Antiques Column: For the love of Irish Belleek porcelain
My wife was born in Ireland, what other reason do I need to love the wonderful porcelain that came from the Belleek factory.
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 from Stroke-on-Trent.
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 it’s parian wares.
They did not decorate the pieces with transfer printing or painting but instead used lustre glazes to enhance the cream colour of the porcelain itself.
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 to the United States and elsewhere. Queen Victoria was even a customer.
The company exhibited in parian porcelain at the Dublin Exposition of 1872. Items displayed included statues, busts and centrepieces.
Although the factory is still in operation today, it is still the early pieces that collectors crave.