Porcelain Workmen

Plymouth.   On 2nd February 1768 the following workmen were at Plymouth (shown with their weekly wages):

A painter, John Brittan


A figure maker and modeler, John Hammerlsy


A thrower, William Ellis


A turner, William Parsons


A laborer, John Stevens


Thomas Hammersly joined Cookworthy, at Plymouth, from Bovey.  He is recorded as residing in Bovey Tracy in 1767 and came from a potting family who had moved from Staffordshire to Bovey around 1750.   The name suggests a Staffordshire origin.  A Thomas Hammersly is described as a potter in St James' parish, Bristol, on 26th September 1771.  The parish is close to the Bristol china factory, but it is not known if this is the same person, or if he worked at the Bristol factory.

Henry Bone may have originally worked for Cookworthy in Plymouth, being born in Truro on 6th February 1755.  He was apprenticed on 23rd January 1772, to Richard and Judith Champion, and completed his apprenticeship on 9th February 1781.  He was a china painter, but none of his work has been identified.  He married Elizabeth Vandermuleulen, at St James's Church, Clerkenwell, on 24th January 1779; James Banford acting as best man.  In 1781 and 1784 as residing at Great Bath Street, Clerkenwell, London (he may have been working at Wedgwood's Soho decorating shop).  Curiously the 1781 Bristol Poll Book describes both Bone and Banform as "China Manufacturers", suggesting that they may not have painted porcelain in Bristol.  He became a painter of miniatures and was appointed painter in enamels to George III.  He was elected as an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1801 and a full member in 1811.  He died in London on 17th December 1834.  His sons Henry Pierce Bone and Robert Trewick Bone were also noted enamellists.

Pountney was of the opinion that his work was marked with the numeral 1, however this can be discounted.  1 is by far the most common numeral on surviving Bristol porcelain, and appears to be painted by at least two different hands.  Few of these pieces show the ability that Bone would demonsrate in later life.

Bone's minatures are very collectable today.  In July 2002 a minature of Horatio Nelson sold for a hammer price of 12,500 pounds, at Bearnes in Exeter.  No doubt the popularity of Nelson increased the price.

William Stephens (1756-1837) was born in Truro, the son of a laborer, and may also have worked for Cookworthy in Plymouth.  The Stephens family were quakers, which gives an obvious link to Cookworthy.  His father seems to have also moved to Bristol at the time of the start of the Bristol factory.  He was apprenticed between 23rd January 1772 and 17th February 1781.  The closure of the factory left him downcast.  In 1781 he was residing at Tewkesbury, in Gloucestershire, where he was a woollen draper's assistant.  By 1784 he was in Plymouth, where he met Anne Dawe.  She inherited a linen-drapery business, in Bridport, Dorset, and went there to run it.  He followed a year later and they were married on 18th December 1788.  Anne died six years later, after the birth of their fourth child.  On 19th October 1796 William re-married, to Amy Mitford, and they had a further 13 children.  William finally died in Bridport, in February 1837, and was buried in the quaker's burial ground.

MacKenna has made a case that the number 2 on a piece represents Stephens' work.  He deduced this from pieces handed down in the Stephens' family.  I do not find this case convincing, since a piece from one of the Parliament service (in the British museum) is marked X2, and it has decoration vastly superior to most Bristol wares.

James Banford was born at Berkeley, in Gloucestershire, on 7th May 1758, the son of Thomas Banford, a mariner.  He was an apprentice china painter between 19th January 1773 and 9th February 1781.  Together with Henry Bone he left for London in August 1778.  In 1781 he was residing at Coldbathfields, St James, Clerkenwell, London; together with Henry Bone.  He was married to Bernice Glisson in July 1783.  In London he, and Bone, may have found work at Wedgwood's Soho decorating establishment (he met his wife there), or with George Randall.  In October he went to Nottingham Road, Derby, to work for William Duesbury, becoming an excellent figure painter (some of his work has been identified).  Bernice also did some painting at home.   During his time there he frequently complained about his wages, 11 shillings a week was low even by the standards of the time, he also appears to have had a problem with drink.  He left the factory in the summer of 1795, and probably died at Bilston in 1798.

John Brittan (or Britain), a unitarian, was the manager, from at least 1772 to 1781, and had probably gone to Bristol in 1770.  His father was Meshach Brittan a woolstapler of Devizes Wiltshire.  He was apprenticed to Thomas Cantle, at the Temple Back delftware pottery, on 2nd January 1750 and became a free potter on 14th March 1757.  He had joined Cookworthy at Plymouth by December 1767, from Nicholas Crisps's Bovey Tracey pottery.  It is possible that he was dimissed, from Plymouth, in September 1768.  Giving evidence at the patent extension hearing, on on 28th April 1775, he said he had "great experience in several china manufacturers".  He had also worked for Nicholas Crisp at his Vauxhall (London) porcelain factory, as a decorator.  Crisp ran this pottery from 1752, until his bankruptcy in 1763.  Brittan only seems to have been there for a short time.

After the closure of the porcelain factory he stayed in Bristol, dying in 1804.  Owen says he lived in Kingsdown, but this is John Britton a different person - see the book Number 57 the History of a House by Maxwell Hutchinson and published by Headline in 2003.  Trade directories record him living in Pembroke Court for 1793-1798.  A Benjamin Brittan, accountant, is recorded at the same address for the same dates.  Meshack Brittan, a shoe maker, was at St James's Churchyard for 1795-1798 and at Jacob Street for 1799-1812, described as a leather worker.

In 1780 Meshach Brittain was apprenticed to Thomas Stanfast, a cordwainer (shoemaker), for which a premium of 18 pounds was paid.  His father was John Brittain, a China manufacturer.  A John Britten voted from Castle Precincts in 1774 and John Britton voted, also in 1781.  Both people's trade is given as a potter, and were, presumably, John Brittan. 

A Meshach Brittan (married to Sarah) was described as a currier on 11th May 1811, when he took George Naish as an apprentice.  George was the son of William Naish, a cordwainer of Bristol.

Pat Daniels in the recent book on Bow Porcelain has suggested that the John Brittain at Bristol was an older man, who probably originated in Staffordshire.  This is unlikely as such a person would not have had the vote in Bristol, note also use of the family name Meshach.

Thomas Briand.  The following appeared in the Bristol Gazette and Advertiser on 26th September 1776  - "Left his Service, at the China Manufactory in Bristol, Thomas Briand, a China Repairer, an Indentured Servant.  He is about 5 feet 6 inches high, and fair complexion - whoever employs him will be prosecuted according to law; and if any Person will give Notice to the said Manufactory where he is found, shall receive a handsome Reward".  Hurlbutt refers to him as Thomas Briand of Derby and says that he was a figure modeler, but does not provide any sources for this information.  There is no evidence that he ever worked at the Derby porcelain factory.  In 1776 a modeler (or a thrower) may have been referred to as a repairer.

Soqui has also been referred to as Lequoi, Saquent, Sequoi and Saqui, sometimes with a first name of Henri.  A china painter, who had previously worked at Sevres.  He is probably Michel Soquet who was at Vincennes in 1752, also Sevres 1756-64 and 1773-74 (du Boulay).  He joined Cookworthy in January 1769, causing some problems because he could speak no English.  His wages were 24 shillings (1.20 pounds) per week and he was engaged to develop enamel colors and gilding.  These processes would be his own secret, causing Cookworthy to develop an alternative plan should he leave.  He would also develop a blue for under-glaze painting, which Cookworthy hoped would be inexpensive Cornish cobalt.

Soqui is associated with the painting of exotic birds.  However, he did not paint all the birds, as at least three different styles of bird painting have been identified.  Exotic birds are also referred as aggressive, fabulous, fancy, etc.  These bizarre creatures were derived from the French Rococo design and also appear on carved furniture, embroidery and wallpaper of the period.  They were also painted by the independent London decorator Giles, although not on Bristol porcelain.

Tebo was a figure modeler, who is now thought to have been John Toulouse.  He worked for Cookworthy during the period 1768-74. He was also at Bow (1748-68) and at Worcester (c1768).  He worked briefly for Wedgwood (1774-75), at Eturia, who found him to be incompetent and dismissed him.  However, during his time there, he forced Wedgwood to double the pay of the other modelers!  After leaving Eturia he moved to Dublin.

John Bolton was summoned to give evidence at the patent extension application of 1775.  On 5th June 1769 Britton told Cookworthy that Bolton, the enameler, who was concerned with N Crisp (at Bovey Tracy), had paid some of the workmen to tell him the source of the raw materials.  They directed him to land near Pitt's estate.  Use of the materials would have been in breach of Cookworthy's patent.  By 17th June 1768 we find that "care had been taken to put it out of Bolton's power to give us any trouble".  He seems to have never worked for either Cookworthy or Champion.

Possible Bristol Workmen.  Moses Hill is described as a china maker, in Unity Street, in 1775.  A John Caulton, of Jacob Street, is described as a china printer in 1776.  Did he have anything to do with printed wares made by Champion around 1775?  George Luscombe was described as a Bristol china maker, deceased, on 8th March 1780.  Isaac Nelson is listed as a china mender at 9 Black-Fryars in Sketchley's directory of 1775.  MacKenna mentions Philip James, probably the one described as a China painter in 1775 and 1788.  A Philip James was originally apprenticed at the Temple Backs delftware pottery on  9th January 1747, gaining his freedom on  29th March 1754.  A Philip James resided in St Philip's parish in 1774.  Another resided in the house at the junction of Water Lane and Temple Backs (Temple parish) between 1768 and 1780, but appears to had died by 1783.   Therefore there are probably at least two people called Philip James!.  A Philip James was described as a china painter, late of Bristol, on 20th October 1788, when his son was apprenticed to a peruke (wig) maker. MacKenna also mentions Mrs James, who may have been a modeler of toys (small animals?).  It is not known if she was related to either Philip James, and no Bristol toys have been identified.  In 1771 a Mrs James ran a china warehouse, in High Street.  This may have caused confusion for MacKenna, and there may have been no Mrs James at the porcelain factory.