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English Porcelain

Despite early experiments with the production of porcelain, the earliest commercially successful production of porcelain in England did not occur until 1745, when the Chelsea manufactory was established in London. By the 1750s a number of porcelain manufacturers were operating in London, the Midlands, East Anglia and the West of England. All English porcelain manufacturers were run as commercial businesses by entrepreneurs without direct royal or noble patronage.

Early English porcelain was “soft-paste”, low-fired and made without kaolin. During the second half of the eighteenth century, manufacturers tried different formulas to prevent their porcelain from slumping during firing or from cracking when filled with boiling liquids – an essential requirement given the British love of tea. Bodies could include “frit”, a glassy compound made of a variety of different materials that were ground and added to clay; soapstone, which prevented cracking; and bone ash, which added strength. Eventually, kaolin was discovered in England and some hard-paste porcelain was produced.

The Gardiner Museum’s assemblage of English porcelain includes gifts made by many significant Canadian collectors including George and Helen Gardiner, Vernon W. Armstrong, Norman B. and Cicely B. Bell, Barry and Marjorie Pepper, Roger Wilson, the Radlett Collection, and others. It is the most comprehensive public collection in the country.