attract popular artists of the time. Figures at the factory were painted by Richard Askew and James Banford, while Zachariah Boreman and John Brewer painted pastoral scenes onto the company’s porcelain. William Pegg was hired to paint many of the complex floral patterns that give much of Derby porcelain its elegance. During this period Derby porcelain acquired a reputation for being of excellent quality and craftsmanship. Duesbury eventually bought out his partner, Planche, and in 1775 was rewarded by King George III for the quality of his porcelain by being allowed to incorporate the crown into the company’s stamp. This led to the company being called Crown Derby.
Decline and revival
William Duesbury died in 1786, leaving the company to his son, who died soon after in 1797. At this point the company was passed on to Michael Kean and entered a period of decline. With its reputation waning, many of the famous artists who had led to the company’s success started leaving. In response the company was handed over to a shrewd businessman named William Bloor who slowly started reviving the waning company. In 1890, Queen Victoria gave the company a Royal Warrant. This saw its name change once again, this time to Royal Crown Derby. The company still exists to this day. The company has marked its porcelain almost from its inception, making identifying Derby porcelain quite easy, including the location and date of manufacture.
One of the more notable and sought after types of Derby porcelain are the richly coloured pieces of tableware, made during the Bloor period in the Japanese Imari inspired style.