Buying Guides
Jul 20, 2009

Collecting Swansea plates

By: Judith Miller

Collecting Swansea plates Author: Style At Home

Buying Guides
Jul 20, 2009

Collecting Swansea plates

By: Judith Miller

Scandal, deceit, bankruptcy—the landscape of early 19th-century potteries looked remarkably similar to the battling corporate world of today. Always circling the centre of this turmoil was British-born William Weston Young, an entrepreneur whose adventures included a thwarted attempt at American immigration and the successful invention of the firebrick. His artistic talent, however, brought him the most fame, after he was hired by Lewis Weston Dillwyn as a draftsman at Cambrian Pottery, one of four potteries situated in Swansea, Wales, at the time. The pair's shared interest in botany and the accurate portrayal of natural elements solidified the union. Around 1814, Young became an investor in the start-up Nantgarw Pottery, created by two previous employees of Royal Worcester. Though the employees had signed a contract promising to keep the company’s porcelain recipe secret, they discovered a loophole that allowed them to use it themselves. The plan backfired when elements were found to be missing, and the batches were virtually completely ruined. Dillwyn checked over the surviving pieces and was so impressed by their quality that he hired the pair, only to cut his losses in 1817. Young tried once again to support Nantgarw, but the partners disappeared, leaving behind thousands of pieces of undecorated porcelain. Along with the help of an artist, Thomas Pardoe, from the Cambrian Pottery, Young decorated the remainders himself, which are now among the most valuable artifacts ever from Wales.

Real or fake? What to look for in 
a Swansea plate

1 Weston was particularly famed for depictions of his hometown of Neath.
2 This creamware is similar in quality to that made by Wedgwood.
3 The gilt vines and borders on these plates are remarkably free of rubbing.
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Collecting Swansea plates