*Dr. Wall and the first Worcester factory is a fascinating story of scientific experimentation, friendships, and entrepreneurial innovation.
Before the 18th century, porcelain was only made in the Far East.
European potters had been fascinated by this mysterious material for hundreds of years, and in Britain, several manufacturers discovered the secrets of porcelain production.
Around 1750, Dr John Wall (1708–1776) and the apothecary William Davis conducted some experiments at Davis’s shop in Broad Street, Worcester. The two men discovered a method of making a porcelain-type material known as soft paste porcelain.
They then persuaded a group of local businessmen to back their discovery with investment in a new factory.
The secret of porcelain production was to be the property of the subscribers, and each agreed to a penalty of £4,000 should they disclose knowledge of the secret to anyone.
Early production does not appear to have been successful, and in 1752, the rival business of Benjamin Lund in Bristol was purchased, bringing vital technical expertise to Worcester.
By 1755, Worcester was making the best English blue and white porcelain tea wares that money could buy and also more expensive colored enamel tea sets.
Worcester’s main advantage over its rivals was that the Worcester soapstone porcelain did not crack when boiling water was poured into it. (Many other British porcelains did crack!) It was, therefore, perfect for the teawares that were the new fad in Britain.
During the 1750s, everything Oriental was at the height of fashion. Oriental style designs were used to decorate molded shapes, copied from English and French silver. Complex surface modeling, which helped to disguise any flaws in the early porcelain, was probably learned from the Staffordshire salt glaze potters.
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