The rise & fall & rise again of Welsh Pottery

Hi Everybody,

As you know, I was at the Roger Jones auction house in Cardiff last week and there was so much quality Welsh pottery on show I just had time to discuss a few pieces in my last blog. This time I want to concentrate on the porcelain pottery of Swansea and Nantgarw. One interesting fact about this range of ceramics is that it was only in production for 6 short years between 1814 – 1820.

There were two main reasons for this. One was the time it took to produce the quality that the factories were attaining, slowing down the process. The other was that many pieces developed faults during the firing process and had to be discarded. Consequently, it was difficult to make a profit. The ceramics produced between 1813 and 1820 at Nantgarw, near Cardiff, and Swansea is considered to be some of the most beautiful ever made in Wales. Their main ceramic painter was William Billingsley, who was the leading botanical painter at the Derby porcelain factory before coming to Nantgarw. Production was then moved to the Swansea site in an attempt to cut costs. The pottery was set up in 1814 and was located where Swansea High Street station now is. Much of the Nantgarw porcelain produced was sent to London for sale in an attempt to link into the top end of the market.

In Swansea, the pottery was again under immense financial pressure, because of the time taken to produce the work and the  failures in the kiln. It was eventually decided that the pottery was not going to be a commercial success. I find this very interesting, because they had a great product that people wanted to buy, but could not produce it economically to make the business work. There are definite parallels and lessons to be learnt for anyone setting up a pottery today. William Billingsley tried to recoup some of his financial losses by being employed to paint the remaining Nantgarw stock, which was sold off to auction in 1821 – 22.

Today the pottery is highly sought after, because of its superb quality and you would be lucky to buy any individual piece for under £500. The average price for pieces is between £1000 – £4000. You still have time to take a look at the Roger Jones Welsh sale auction on the 27th April.

Until next time – happy potting and seize the clay!

Barry