Bloor Derby; Nantgarw; Lord Ongley and a Creme de Menthe Cocktail

Published 31st March 2009

It was the start of British Summer Time yesterday, now there’s an oxymoron, so of course I woke up this morning and it was three degrees below – there was ice on my car. If one wasn’t British one would consider that cold weather and the summer just don’t go together – just like Bloor Derby and the Nantgarw works in Swansea, snowballs and the Mediterranean or Claude Lorrain and Naples harbour. Only a mad dog or an Englishman could link these disparate features together – so perhaps I’ll try.

I recently came across a copy of the Antique Collector magazine for June 1984, nearly an antique in its own right and found an article entitled ‘The Ongley Service lost for a Century’. Kind of strange I thought that the singularly most expensive service that the Derby porcelain works produced in the 1820’s went and got forgotten - The Derby Mercury of 1825 wrote that ‘Admirers of the fine arts … will be highly gratified (with) a most magnificent service of china which has been completed by … Mr Bloor, for the express use of a nobleman in a distant part of England’. If Muncaster Castle in Cumbria seemed a great distance then the designs on the Ongley service were a world away.


                        a bloor derby plate after claude lorrain                                    a bloor derby 'snowballing' plate after a nantgraw prototype


One plate depicts a view of Naples Harbour that very obviously is derived form a Claude Lorrain sketch of 1636. Nothing strange in a Grand Tour image on a nobleman’s service is there? Another is derived from a source much closer to home that was originally painted by James Plant for the Nantgarw works in Swansea and subsequently repeated for Bloor Derby by William Corden it depicts a charming snowballing scene something far more appropriate whatever the season it seems.
If the mixture of Nantgarw, Swansea and Bloor Derby seems something of an acquired (all be it an expensive) taste one might be unsurprised to learn that other subject matter in this service included scenes of juvenile affection and a view of Moscow. A sophisticated and wise purchase from a man with money or something of a crème de menthe cocktail with a glace cherry and an umbrella in it, ask me on July 1st when I have sold the above plates?

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