Spode is the home to one of the greatest tableware designs, Blue Italian. With its oriental influenced design and revolutionary underglaze printing, it remains a classic today. As well as unmistakeable Earthenware designs, Spode also produced the finest bone china plates, bowls and cups. Bone china is no longer a significant part of their range, but we have over 350 discontinued Spode tableware patterns listed many of these would be been produced between the 1960s and 1990s.
Many current ranges are again being produced in Stoke. Classic designs including Blue Italian, Blue room and Christmas Tree are still available and new designs such as Delamare and Ruskin draw influence from the Spode heritage.
A Brief History of Spode.
Josiah Spode I was born in Staffordshire in 1733 into a family of potters. At the time there were no large potteries however, individual potters worked in their own thatched cottages in what became the ’Pottery District’. At the age of 16 Josiah Spode I started as an apprentice with Thomas Whieldon, one of the most ingenious potters of the day. Spode was inspired by Whieldon’s continued experiments and desire to improve his own work.
By 1762 the pottery industry had grown and many factories had been built, we find Josiah Spode I managing the Works of Turner & Bank. By 1770, Josiah Spode I started to acquire parts of property around Church Street, and by 1776 he had taken title to the entire Works, where production continued until 2008.
Josiah Spode I was living in the period of rapid expansion of his industry and no small part of that expansion was due to the innovations which he introduced. It was Josiah Spode I who perfected the process of underglaze printing and introduced underglaze blue into Staffordshire, a truly revolutionary advance.
Spode opened a London showroom and put in charge one William Copeland, a London banker and tea merchant. This was such a great success and Spode sent his son Josiah Spode II, to learn the selling end of the business. The association with Copeland brought another fortunate circumstance. Through his contacts with the Oriental tea trade, Copeland was able to supply Spode with innumerable Chinese designs. Spode had an unerring instinct in adapting these designs into his own style, this influence can be seen in many early Spode patterns.
Spode’s other major triumph was the perfection of Bone China. While other potters had experimented along these lines, it was Josiah Spode who perfected the formula that is a standard today. It was in 1794 that Spode drew from his oven the first piece of English Bone China, pure white and sparkling in its translucent beauty – a new ware that rivaled the finest ever brought from the Orient.
In 1797 Spode I died, he had pioneered in the potteries and founded a strong business with a tradition of fine quality and innovation. Tutored by his father and by Copeland, Josiah Spode II was amply prepared to carry on the business. With Spode II and Copland side by side the business rose to undreamed heights, demand became international, and the wares were shipped to the entire civilized world.
William Copeland, now a partner in the business, died in 1826 and his place in the company was taken by his son William Taylor Copeland. Josiah Spode II died during the following year, and with none of Spode’s heirs being active in the business Copeland became the sole owner in 1833.
The company remained in the Copeland family until 1966, during which time the business was merged with Royal Worcester. The 1980s and 1990s saw a huge change in the ceramics industry, many traditional techniques and highly skilled processes were being replaced by computerised design, advanced lithographic printing and automation. Where possible Spode maintained traditional skills right up to 2007, by which time much of Spode’s production had been outsourced to the far east.
In April 2009, the Spode brand was acquired by the Portmeirion Group. Their factory is only a few hundred metres from the original Spode works and much of the production has now returned to Stoke.