Lowestoft – early blue and white museum pieces

Fennel-IndigoRecently I noticed a display of blue and white china in a local store and mused how we use the word ‘china’ interchangeably with ‘porcelain’. Of course ‘china’ was commonly used to mean from China when referring to dinnerware and tea sets as until the mid-eighteenth century porcelain only came from China.

However, during the 18th century experimentation saw the creation of the first European porcelain pieces, as shown in the photograph below. This roughly finished dish was made in Holland with the year 1739 painted into its design. Produced with a poor, pitted glaze finish it is clearly a lesser version of any similar contemporary Chinese porcelain.

Early attempt at porcelain manufacture from Holland imported into UK during the 18th century with ‘Great Yarmouth 1739’ painted in the centre.

Interestingly, one of the places in Europe where blue and white soft paste porcelain was successfully produced by the 1750s was Lowestoft, a fishing port on the Suffolk coast of East Anglia. The Lowestoft factory produced domestic items from 1757-1801.

blue and white soft paste tureen
Tureen and cover. 1760-64 Painted with a leaf border and floral decoration.

Their ceramic range included  teapots, teabowls and saucers, mugs, jugs and creamboats decorated with various blue underglaze patterns in a Chinese style.

Although the Lowestoft china business was small compared to Staffordshire or London, enough authentic pieces still survive to support a devoted group of mostly East Anglian collectors. A small saucer may be acquired for about £100, whereas the record price for a rare, 14 cm tall, flask is £24,000 achieved at Bonhams in 2010.

Lowestoft porcelain flask. £24,000

I certainly don’t have a spare £24,000 for this beautifully painted flask, but I do find the old Lowestoft factory’s  interpretation of the classic ‘blue and white’ aesthetic pleasingly inspirational.


Author: agnesashe

Artisan, blogger and passionate East Anglian working from home.

14 thoughts on “Lowestoft – early blue and white museum pieces”

  1. I do like the blue and white ‘china’ look. I just looked it up, assuming there was a famous make I was subconsciously referencing, to see there’s just loads of it all over and possibly not even a term for that look.

    So is Lowestoft more valuable, generally, than the rest then? And does it have a special mark? You never know what’s going to turn up in charity shops after all.

    1. Blue and white is just so popular even these days. No, Lowestoft is not the most valuable, but there’s not heaps of it available so rarity makes some pieces more valuable. It doesn’t have a factory mark, but it is usually recognised by local, almost homespun pictures and motifs even names. It was a very local affair, but you never know a piece with Yarmouth etc painted in blue on white might well turn up in a charity shop. Unfortunately, it’s something the dealers can spot pretty quickly as they do their charity shop rounds!!!

      1. Hi, I came across your site, If you like Lowestoft porcelain then please take a look at my Website where you will find over 100 pieces for sale. I also deal in damaged item so prices start at around £50. The site can be found at http://www.englishporcelainonline.com. If I can help you in anyway please do contact me. Beth

  2. I love the blue/white combination and I always enjoy the views of the world depicted on lots of this old china.

    Porcelain is very difficult to work with as a clay and yet has such wonderful qualities, so it’s always been prized, just for the material used and the skill needed in making the plate, vessel, etc, and then the decoration tops it off. Love these examples and makes me want to learn more.

    1. Thought you might appreciate the less than perfect pitted glaze! Except for the flask these pieces are all in the award-winning Time and Tide Museum in Great Yarmouth. Of course the V&A in London also has some Lowestoft. I find the history of ceramics fascinating, but I’m always interested to see and hear about contemporary ceramic artists.

      1. We have a great spot in Philadelphia called the Clay Studio and it is always offering contemporary work, exhibits, etc. An education, if you make visits, and they also do classes. We are lucky to have it. Because as much as I like museums, I much prefer seeing work being made now, and I love being able to meet those people too, sometimes, as you can at places like this.

  3. Some wonderful pieces and thanks for introducing me to Lowestoft ware. My mother has collected blue and white for many years and it’s finally fashionable again – the cycles of fashion are so interesting. We have a very good ceramic museum in Toronto – http://www.gardinermuseum.on.ca/home – you remind me that I must go and visit again.

    1. Blue and white such a return and return again favourite. I think as monotone has been the design default since the 1980s it’s great that black and grey, black and beige, black and brown, grey and greyer, etc etc occasionally gives way to COLOURFUL blue and white.

  4. A really interesting background on the particular china/porcelain . Blue and white is one of my favourite combinations. My wife is into Indigo dyeing/shibori so I am probably influenced.

    1. Thanks. Seems that blue and white is a perennial favourite. I think I’m a 4th generation fan looking at my few inherited, chipped and cracked survivors!

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