Museum


Belleek Pottery museum endevours to tell the story of Belleek Pottery through its many products made over its 165 year history. Each of the cabinets and displays takes one through the design and production story of Belleek Pottery.  Many of the pieces in the museum have been donated by collectors and other owners who wished to allow the many visitors to the pottery to see and appreciate the many wonderful creations crafted and made down through the years.

The Beginnings…

In 1853 John Caldwell Bloomfield, owner of the Castlecaldwell estate, commissioned a mineral survey of his lands. It discovered that in an area approximately eight miles from Belleek at Larkhill, there were sufficient deposits of Feldspar and Kaolin (china clay) to make mining commercially viable.

 A crushing mill was built at Belleek on the site of an old corn mill and where there was waterpower from the River Erne to drive the machinery necessary to process the raw materials.

 These materials were exported to England and a large contract was established with the firm of Kerr & Binns of Worcester, later to become Royal Worcester.

 

It was through this link that John Caldwell Bloomfield, Robert Williams Armstrong and later David Mc Birney met. Each of them was to contribute vital elements to the foundation and success of the Pottery- land, expertise and finance.

The resulting company was known as David Mc Birney & Co. In 1858 construction of the main pottery building started. It is difficult to say exactly when production began but by 1863 making of utilitarian and probably some sanitary ware had commenced.

In the Dublin Exhibition of 1864 the products shown by Belleek consisted of earthen and stoneware in “dinner, toilet and other table services” made by moulding, press and die, or pressure from powdered clay. (Royal Dublin Society, Official Catalogue of the Exhibition of Manufacturers, Machinery and Fine Arts 1864)

Featured item- Hunting Bowl scenes

Farming in 19th Century Ireland was the occupation of the majority of the population and Belleek catered for this market with a range of in-expensive everyday wares. .These products were only listed as shapes in price lists but could be purchased in a range of patterns and cost from plain to sponge decorated, to transfer printed.

The Hunting bowl falls into the latter category and portrays a series of three simple sketches firstly showing the hunter setting out with his two dogs. He shoots at a bird in the second scene and in the third scene is chased from the field by an enraged bull, jumping the style just in time!

The humour is simple but this print remained one of the most popular of Belleek domestic ware patterns and was printed on both bowls and mugs. Perhaps it appealed to the farmer’s sense of grievance, as most at that time were tenants of large estates renting their land from year to year with little protection of their rights. They were forbidden to hunt on their own landholding as the landlord usually reserved hunting rights for their own use or set it out to other people who would pay them for the privilege .

 These bowls have a first mark stamp in brown, which dates them to being made sometime between 1863 and 1872. The latter date is when we believe the trademark was standardised to a black print.

The bowl shape used for the hunting scenes was a standard bowl shape manufactured right up to the cessation of earthenware in 1946.

The mark on the bowl is an early  first mark. Belleek standardised the colour of their mark to black only in 1872 but from the years from 1863 when production began different colours were used especially on earthenware matching the colour of the transfer print used.

The hunter sets out  for a day’s shooting for game birds

The hunter fires his gun with a loud bang scaring his two dogs and possibly other animals

The loud bang disturbs a nearby bull who chases the hunter. He escapes just in time by jumping over the fence.

Domestic and Sanitary ware

From the beginning Belleek produced a wide range of domestic and toiletry wares. These ranged from expensive decorated ewers  such as the Etruscan Ewer, shown below right, to the simple colour transfer printed  Eldon Ewer & Basin, shown in front. As well, Belleek offered a range of products for everyday use; hospitals and asylums were supplied with items such as bedpans, feeding cups and slop pans. Creameries and milking parlours could obtain milk pans and bowls. Domestic Kitchens with pudding bowls, baking dishes and jelly cans.

Earthenware was the mainstay of the Pottery’s early years and on a roll of one hundred and twenty-five employees in 1897, forty-four were Potters (earthenware), eight Parian makers and ten Basket and Flower makers.

Production of heavy sanitary ware began in the early 1870’s.The wealthy were fitting “water closets” into their homes and for a number of years this proved to be a very lucrative market.

R. W. Armstrong patented many of the Belleek sanitary ware designs and the design patent of the washbasin shown below was registered on the 28th July 1879.

By the late 1890’s the manufacture of heavy sanitary ware ceased due to technical difficulties and the cost of manufacturing.

Featured item- Decorative Wash basin 

Registered diamond mark on the Belleek sink above dating the registration at the Patents Office London on 28th July 1879

G. Jennings patented mark found on toilet bowl on the right

It surprises most visitors to Belleek Pottery that Belleek manufactured heavy sanitary wares. It is likely that manufacturing began in the late 1870s and was discontinued sometime before 1900.

This particular wash basin has a registry mark dating it being registered at the Patents Office in London on the 28th July 1879. In a listing of Belleek registered items compiled by Brian Russell (see The Registered Designs of Belleek Pottery ) there is no record of a wash basin being registered by Belleek on that date.

Another wash basin was registered at the Patents Office just two months earlier on  the 30th May 1879 (see image) Although we have many examples of many of these wash basins and other toilet items, we don’t have an existing example of this particular sink. In a remarkable turn of events many of these sinks were stored in a loft at the very top of the main pottery building and its inaccessibility meant that a number of these survived to this day. 

Most of these sinks and toilet bowls are not stamped so we cannot be sure that they were all manufactured by Belleek. Some have retailers’ names such as the name ‘Wallace & Connell Glasgow’ who are listed in the 1912 business register as ‘Plumbers, lead merchants, hydraulic and sanitary engineers, 44 St Enoch Square’  and also listing other addresses throughout the city of Glasgow.

A patented toilet bowl with the name G. Jennings, Palace Road, Lambeth, London also survived in the loft.

George Jennings was born in Eling Hampshire, son of Joseph Jennings a plumber. He founded his own plumbing and sanitary ware company in Paris Street, Lambeth in 1837.  In 1854 Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Sidney Herbert, the secretary of war, asked Jennings to construct the sanitary arrangements for the British hospitals at Varna and Scutari – something which established his reputation. He patented a number of improvements to sanitary wares up until his death in 1882. His sons continued the business which closed in 1967. Might these sinks and toilets been sent to Belleek by these plumber merchants to get a quote for manufacturing them under their brand name?

It is difficult to imagine that all these sinks and toilet pieces were hauled up three flights of stairs and up a ladder to a loft to put them out of the way after production ceased in the late 1890s.  It begs the question what was this room used for?  Might this loft been Robert Armstrong’s studio where he experimented to emulate and perhaps surpass other manufacturers designs of sanitary wares until he felt sufficiently satisfied to patent his own designs in 1879.

We shall never know!

Belleek Patented sink dated 3oth May 1879

View of the glazing room showing sanitary wares circa 1890 ( Courtesy of the Chris & Bev Marvell collection of lantern slides)

Fumaria Belleek Mark found on the toilet bowl on the right

This very decorative toilet bowl is remarkably similar to the design shown above in the glazing room in the 1890s

Cabinet 3

Earthenware

As expertise developed many new lines were added. In early experiments Robert Armstrong developed a white earthenware clay body, which he called his “harp body”, thus many very early pieces have an impressed harp. He later said that he had perfected his “Harp” body and to demonstrate its excellence he placed a crown above the impressed harp.

Contracts were undertaken for many institutions and organisations in both Ireland and Britain and often they had their crests or emblems printed on their purchases.

 Decoration took many forms, the more decoration and colour, the more expensive. Monograms were printed in one colour and could be hand decorated with many colours, gilded and finished to a very high standard.

 The dinner set shown here is one of the most recognisable Belleek earthenware shapes called the “Ribbon handle” In this instance it is decorated with blue bands and gilded. This along with other shape designs was decorated on a price scale from; plain white, to colour banded, to transfer printed in mono-colours i.e. brown, blue, black, green and red. Gilding was an added extra.

At this time transfer prints could only be printed in one colour. If additional colour decoration was requested, these were hand decorated over the base colour print. This involved several additional firings and as a result was expensive to produce.

Featured Item- First Mark Earthenware Plate with a Family Crest

The saying goes “Every picture tells a story” in this instance it’s a plate that will tell us this story.

Some years ago, a lady from Athlone visited the Pottery and brought with her an old Belleek earthenware plate, which she kindly donated to the Belleek Pottery Museum.

The plate is earthenware with a first mark and a wild rose printed decoration hand tinted in colour. On the top edge of the plate is a crest, which had the Latin motto “Nunquam non Partis” printed on a banner. The plate has a first black mark and impressed Harp and Crown mark, indicating that it was made sometime between 1863 and 1884 during the tenure of the first Belleek company David McBirney & Co. It would have formed part of a complete dinner set. 

The owner was able to give some background information on the plate. An elderly woman who lived in the Knader area between Belleek and Ballyshannon gave it to her. She had used it for many years to feed her cat- thus the worn condition, -so many cat licks! The woman, her employer, gave her the plate and she lived in a “big house” in the vicinity.

The crest was  intriguing  and we said we would try and find out some more information about the plate and where it may have come from.

The district between Belleek and Ballyshannon along the course of the River Erne underwent a major transformation in the early 1950s when the Erne Hydro-Electric Scheme was undertaken with the building of two dams. Thousands of acres of farmland were flooded and the many fishing lodges and mansions along the course of the river were demolished to make way for the large artificial lake built behind the dam at Kathleen’s Falls, called Lough Assaroe

The Latin “Nunquam non Partis” meaning “never unprepared” happens to be the motto of many families including the Johnston family. However in this instance we were able to make the connection with a Johnston family who lived in a stately home near Ballyshannon called “Laputa”

                Johnson Family Crest on the plate

Laputa House, Knader, Ballyshannon

Cliff Laputa House was a large house set in grounds on the north bank of the River Erne close to Ballyshannon. The house was built during the 18th Century on land belonging to William Conolly, of Castletown House in Celbridge, Co Kildare, Speaker of the Irish House of Commons and the major landowner in the Donegal parish of Kilbarron, owning several thousand acres. His summer residence was at the nearby Cliff House overlooking the Cliff falls on the River Erne Dean Swift was a regular visitor to Laputa, it is said that it was here he wrote ‘Gulliver’s Travels’. taking inspiration from the name of the place  for the name of the little people of Lilliaputia.

In Piggott’s Directory of 1824, George Johnston, whose occupation was given as an attorney, is leasing the estate and house from the Conolly family.

In Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, extract from an essay on Kilbarron Parish, 1836. J. F. Johnston is living in the house and is listed as one of the foremost residents of the parish. Later in Griffith’s Valuation survey of Kilbarron Parish, completed in 1857, a Robert Johnston is listed as the ratepayer for Laputa. Robert Johnston is the eldest son of George J., of “Laputa,” (admissions to Greys Inns London 1827) In the Belfast & Province of Ulster directory 1859 Robert Johnston is listed as a barrister. He is also listed in the updated directory in 1865.

His son, also called Robert was born in Laputa House in 1872. This Robert Johnston played Rugby for Ireland in 1893 and later toured South Africa with the British Lions in 1896. Two of his brothers also played international Rugby for Ireland. He stayed in South Africa and won a Victoria Cross for bravery at the battle of Elandslaagte in 1899 during the second Boer War.

 

                                           Robert Johnson VC 1872-1950

Sometime in the 1870s the Johnston family left Laputa and may have moved to Dublin where Robert continued work as a Queen’s Council, returning to Laputa from time to time -perhaps leaving behind the crested dinner set or at least this one plate because by 1880, Dr Simon Shiel of Ballyshannon is leasing Laputa from the Conolly estate. In the years from 1880 until its demolition in the 1950s many different people lived in the house but the last people to live there were William and Nora Ramage. William Ramage is listed as a solicitor in 1941 Perhaps it was Nora Ramage who gave the Belleek plate as a gift to her employee before she left the house for the last time.

      This earthenware plate is of no great monetary value- the cat licks have seen to that! But its real value is the way it has been able to tell us a great deal about the people and places that have all contributed to this particular Belleek story.

The Dublin Exhibition 1872

The Exhibition of Arts, Industries and Manufactures organised by Sir Edward Lee were held in Dublin in 1872. The firm of David McBirney & Co. featured Porcelain for the first time.

The list included nine Parian statuettes and busts, twenty-nine different Dessert pieces, sixteen types of table ornaments the latter category including hand woven baskets. Also displayed were thirty-six pattern plates and twenty-four hollow pieces in the dinnerware section. Examples of the Echinus Eggshell Dejuener sets similar to the one purchased by Queen Victoria as well as the Chinese double spouted kettles and tea urns were also on display.

Also exhibited were Earthenware Dinnerware, Tea & breakfast ware, Toilet ware and heavy utilitarian pieces.

The presence of so many expensive heavily decorated, ornamented and gilded pieces, was the beginning of Robert Armstrong’s goal of making products that would interest the wealthier classes and so raising the aspirational appeal of Belleek to the wider market.

Although Belleek did not win any awards at the exhibition their stand did form the largest section within the Irish and English industrial area of the Exhibition. Here are shown some examples of the Parian pieces displayed at the Exhibition.

Featured Item – Figure of Erin

“Erin unveiling her first Ceramic production. The base of the figure represents the flagstones of the fall on which the Pottery is built and from which the town and the products of the Pottery derive their name.”

 This is how the figure was described in a Belleek Catalogue published in 1928. William Boynton Kirk  (1824-1900) a Dublin born sculptor designed and sculpted this wonderful allegorical piece for Belleek in the late1860. He studied sculpture at the Royal Dublin Society and exhibited at the Royal Academy 1848-57.He was the son of an eminent Dublin sculptor Thomas Kirk and he worked for many years with Kerr& Binns of Worcester later to become Royal Worcester.

In 1860 he entered the Ministry of the Church of England becoming a vicar of Holy Trinity, Birkenhead and later of St. Peter’s, Ashton-under-Lyne.

 The piece also known as “Hibernia awakens from her slumbers” portrays a serene and beautiful lady “Erin,” representing Ireland and is unveiling a vase symbolising Belleek Pottery.

She stands on flat stones surrounded by water depicting Rose Island, where the Pottery was built. (The island no longer exists due to the work of the Erne hydroelectric scheme of the early 1950s).

Thus “Erin” introduces Belleek Pottery to the World and proclaims its merit and excellence. 

Here we tell the story of the first time Erin was exhibited at the Dublin Exhibition of 1872.

In 1870 Sir Arthur Guinness, later Lord Ardilaun and Cecil Guinness, later Lord Iveagh, bought what was known as the Earlsfort Terrace building in Dublin. The building was later demolished in 1918, the site of which is now part of the National University of Ireland.
In December 1871 they placed the buildings at the disposal of the committee for the purpose of holding an exhibition of arts and industries. The committee of the Dublin Exhibition announced that an exhibition of Arts, Industries and Manufactures would take place in 1872. Their guiding principle would be that:
The Exhibition was to be more especially devoted to illustrating and promoting the resources of Ireland, and with that object in mind a separate and important portion of the building (the extensive series of Buildings forming the Exhibition Palace), known as the ‘Leinster Hall’, was set apart exclusively for the Irish department of the Exhibition. British Productions and those of other countries were to occupy the Main Glass Building. The Loan Museum was to be placed in part of the Permanent Building.  The Duke of Edinburgh opened the exhibition on June 6th 1872. In the following months over 420,000 visitors would come and visit

Illustration of the opening ceremony of the Dublin Exhibition June 6th 1872

            Ernest Albert, Duke of Edinburgh

The Duke of Edinburgh
Alfred Ernest Albert, Duke of Edinburgh 1844-1900 was the fourth child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. He married Marie, Grand Duchess of Russia (1853-1920) daughter of Tsar Alexander II, on the 23rd January 1874. On the death of his uncle, Ernst II, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, on 22 August 1893, the vacant duchy fell to the Duke of Edinburgh, since his elder brother the Prince of Wales had renounced his right to the succession. He became the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, in addition to being the Duke of Edinburgh.

Along with other Irish industries the fledgling Belleek Pottery exhibited in the Leinster Hall and sent a large selection of products including a number of Parian figurines, table centres and comports.

In the 1865 exhibition held in the same building, Belleek had sent a number of apprentices to demonstrate their craft and displayed

“Table and toilet ware in stone China, stone ware, mortars, &c, for chemical purposes; parian china: figures, statuettes, &c; earthenware

Now seven years later Belleek would unveil an impressive number of porcelain products and demonstrate to all that Belleek had arrived on the world stage.

One of the most imposing pieces on display was the Figure of Erin, an allegorical piece also known as “Hibernia awakens from her slumbers” The piece depicts a young maiden, “Erin or Hibernia” unveiling a vase with the script on its base “Belleek Pottery”. Thus Ireland was unveiling to the world the work of Belleek Pottery. It was designed and sculpted by Dublin born William Boyton Kirk

 

              Bust of Lord James Butler sculpted by William Boyton Kirk

William Boyton Kirk A.R.H.A.

William Boyton Kirk

From the Biography of Irish Artists 1913

Second son of Thomas Kirk (q.v.), was born on the 29th May, 1824. As a boy he showed marked talent for sculpture, and his father was desirous of placing him as an apprentice with Chantrey who, however, refused, saying that he thought the boy’s father would be his best teacher. He was sent to the Dublin Society’s School as a pupil in April, 1839, and also worked in his father’s studio in Jervis Street. In 1845 he entered Trinity College, but left without taking his degree. He made his first appearance as an exhibitor in the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1844. His “Iris Ascending,” now at Marlborough House, was exhibited in 1846 and was purchased for fifteen pounds by the Royal Irish Institution. He had, however, little desire to continue in his profession as a sculptor, his one wish being to become a clergyman, a wish ultimately fulfilled. But for some years he worked at his profession and was made an Associate of the Royal Hibernian Academy on 16th February, 1850. Besides groups and busts he did a large figure of “Justice” for the Courthouse in Belfast; he designed the Shakespeare dessert service for the Worcester China works, which was shown in the Dublin Exhibition in 1853, and also several figures—”Erin,” “Winter,” “Summer,” etc., for the Belleek works. He was an exhibitor in the Royal Academy from 1848 to 1857, and during most of that time was resident in England. In 1860 he carried out his long-cherished design of entering the Church; he took orders and held various cures in England; was for some time vicar of Holy Trinity, Birkenhead, and afterwards of St. Peter’s, Ashton-under-Lyne. He resigned his Associateship of the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1873, and on the 11th October of that year was made an Honorary Member. After his ordination he occasionally did some busts, including “Lord James Butler,” “Dr. Ellicot, Bishop of Gloucester”; “Dr. Ryle, Bishop of Liverpool,” and a figure of “Jael,” his last work exhibited in Dublin.

He was author of “The Immaculate Conception; or the Martyrs of Santiago”; “The Sailor’s Complaint”; “The Martyrs of Antioch,” and other poems, and of “The Antiquities of Ashton-under-Lyne and Neighbourhood.” He married in 1853 Sarah Watson Mahony, daughter of Denis Fitzgerald Mahony, of Co. Limerick.

Kirk died at Ashton-under-Lyne on 5th July, 1900.

                                Picture of the Belleek stand at the Dublin Exhibition 1872. Figure of Erin is in the cabinet on the extreme left.

                     Paris Exposition 1900

The mirror displayed here is the same as the one sent to Paris and a similar styled mirror was presented to Queen Victoria on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee in 1897.

The “Exposition Universelle” of 1900 was a world fair held in Paris, France,

to celebrate the achievements of the past century and to accelerate development into the next”.

More than 50 million people attended the exhibition (a world record at the time), yet it still failed to turn a profit, costing the French government 2,000,000 Francs. The fair included more than 76,000 exhibitors and covered 1.12 square kilometres of Paris. The exhibition lasted from the 14th April until 10th November 1900.

Belleek won their fourth gold medal at this Exhibition for the International Centre-piece and it is displayed in the foyer of the Visitors Centre.

In the cabinet are shown some of the other exhibits brought to the Paris Exhibition. Some of these, such as the Dolphin Candlestick were in production for many years but others including the Henshall basket, were probably first introduced in Paris.

The International Centrepiece

International Centrepiece

Frederick Slater pictured in a feature article in the Daily Sketch June 1930

Belleek Pottery was represented at the Paris Exposition displaying a number of products including a flowered mirror, flowered table centres and numerous baskets and flowered pedestal pots. However, the crowning piece was the International Centrepiece, a magnificent vase standing over 30” high with pierced details and decorated with an array of hand applied flowers. The vase stands on a pedestal,  with three Irish Wolfhounds linked, as if guarding the centrepiece.

The thoughts which led to the creation of this wonderful piece were lost in the mists of time and we can only speculate on the lead up to the event based on the fragments of documentary evidence known to us today.

The planning for the Paris Exposition began in France in 1892 under President Carnot and the design of the International Centrepiece would have been undertaken soon after.  The piece was designed to illustrate the crafts and skills present in Belleek Pottery including the skills of the flowering department  headed by William Henshall who would have designed the sprays of the floral decoration on the centre-piece.

The centrepiece impressive then as it is now won a Gold medal from the show’s organisers as a piece of significant artistic merit.

The designer, Frederick Slater  led the team that modelled  the International Centrepiece. The piece comprises of over fifty separate mould parts and would have taken in all likelihood over a year to model and mould all the pieces!

Frederick Slater came to Belleek Pottery in 1894 to take up the position of resident designer and modeller. He was born in Stoke on Trent in 1869 and came from a “Potteries” family of designers and modellers spanning several generations, including his brother Walter, who was the head designer with Shelley Pottery from 1905 until 1937. He settled in Belleek and married a local girl. His work for Belleek included the many tea sets and giftware introduced from his arrival in 1894 right up to the 1930s.

The Centre-piece was featured in the 1904 Belleek Catalogue and continued in production on special order up until the 1960s. One was specially commissioned in 1967 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Confederation and featured sprays of Maple leaves and other distinctive Canadian flowers,

Back of the gold medal won at the Paris Exposition

Front of the gold medal won at the Paris Exposition, 1900

Featured Item Flowered Mirrors/Picture Frames

The flowered mirror displayed in the Belleek Museum. It is very similar to the mirror brought to the Paris Exposition of 1900.

However, this elaborate construction of stems and flowers of  great complextion is much older and one was brought to the Adelaide Exhibition in Australia in 1887, where Belleek won a third Gold medal.  Another similarly constructed mirror was presented to Queen Victoria on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee in 1897. This particular mirror had in addition the three symbols of the pottery, round tower, wolfhound and harp.

Flowered mirrors or picture frames were a relatively late introduction into the Belleek design portfolio and the earliest examples are shown in the 1881 “Belleek Old Photograph Album”

The album, of which there were two copies made; one in the National Museum of Ireland and the second in Belleek Pottery. The latter continued to serve as a sales catalogue up until the 1904 published catalogue.

The floral mirrors or picture frames in the album are shown in three sizes and decorated with sprays of Lily of the Valley flowers.

Much later in the section of the album where  photographs were subsequently added in the years after 1881 is shown a double flowered frame.

Oval picture frame with Lily of the Valley floral decoration.

William Henshall came to Belleek as early as 1867 bringing with him the skills of basket and flower-making to Belleek  Pottery. He developed the very distinctive Belleek basket shapes, designing such pieces as the Sydenham basket and the Rathmore basket to name but a few. Reseach has shown that he came permantly to Belleek in the 1880s remaining at the pottery until his death in 1902.

William Henshall

1904 Belleek Catalogue

Although Belleek previously issued trade catalogues, this listing is believed to be the first one to also feature pictures of the product. The catalogue shows a wide selection of Earthenware and Stoneware as well as the more recently developed China tea sets.

 These China tea sets  including the Neptune Tea set, (seen below) were developed in the latter twenty years of the 19th century by a team of modellers trained by William Gallimore.

These included Michael Maguire believed responsible for the development of the Shamrock tea set and James Cleary (Thistle teaset). The latter succeeded William Gallimore as head of the Art department and who became manager of the pottery in 1886.  

In 1894 Frederick Slater arrived from Stoke-on-Trent to become head of the Art department, He develops a wide selection of new tea sets including Cone, Finner, Lily and Harp Shamrock. The 1904 catalogue offered twenty- eight different Parian ware tea sets for sale.

 As well, largely featuring in this catalogue are Jardinières and flowered vases. William Henshall heads a small department of ten or so flowerers but their creativity is prodigious including pieces such as the Table Centre and hitherto un-flowered pieces such as the Thistle vase and Aberdeen Vase were revamped by adding hand crafted flowers.

 “Novelties or Fancies” are another innovation introducing smaller vases, pots and assorted giftware. These were less costly to produce and were popular gifts in the early years of the new century.

1928 Catalogue

The Belleek Pottery Works Company was sold in 1919 to a group of businessmen; Bernard O’Rourke, John O’Neill, James Keown, Neil McMahon and Joseph Dolan. The new firm began trading as Belleek Pottery Limited. Economies were made; large figurines, centrepieces and heavily decorated tea sets were all discontinued.

 It was not until K. E’ Leod Kandee arrived as manager in 1922 that much thought was given to developing new designs. He employed fellow Hungarian Madam Boroniuxz to design new giftware and tea ware. A gifted designer she worked alongside Fred Slater to create various embossed and printed patterns taken from the Book of Kells. The earlier Ring handle tea set is adapted to her Celtic pattern by adding a printed outline design and decorating it with hand painted colours.

The new Tea ware included the earlier Low Celtic set, designed in the early years of the Century possibly by Alice Jacob, a gifted Lace & Gesso designer who was in the forefront of the Irish “Arts & Crafts” movement of the late 19th and early 20th Century.

Belleek introduced its third mark in 1926. This was similar to the previous mark but has an additional round mark with the Gaelic words “deanta in eirinn” meaning made in Ireland with the added trade registry mark 0857. This mark is used on both Parian and Earthenware, on the latter, only until 1934.

There is a large section featuring religious fonts and figurines. These were in fact all introduced before 1914.

Omitted from the catalogue are earthenware and stoneware products. The latter category was discontinued in 1919.

1949 Catalogue

The inter war years were a difficult time for Belleek and by the early 1930’s it was thought that the pottery should concentrate on  manufacturing earthenware product and cease production of the more expensive baskets and Parian products.

 All this changed with the arrival of Harry Arnold as manager in 1933. He had previously worked for Copeland Spode and was definite about continuing China production. Earthenware was trademarked “Melvin ware” so to differentiate it from the more expensive “Parian China ware.” which retained the wolfhound harp and round tower mark.

In 1940, Eric Arnold, his son, succeeded him as Pottery manager. Eric’s first years were a struggle in keeping the Pottery operational during the Second World War. Production was reduced, as it became difficult to obtain coal and other raw materials.

The years after the war brought new challenges including cheaper production methods and Belleek found that it could no longer compete with other earthenware manufacturers. In 1946 a new mark in green the fourth, was introduced and it was decided to cease making earthenware and concentrate solely on the production of Parian.

The 1949 catalogue differs very little from the 1928 catalogue. It features the Mask tea set (introduced in the mid 1930’s) whilst some like the Tridacna Coffee Set (shown below) continued to be popular. A small colour section shows the new styles of painting for the New Shell, Limpet and other existing teaware designs.

Most of these new decorative designs are the work of Cyril Arnold, brother of Eric and a very talented ceramic artist. His ideas would influence much of the decorative designs in the following years.

1962 Catalogue

The catalogue introduced in 1962 is very different in style and layout to the previous catalogue. The product numbering system is changed again eliminating the anomalies that have grown since the more radical change in 1926.

An introduction by journalist Malachy Hynes describes his visit to the Pottery. He is greatly impressed by the craftsmanship and beauty of Belleek. He describes hand crafted flowers being made:

 “In some cases as many as seventy tiny petals go into the making of just one of those blossoms. Almost forgotten now were the skills of those other craftsmen in the fascination of seeing little blobs of moist clay in the fingers of the flowerers grow into delightfully realistic leafy decorations, all so perfect, they seem to have grown as naturally there as ivy does on the crags along the Erne”

There is a large colour section featuring a selection of product including hand crafted baskets. Baskets had been offered for sale with colour decoration since 1949 but by 1962 this decoration becomes the standard and most popular form of painting baskets.

Two of the First mark tea sets Echinus and Grass were re-introduced into the range. With the latter teaset the major difference is that the teapot and kettle spout are changed from the first mark styled ducks head to a plain spout.

The Pottery is enjoying a time of relative prosperity with order books full. Major refurbishment is undertaken with the introduction of new electric kilns and the building of new workshops.

In 1965 the third green mark is introduced which is smaller in size omitting the words “County Fermanagh.”  The US registry mark “R” is placed over the harp on the trademark.

1978 Catalogue

This catalogue is in full colour with many pictures of the pieces photographed in home settings. For the first time there is a brief history of the Pottery and a description of the process of making Parian. At this time with the quality of the photography, printing techniques and layout, the catalogue was considered a major step in revamping the image of the Belleek Pottery product range.

 The sales of giftware are becoming more important and this is reflected in the reduced number of tea sets. There are six sets remaining, these are; Tridacna, Limpet, New Shell, Neptune, Harp shamrock and Shamrock.

The continuing popularity of Shamrock tea ware is mirrored in the extensive number of pieces featuring in the catalogue.

There are no new shamrock designs though this remains the most popular and enduring of all Belleek’s production output.

In 1970 Belleek introduced its first Annual plate featuring Castlecaldwell. Jim Kirkwood from the Kilkenny Design Centre designed it. This heralds many years of co-operation on various projects, including The Kilkenny tea set (shown left) was introduced in 1972 but interestingly is not featured in the 1978 catalogue.

 Belleek introduce boxed packaging for the first time in the late 1970s with the now familiar green box and lidded boxes with satin for the handcrafted baskets.

In 1980 the trademark stamp was changed to a gold colour. This mark, the seventh, continued in use up until 1993.

The Belleek Visitors Book 1868 – 1884

The first entry is dated October 1st 1868 and is signed by the Earl & Countess of Lanesborough of Lanesborough Lodge, Belturbet, Co Cavan.

Captain John Vansittart Danvers Butler, 6th Earl of Lanesborough was born on 18 April 1839. He was the son of Captain Charles Augustus Butler Danvers and Letitia Rudyard Ross Freese. He married Anne Elisabeth Clark daughter of the Reverend John Dixon Clark, on 21 June 1864.

The Earls of Lanesborough were extensive landowners in both Ireland and England and held estates in Co Cavan and Fermanagh. The villages of Newtownbutler in Co Fermanagh and Butlersbridge in Co Cavan are named after the family.

They arrived accompanied by Viscount and Lady Templetown from Castle Upton, Templepatrick Co Antrim.

George Frederick Upton sat as a Conservative MP for Antrim from 1858 to 1863. In 1866 he became an Irish Representative Peer and sat in the House of Lords as Lord Templetown.

We cannot know if the Visitors Book was purchased specially for the visit of these important visitors but the arrival of such well-connected persons would have certainly been considered well worth recording to impress other visitors who in turn would also record their names.

In the weeks and months that followed many other important visitors are noted. Lord and Lady Enniskillen, Miss Brooke of Ashbrooke Co Fermanagh along with Miss Bloomfield daughter of John Caldwell Bloomfield of Castlecaldwell. Late in December 1868 Mr Richardson the High Sheriff of Co Fermanagh also visited the Pottery.

The first visitor from England is Archibald Anson from Longfield Rectory in Derbyshire signed his name in January 1869.

This entry is followed by a long list of persons from the titled aristocracy of the day to the landed gentry to visitors to the locality.

This latter category would increase in volume over the next decade with the popularity of travelling by train on holiday excursions.

The railway connection from Belleek opened in 1866. Another category visiting were returned emigrants who had made good in the New World and were able to travel back across the Atlantic, to visit the land of their birth. These included Rev William McNulty of Passaic, New Jersey visiting Ballyshannon, also Thomas McElderry Sinclair and his wife Caroline of Cedar Falls, Idaho visiting their families in Belfast.

Today we are ever mindful of the potential of tourism and in particular Belleek has been successfully attracting large numbers of visitors over the last twenty-five years with its Visitors centre and factory tour that encompasses every aspect of the making of Belleek fine porcelain. So it is perhaps surprising that the founders of Belleek had already seen the potential of attracting visitors.

The visit of The Earl & Countess of Spencer, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and his wife on May 12th 1870 was a remarkable event and it gave the fledgling Pottery an tremendous endorsement by the Viceroy, Queen Victoria’s representative in Ireland. He later placed an order for a dinner service with his family crest and a porcelain tea service of the Echinus pattern also with his family crest.

His visit is recorded by a report printed in the Irish Times.

Can’t wait for your tour? Shop Belleek Online

Sign up to our Mailing List

up to date with the latest news from Belleek

 

The First Belleek Collectors Honouree was selected in 1986. The person selected by the choice of the members of the Society was  Commander Fred Gary U.S.N.R.  and past president of the San Diego Chapter of the Belleek Collectors Society.

Commander Gary and his wife Betty were honoured with a champagne reception at the Hotel De

A special plate was made to mark the occasion and limited to 5oo pieces. It was designed by Fergus Cleary Head of the Pottery's design team and it incorporated a cluster of scallop shells on the outer rim a reminder of many of the Pottery's early designs incorporating Marine themes. The central portion displayed the Belleek trademark used by the company since its earliest production in the 1860s.

 

The First Belleek Collectors Convention was held in Los Angeles in February 1993. There were over 275 attendees with representation from eighteen chapters including those from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland.

The Convention was also attended by many of the Hall of fame Honourees and President of the Belleek Collectors International Society Mrs Angela Moore addressed the assembly remarking that it was exciting to be part of such an enthusiastic group of people.

A special plate was made to mark the occasion and limited to 5oo pieces. It was designed by Fergus Cleary Head of the Pottery's design team and it incorporated a cluster of scallop shells on the outer rim a reminder of many of the Pottery's early designs incorporating Marine themes. The central portion displayed the Belleek trademark used by the company since its earliest production in the 1860s.