MASONíS A FAMILY OF POTTERS
The Origin of Mason's Patent Ironstone China
Miles Mason Sucrier C.1808-13,
Pattern 433 'Imperial Eagle'
Miles Mason Teacup C.1808-13, Teaservice of Scottish & English Views
'View near Tynemouth' in Red Script, Border Pattern 743 'Seashells'
MASON'S FAMILY HISTORY
It was love and luck that got Miles Mason started in the ceramics business,
We know little of his early life accept he was born in 1752 in Dent
in the West Riding of Yorkshire.
As a young man he worked as a clerk for his Uncle Bailey of Frog Hall,
Chigwell Row in London, who wasa stationer.
By chance, his next door neighbor was Richard Farrar, a prosperous glass
and china merchant who sold mainly porcelain imported from China.
Farrarís daughter, Ruth, was only nine when her father died in 1775.
She inherited his vast estate, which included a personal fortune
in excess of $55,000.
Seven years later,when Ruth was 16 Miles married her.
They had four children, a daughter, Ann Ruth, and three
sons William, George Miles and Charles James.
Miles Mason began his career in ceramics as a retailer in his
late father-in-law's business. Where he inevitably made contact with
the Staffordshire master potters whose products he sold.
It was not long before he became involved in the manufacturing side.
His timing could not have been better.
The East India Company had always sold their imported porcelain twice yearly
auctions in London. In the late eighteenth century, these were dominated
by the 'ring'. A consortium of dealers getting together to suppress prices.
By not bidding against each other, the dealers purchased the porcelain
cheaply then Ďknocked it outí to the highest bidder within the ring.
Due to this and to the effects of the Napoleonic wars upon trade and
the economy in 1791 the East India Company decided to dispense
with the auction side of its business.
This created a wonderful opportunity for English manufacturers
to fill the gap and increase the production of ceramics with an oriental appeal.
In 1796 Miles entered into a partnership with the experienced porcelain
manufacturer Thomas Wolfe of Liverpool.
In the same year he took another partnership with George Wolfe at the
Victoria Works in Lane Delph, producing fine earthenware.
Miles assured himself of a continuous supply of earthenware and porcelain for
his retail business in London .
Both of these partnerships ceased in 1800 but Miles kept the Victoria Works
himself and started to produce his own porcelain which continued until 1807.
During this time he moved his family from London to a house
next door to the Victoria Works.
His business prospered and within three years Miles had moved to
much larger premises, it was in the Mivera Works opening in 1807 until 1813
Miles produced porcelain to a very high standard and it was here with the
assistance of his three sons he experimented on new clays and produced an
earthenware called Ironstone China.
Miles retired from the business in June 1813 when the business was
taken over by his sons. He retired to Liverpool and died there in
1822 having succeeded in a career that saw the introduction of a product
that would make the family name of Masonís one of the most important
in the history of English Ceramics.
MILES MASON'S SONS
William, George & Charles James Mason
Miles eldest son, William, had a short and not very successful career
in the pottery industry very little is known about him.
George, the second son, was a good businessman, and ran the
administrative side of the business until 1832 when he left the trade for
a life as a country gentleman and entered into politics.
For pottery enthusiasts, however, by far the most important member of
the family was the third and youngest son, Charles James.(CJ) born in 1791,
he was destined to become one of the outstanding figures in the Staffordshire
Today, when people speak of 'Ironstone' it is invariably Masonís to
which they refer and to CJís work in particular.
From a very early age he assisted his father in the factory
experimenting with new clays.
CJ enjoyed the life and soon became a master potter.
In 1815 Charles married Sarah Spode, who was the granddaughter
of the first Josiah Spode the founder of the famous potting family.
Sarah was a very shrewd business woman and encouraged her husband in
his new ventures and they remained happily married for 27 years.
They had two children Florence Elizabeth Mason and Charles Spode Mason.
Sarah died in 1842 and was buried in the Masonís family vault in Barlaston.
In the late 1700s the Turner factory of Lane End, Staffordshire,
was experimenting with various recipes of china clay in an attempt
to perfect a different type of earthenware.
In 1800 Turner patented one called 'New Stone China' that had a
durable body and closely emulated the popular imported Imari ware.
It was the first of this type of earthenware was produced by any
manufacturer in England.
Mason Patent Ironstone China
In Fenton, not far from Lane End, Miles and Charles were also
experimenting. They produced a durable, heavy earthenware, and, by
a stroke of marketing genius, named it 'Ironstone' a new word in the
vocabulary of ceramics. It had a clay body that contained china stone and
looked gray in color.
The name 'Ironstone China' was a marketing triumph, even though
it was not factually accurate, its iron content was minute only half of
one percent. The word ďChinaĒ was equally misleading, it wasnít
from the East nor was it porcelain.
But in marketing terms, the name 'Ironstone China' was perfect, it was
immediately identifiable, it implied high quality, most of all, it implied that
the earthenware was as hard and durable as iron.
It was an immediate success.
Public demand for it soared: it was readily available, reasonably priced and
looked very exciting with its Chinese influence.
Even in its earliest days 'Masonís Ironstone' reached extraordinary levels
of technical and artistic excellence, for Charles employed onlythe
best painters and craftsmen.
CJ's Ironstone closely replicated the Chinese ceramics that the wealthier
classes had been buying throughout the eighteenth century. Multi-place
dinner services with tureens designed with hareís head handles, large hall
vases with dragon handles for display in prominent places in the home,
and a host of other decorative and useful items.
All were decorated in the colorful and striking Imari palette, with its
rich enamel colors of mazarine blue, brick red, and brilliant gilding,
sometimes highlighted with green.
The most common early Masonís mark, used from 1813-25, is
ĎMASONíS PATENT IRONSTONE CHINA'
impressed in a continuous line and circle.
During this period the printed crown and banner was used, with
subtle variations on the shape of the crown that indicate the date of manufacture.
This mark was still used until the closure of the Wedgwood factory in 1998.
Samuel Bayliss Faraday, came from the same area of the West Riding
of Yorkshire as Miles Mason and began working in the business in the
early 1820ís. He became their European representative and was later given
a partnership with Charles (CJ) who was a commercial genius they devised a
new and very successful way of selling to the public.
Faraday on behalf of Masonís persuaded most of the auction marts in the
country to hold auctions solely for their Ironstone wares.
Until this time auctions had been used by manufacturers only to
dispose of surplus, damaged or bankrupt stock.
Auctioning new stock required a great deal of publicity and Faraday
quickly saw the potential of newspapers,whose popularity had soared in
the early years of the nineteenth century.
A typical advertisement of his read,
Many hundred table services of modern earthenware, breakfast and tea ware,
toilet and chamber sets, many hundred dozen of baking dishes, flat dishes,
broth basins, soup tureens, sets of jugs and numerous articles.
The China is of the most elegant description, and embraces a great variety
of splendid services, numerous dessert Services, tea, coffee, and breakfast sets,
of neat and elegant patterns, ornaments of every description that can be
manufactured in china from the minutest item article calculated to adorn pier
table and cabinet, to the most noble, splendid, and magnificent jars some of
which are five feet tall.
(London Morning Herald, April 1st, 1828)
The auctions proved to be hugely successful.
One of the sales in London in 1828, for example, consisted of 1004 lots,
announced as $50 and $80 per lot, and all sold. The total proceeds of one auction
in 1822 was in excess of (£30,000) equating to several million dollars today.
This was a period of great commercial prosperity for the factory and
this continued until the early 1840ís.
IRONSTONE IN AMERICA
The Staffordshire area, where the Mason factory was situated, had an
abundance of coal,coria slag (the remains of the limestone used in the iron smelting
furnaces) and clay, so the raw materials were immediately to hand. It also
had an excellent system of canals to transport safely and cheaply around the
country. These canals joined up with all major seaports, particularly Liverpool,
with its long history of tradingwith America.
Exports were a major part of the Masonís business.
At home, the Staffordshire potteries were saturating the market
with mass produced, inexpensive chinaware.
Across the Atlantic, however, Masonís Ironstone became an instant success.
The American middle classes were prospering, and fell eagerly upon this
brightly colored ware that looked so like the ware from China and Japan
whose high cost had, until now, confined its use only to the wealthiest.
Timothy Tredwell Kissam
The American retailers began to place orders for services on which
their own name was to be added alongside the Masonís mark.
These retail marks were transfer printed on the underside.
One found today is that of Timothy Tredwell Kissam, of 141 Maiden Lane,
New York. Kissam imported huge amounts of dinnerware for American hotels,
and was sole supplier to the Astor House Hotel in New York. He also
supplied domestic customers, a service bearing his mark remains in a collection
with the descendants of his family in Long Island.
THE BEGINING OF THE END
Back in England Charles was very hard at work. In 1833 he founded the
Masterís Association Committee, that worked with the potters union to
improve working conditions and wages.
At first it was well received but troubles were just around the corner.
Charles had introduced a steam-driven ďjiggerĒ or plate-making
machine to produce flatware (plates, saucers etc.) and a ďjollyĒ machine
to produce hollow ware (cups, bowls etc.)
The machines were hugely unpopular with the workforce and caused
many problems. Although they increased the speed of production,
they had a very high reject rate.
In 1842 Charles withdrew them, and it was several years before they
were perfected and brought back into use.
Then Samuel Farraday, the marketing brain of the business, died in 1844.
His death was the final blow for Mason's Ironstone, for Charles had not
kept up with changing markets and fashions.
In 1844 Charles tried to introduce a new 'white ironstone' but he was
too late as that market had already been secured by other potters such a
Thomas Mayer, who was already producing and exporting the white
ironstone that was elegant, beautifully glazed, unfussy in design, durable and
inexpensive. Completely different in style to Mason's Ironstone.
In America, the high interest and demand for Ironstone meant that it was
only a matter of time before American potters cashed in on the huge potential
of their own market. As the English market declined, the American market
was lost to American producers, some of whom employed potters
brought over from England.
It was all too much for Charles. He had debts that he couldnít settle,
he declared bankruptcy in 1848.
The factory and all his possessions were put up for auction
but it is believed that he made a private sale before the auction with
Francis Morley, for the Masonís business at this time was listed as
Mason & Morley. Today pieces of pottery can be found with the
back-stamp Mason & Morley.
It is somewhat ironic that after Francis Morley took over the Masonís
factory business he went on to win a first class medal at the first Paris
Exhibition of 1855 for his selection of Masonís Ironstone ware.
In 1852 Charles married as his second wife, a Miss Asbury, and they
had a daughter Anne who was born in 1853. It was a short marriage
for Charles James Mason died on February 5th, 1856.
He was buried beside his first wife, Sarah Spode, in the Masonís
family vault in the Barlaston Churchyard.
It was the end of an era.
Today, in terms of market values, dinner services of 100 pieces of good
quality, color and mixed content have increased dramatically in price, from
around $6,000.00 in 1985 to $30,000.00 today for rar and interesting patterns.
Large items such as hall and alcove vases, bread bins, ewers & storage jars
appeal both to collectors and to interior decorators and are continuing to rise
in value, and now cost from $10,000 to $25,000 for a pair of the best
quality alcove vases.
A rare four poster bed by Masonís sold in 1994 for $60,000.00
Items produced prolifically in the early 1800s, such as jugs, mugs,
toilet ware and plates, have remained fairly static in price for the
past three years unless they are of very good quality or of an unusual pattern
A regular plate will sell for $100, an unusal plate with a coat of arms
may reach $400.
Small jugs are $100 - $300, and a cup and saucer $200.
Garden seats priced $3,000.00 to $5,000.00 for a single, a pair
$8,000.00 - $12,000.00 depending on pattern and condition.
Footbaths are particularly popular at the moment. Both are useful
as well as decorative, garden seats work well as small wine tables,
footbaths not only hold great floral arrangement, but are also great center-pieces
for holiday meals, especially when filled with ice and bottles of champagne.
They sell for about $3,500 - $5,000.00.
Due to the introduction of Ebay and online Auctions the market has
changed. Since 2011 prices vary greatly.
Many common items jugs, plates, dishes have dropped in
price. Only rarity of an item and its condition still controls a
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