MASONíS A FAMILY OF POTTERS

1796-1856

 

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

pottery industry.

 

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.

 


Early Earthenware

 

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.

 

Charles registered the Masonís Patent, No.3724, on July 31st, 1813.

 

 

An abstract from the patent records reads,



ĎA process for the ĎImprovement of the Manufacture of English Porcelainí

this consists of using scoria or slag of Ironstone pounded and ground in water

with certain proportions of flint, Cornwall stone and clay, and blue oxide of cobalt.

 


The patent was granted for a period of fourteen years, but it was never

renewed, probably because the other major potters had perfected their

own ironstone body recipes by that time

 

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.



MARKETING


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.




IRONSTONE TODAY


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

or shape.

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

good price.



For further information a selection of our stock items, factory

marks, patterns, fakes, items you require.

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