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Featured Museum Piece

Coalbrookdale by Coalport China

Coalbrookdale by Coalport
Coalbrookdale by Coalport

In keeping with our floral Valentine’s Day theme, for this month’s museum feature we chose five pieces of Coalbrookdale sculpted dinnerware by Coalport China. Each of these rare pieces is a delicate, colorful botanic study on porcelain, with precious gold accents. On display in our museum in the Colbrookdale pattern are the sugar bowl with lid, oversized sugar bowl with lid, urn with lid, footed candy box with handles and lid, and a basket. As we imaged these pieces for this newsletter, we were amazed at the intricate characteristics of these pieces. Sculpted flowers literally spill in the center of the basket!

Research literature dates this Coalport dinnerware style to roughly 1825. Coalport China coined the name Coalbrookdale to denote one of their most sought after and desirable lines of hand-painted and sculpted china. Coalbrookdale pieces are known for sculpted ornamentation and inspired use of color.

Sugar Bowls in Coalbrookdale by Coalport
Sugar Bowls

Interestingly, the name Coalbrookdale is not merely a play on the word “Coalport.” Coalbrookdale is actually a historical settlement in Shropshire, England, near the birthplace of Coalport, and is known as one of the birthplaces of the Industrial Revolution. During the Middle Ages, Coalbrookdale was a Roman Catholic monastic community. A large manor was established in the community and coal mining was done adjacent to the work of monks in the monasteries.

Between 1538 and 1541, Henry VIII began the “Dissolution of the Monasteries,” which was the systematic confiscation of Roman Catholic property in England. Henry VIII began the English Protestant Reformation when he broke from the Papacy and Rome in 1536 with the passing of the “Act Against the Pope’s Authority.” Because of the monastic work in Coalbrookdale, the settlement would be the subject of attention throughout the reformation and the English Civil War.

Urn and Candy Dish in Coalbrookdale by Coalport
Urn and Candy Dish

A large blast furnace was erected for the smelting of iron, and throughout the 17th century, the ironworks would keep the Coalbrookdale settlement on the map. The blast furnace ultimately blew up, though the exact date is not known. The town would earn its current reputation with the arrival of Abraham Darby in 1709. Darby rebuilt the blast furnace and started smelting iron and mining coal again. The real innovation of the time was the introduction of a “coke” burning furnace. Coke is a porous, coal-like substance. Pioneered by Darby and other English industrialists, coke burning was more desirable in the process of iron smelting because it burns more cleanly than coal and, at the time, it helped to solve some of the deforestation problems that had developed around ironworks factories in England.

Following Darby’s death in 1717, Coalbrookdale began producing cylinders for steam engines, the settlement continued to produce iron and supply cast iron rails for railways. It is also during this time that the company produced a great deal of wrought-iron pots and pans. Innovations in iron production lead to the association of Coalbrookdale to decorative iron products. An example of this is the gates and some fences that are found in London’s Hyde Park. Today, you can visit Coalbrookdale and the “Old Furnace.” The historic town has a museum and has worked hard to preserve its heritage over the years.

Basket in Coalbrookdale by Coalport

The history of Coalport China begins in 1750 when Squire Brown of Caughley Hall started making clay dinnerware using clay and coal found on his estate. Caughley is also in Shropshire near Coalbrookdale. After Squire Brown’s death, his nephew took over the firm. In 1772, Thomas Turner joined the company. Turner designed Coalport’s Blue Willow and was known throughout England as a premier engraver. In 1799, the firm founded by Squire Brown was sold to John Rose, the founder of a ceramics factory at Coalport, England. Over the years, Coalport would garner significant recognition for their amazing and intricate designs. In 1926 Coalport relocated to Stoke-on-Trent, home of several other prominent English dinnerware manufacturers. Today, Coalport still calls this location home. In 1967, Coalport became a member of the Wedgwood Group. Coalport pieces remain highly collectible, with the Coalbrookdale pieces being featured this month being excellent examples.

We extend a most genuine invitation to you to visit our Museum in person, with its vast collection of rare tableware and collectible items, and our Showroom, where you can browse and purchase in a stunning array of china, crystal, flatware, and collectible patterns, and of course, Coalport dinnerware pieces! Our Showroom and Museum are open from 9am to 7pm ET, 7 days a week (except holidays). The Showroom and Museum are conveniently located between Greensboro and Burlington, NC, at exit 132 off Interstate 85/40. Make plans to visit us soon!

Click here to view our Featured Museum Pieces Archive!

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