Coalport was a small settlement on the banks of the River Severn in Shropshire England, an area noted for producing ceramics since Roman times. It was called "Coalport" after the coal that was transferred from canal to river vessels at this junction. Coalport was a centre of porcelain and pottery production in the 18th century.
The most important industry to be attracted to the "new town" was the china manufacturing enterprise of John Rose, who founded the Coalport factory in 1795 and he continued to run it successfully until his death in 1841.
John Rose was born on the 8th February 1772. He was the son of a local farmer, John Rose of Swynney Farm.
John Rose began his career as an apprentice at the Caughley Porcelain Manufactory on the opposite bank of the Severn. John was apprenticed to Thomas Turner, an eminent engraver, who trained at the Worcester Porcelain Company, Turner was also a potter with a revolutionary approach to making porcelain.
The opening in 1792 of the Coalport Canal, which joins the River Severn at Coalport, had increased the attractiveness of the site. From 1800, until a merger in 1814, there were two factories operating, one on each side of the canal, making rather similar wares which are now often difficult to tell apart.
Part of the old factory, now museum, with bottle kiln behind, and the canal running through the works.
John Rose found his artist-craftsman's skills perfectly complemented those of the practical local businessman Edward Blakeway, a former Mayor of Shrewsbury and a shareholder in the famous Iron Bridge over the Severn. They bought the Caughley pottery in 1799 from Thomas Turner.
The Caughley factory was run by John Rose in conjunction with his already established business at Coalport, (known also as Coalbrookdale). In 1814 Caughley was closed and its equipment transferred to Coalport.
Coalport was the first factory to produce hard paste or porcelain in the area. John Rose also introduced a leadless glaze which eliminated the previous hazard to the health of pottery workers.
Early production was devoted to tableware which brought the company international fame. By 1820 John Rose had been awarded a gold medal by the Royal Society of Arts for the development of new glazes.
The company often sold its wares as Coalbrookdale porcelain, especially the pieces with flowers modelled in three dimensions, they may also be called Coalport China.
Coalport pottery gained a reputation for its high-quality and beautiful designs, which often featured intricate hand-painted patterns, gilding and intricate floral and figural motifs. The company became known for its exceptional craftsmanship and attention to detail.
Over the years, Coalport produced a wide range of items including tea and coffee sets, dinnerware, figurines, vases and decorative items.
Some of the most popular designs included the “Indian Tree” pattern, which featured brightly coloured birds and flowers, and the “Sevres” pattern, which was inspired by French porcelain.
John Rose died in 1841 and the business was continued under the former name "John Rose & Co." by his nephew W.F. Rose and William Pugh.
Coalport was commissioned by Queen Victoria in 1845 to make a richly decorated dessert service which she presented to Czar Nicholas I of Russia, after it was displayed at The Great Exhibition in 1851, where it caused a great sensation.
One of the plates from this service fetched £750 at an auction in London in 1975.
William Pugh continued the production as sole proprietor from 1862.
After William Pugh’s death in 1875 the company was put into receivership by his heirs.
The company was purchased in 1880 by the East Anglian engineer Peter Bruff who reinstated the company as the Coalport China Company.
Peter’s son, Charles Bruff assumed the management of Coalport from 1889. Art director, Thomas Bott reintroduced figurine designs to Coalport.
An extensive export trade to the United States and Canada was initiated in the 1890s and the works were rebuilt on the original site in 1902.
Whilst the Bruffs’ were more than successful in re-establishing quality and working conditions at Coalport, the company once again fell into financial difficulties and was eventually taken over by Cauldon Potteries, Ltd., of Shelton in 1925.
In 1926 production moved to Staffordshire, the traditional centre of the ceramics industry in Britain, and the Coalport name was retained as a brand. In 1967 the company was acquired by the Wedgwood Group and ceramics continued to be produced until the early 21st century.
With the infusion of new capital, a team of talented designers and sculptors, like John Bromley and Valerie Annand, were employed to bring new life to Coalport figurines and collectables.
Kate The Rider, modelled by Carolyn Froud, was commissioned by Compton/Woodhouse in 2002.
Summer Daydream, designed by Sheila Mitchell in 1990 in a limited edition for Compton/Woodhouse.
Sweet Red Roses, Sculpted by John Bromley, issued in 2004 in a limited edition, was commissioned by Compton/Woodhouse.
Today, Coalport China has maintained its reputation for having crafted elegant china. Their bone china dinnerware continues to grace dining tables in homes around the world and their fine bone china figurines are highly prized by collectors and are considered some of the finest examples of English fine bone china.