Antiques Column: It’s early pieces that collectors crave and Queen Victoria was even a customer

The brown patches on our lawn are getting bigger. Other gardeners in the village seem to feel now is the time to seed, so in an attempt to cover our patches, I have decided to do the same.

Thursday, 20th May 2021, 6:00 am

Along with general DIY, gardening and lawn management are not really my forte, so we shall be watching my project with interest. Fortunately the neighbours cannot see it, so failure can stay within the family.

I mention my lawn because it links beautifully to this week’s topic. The country known to have the greenest lawns is Ireland and Ireland is the home of the wonderful and under collected Belleek porcelain.

The Belleek porcelain factory in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland was established in the village of Belleek in the late 1850s by three men. John Caldwell Bloomfield, to whom the land had been left, and two businessmen Robert William Armstrong, an architect from London with an interest in ceramics, and a trader from Dublin, David McBirney. As well as local workers and apprentices the partners hired fourteen experienced men.

The partners always wanted to make fine porcelain, but the early pieces to come out of the factory were items such as floor tiles and tableware. However, following a few failed attempts they succeeded in making a certain amount of parian by 1863. Belleek is popular for its parian wares. They did not decorate the pieces with transfer printing or painting but instead used lustre glazes. The intricate baskets produced by the factory are some of the most popular items with collectors.

By 1865 the company already had a growing market in Ireland and England and was beginning to export items further afield. Queen Victoria was even a customer. Although the factory is still in operation, it is still the early pieces that collectors crave.