Derby Porcelain and the Early English Fine Ceramic Industry, c. 1750-1830
thesisposted on 20.05.2010, 15:05 by Judith Anne Anderson
This thesis sets out to give contemporary commercial context to a luxury business, whose products have been traditionally studied as art-objects. The provincial firm, under the Duesburys, was the country's pre-eminent producer of fine porcelain from c. 1770, a position no other domestic manufactory rivalled for twenty years. But its success was not easily achieved: the proprietors regularly adapted their business. This work identifies such changes, and seeks to establish their causes: were they proprietorially led, or a reaction to some external influence? Importantly, the Duesburys' domination coincided with a period of general industrial and commercial transition, when luxury crafts were in decline, but before mass-production; when the capital was losing its industry to newer, specialised regional production centres like Staffordshire; and when London no longer dominated the fashionable market, as provincial towns became increasingly gentrified. Distinct themes are analysed: the nature of the luxury market and the role of fine ceramics (the growth of 'alternative' consumer luxuries and the middle-class market, combined with the shift from rococo to neoclassical design); marketing and distribution, and the role of the Duesburys' London showroom (the manager's letters and accounts provide rare detail on sales); fashionable ceramics and the competition and cooperation within the fine-ceramic sector (notably the competition from France after the 1786 trade treaty, and relationships with Wedgwood and Flight of Worcester); the location of the Derby China Works, and the sourcing of raw materials (including communications and the role of the Derby Philosophical Society); and human and financial resources. While porcelain production did not benefit from macro-inventions like, for example, the textile industry, the Duesburys' relatively small-volume luxury manufacture allowed a sophisticated use of the infrastructure of the early Industrial Revolution. By contrast, Duesbury II's partner, Kean, during the extended war years, was later obliged to exert more commercial rigour and scale to the firm.