Chapter 16 Dulhunty Papers

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Phyllis Mary Duesbury, who married Robert Venour Dulhunty, Surveyor, grandson of the original Robert Venour Dulhunty, came from a pioneering family of a different kind. Her ancestors were the founders of the Royal Crown Derby china.

In a pamphlet printed by the Royal Crown Derby Porcelaine Co. Ltd., Derby, England, we are told:

In 1750 the first Derby china was made by William Duesbury in association with a French refugee Andrew Planche.

The measure of the early success of the Derby china industry can be appreciated by the fact that in 1769 Duesbury was able to acquire the famous Chelsea Porcelaine Works, which he ran until 1784, when he moved the Chelsea factory to Derby with the Bow China factory which he had also acquired; thus concentrating all that was best of three famous names in English china, Derby, Chelsea, and Bow and giving the present company's products a background of artistic endeavour second to none.

In 1773 George III visited Duesbury's factory and showed considerable interest in its products. To mark the occasion Duesbury was given the right to mark his china with the royal crown, and thus Derby china became Crown Derby. The word Royal was added to the company's name in 1891, following a similar visit by Her Majesty Queen Victoria.

There have been three factories concerned in the production of Derby china from 1750 until the present day, the first being Duesbury's factory established with the aid of a banker named John Heath shortly after the production of the first china in Derby in 1750, and when that factory closed in 1847 the production of Derby china was continued without a break at a small factory established in King Street by the best of potters and artists from the original factory.

The present company started in 1877 to develop the export markets with which the small King Street factory was unable to cope. They were immediately successful in this intention, and large markets were established in Canada and the U.S.A., which even today are the company's principal customers.

In 1835, the small King Street factory was moved to Osmaston Road, thus bringing under one roof again the production of Royal Crown Derby china.

Reginald Blunt, in his book The Lure of Old Chelsea writes:-

It is rather curious so little is definitely known about the Chelsea Porcelaine Factory. Its products had a European fame, and various royal and noble personages were patrons and purchasers of its output.

George III and Queen Charlotte commissioned sets of its ware, the Duke of Cumberland was closely interested in the works., and Horace Walpole was an ardent collector, and the dilletanti paid big prices at the periodical sales of it's products. Yet to this day we do not know with any certainty when or where the factory began, by whom it was established, or who were its earliest artists...

We have been assured that the ware dated back into the 17th century; that the factory was established by the Marquis of Hertford...

The earliest extant products date from about 1745, when it is probable Charles Gouyn became director of the factory...

The output of the early period included much uncoloured ware, and many of the designs with oriental decoration, the paste being a creamery white with a glaze of satin texture.

Nicholas Sprimont probably succeeded Gouyn at Chelsea about 1750, marking the pieces with an anchor and introducing great variety and elaborate design with moulded ornament, frills, shells and flowers, rich colouring and gilding (not used in the earlier period) reserves holding painted pictures in the Sevres style, with a good deal of rococo effect...

In February 1770 William Duesbury, who had been 14 years in charge of the Derby factory, took the lease and continued work there until 1784, producing the very interesting work of the "Chelsea Derby" period (marked with the anchor and D) of which nearly 100 specimens my be studied at South Kensington and the British Museum...

The earlier Chinese or Japanese decoration soon gave way before Sprimont's French invasion, and though he doubtless succeeded in training an admirable school of English decorators, the inspiration is clearly akin to that of Meissen and Sevres, and suggestive of Watteau rather than "Old Nollekens". Dainty, gay, sophisticated, insincere - these are the predominant characteristics of Sprimont's epoch.

Later, when Duesbury took over the control, we find some curbing of the exuberant rococo curves and extravagant gilding, some little aspiration towards a more classic reticence, as in the charming Hygeia Vase at the British Museum...

Born in 1725 ... William Duesbury bought the land on which the Derby factory was established in 1756 with the help of the Heaths, who were well-known Derby bankers .... He was evidently a man of great resource and excellent business capacity, and these had sufficiently impressed the wealthy Heaths and Andrew Planche to give him financial and practical assistance ...

It seems evident that Duesbury would have liked to continue the Chelsea factory at its original site. The fame of its name had passed over Europe, and his business acumen did not fail to note the value of preserving the place connection. It has been suggested that the early Chelsea Derby mark. an anchor across a D, may have stood for Duesbury - Chelsea, whilst the crown was superimposed as a mark of Royal Patronage, and probably William had his own name as as that of his town in mind when the mark vas adopted...

The difficulties of divided works and of the cramped accommodation at Chelsea decided Duesbury at length to transfer the concern bodily to Derby where he had his own ampler buildings; accordingly in 1784 the moulds, ovens, and plant here moved to Derby; and the kilns, workshops and buildings at Chelsea were demolished in accordance with the terms of the lease now finally expired.

A letter from Robert Boyer, who was one of his regular workmen, to Mr Duesbury dated from Lawrence Street, Chelsea, February 18, 1784, rings down the curtain in laconic style:


I wright to inform you how we are pretty forward in the pulling down of the buildings at Chelsea. I think a little better than a fortnight they will all be down to the ground and cleared of the primeses which I shall be glad to my hart for I am tired of it. I wish you will let me no - if you will have the mold of the large figur of Britania sent to the warehouse or broake.

So "down to the ground" fell Chelsea's glorious little factory, razed so thoroughly from the face of the earth that all sorts of controversies and misstatements have been current in latter years as to the very position of the site.

Tatlock Miller wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald, in his series Treasure Trove:-

The Derby Porcelaine factory was one of the longest-lived in England, and its output was so various as to defy generalization. It was founded in 1750 by William Duesbury and John Heath, and their earliest productions included services for the table as well as such chimney ornaments as lambs and sheep.

It Was when the Chelsea works were purchased in 1770 that the Derby reputation grew; the pieces then were marked with a "D" and an anchor across it denoting the union of the two marks. These are known as Chelsea-Derby porcelaine.

When William Duesbury died in 1786 his son carried on, and a third William Duesbury succeeded him. In 1811 Robert Bloor bought the works which closed in 1848.

In the Sabin Galleries, London, is a portrait by Joseph Wright (1734-97) of Miss Sally Duesbury, painted in Derby in 1780, when she was eight years old. The National Dictionary of Biography informs us that she was a granddaughter of William Duesbury who founded the Derby China Works. She had three brothers, one of whom Frederick, became a well-known physician in London, and was father of Henry Duesbury, who practised as an architect in London.

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