Bow porcelain, primacy, secrecy and science.

Published 15th January 2013

Thomas Frye and Edward Heylyn are credited with primacy for porcelain production at Bow – in late 1744 they lodged a vague patent for ‘a new method of manufacturing a certain material whereby a ware might be made the same nature or kind, and equal to, if not exceeding a goodness and beauty, china and porcelain imported from abroad’.

a bow porcelain jar circa 1750-52 (fs17/28)

A Bow porcelain jar circa 1750-52 (FS17/28)

Pretty short on scientific detail, but I just love the idea of legal eagles quantifying ’a certain material’ had ‘exceeded in goodness and beauty’ and therefore a patent! Certainly in April 1745, a specification was lodged mentioning unaker (white Cherokee clay) from the Carolinas and by 1748 a more specific Bow patent includes a new method of making wares not inferior to China, Japan or porcelain ware.

 a bow porcelain leaf pickle dish circa 1752-55 (fs17/37)

A Bow porcelain leaf pickle dish circa 1752-55 (FS17/37)

Despite this one cannot be sure when porcelain production actually started most place it at some point around 1747, but the recent discovery of an enigmatic ‘A class’ of porcelain, that was incised or painted with an ‘A’, seems remarkably similar to the Frye & Heylyn patent and suggests Bow porcelain existed as early as 1744. Without this earlier date the crown must surely pass to Chelsea or Limehouse?


a bow porcelain cream jug circa 1752-54 (fs17/25)

A Bow porcelain cream jug circa 1752-54 (FS17/25)

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