Monday, August 8, 2016

Vintage Finds: Antique Brownfield & Son Chinoiserie Revival Pottery

Brownfield & Son, Brownfield & Son dishes

On a recent weekday trip to my favorite downtown charity store, the Assistance League Thrift Shop, I discovered a small box of dishes tucked away on a shelf in the back of the shop. A sign on the box said "Brownfield and Son dishes, pattern number 8909, introduced 1879. Dishes are as found. Use for crafts? Priced as a set, $5.00." I suppose someone who knew anything about antiques would have scooped up the box and happily paid the five dollars.

Not me.

Although I've become quite familiar with the 'vintage scene', and comfortable in my knowledge and expertise in buying pieces that I'm attracted to, I know next to nothing about antiques, so I passed up on the purchase. 

But that evening I found myself thinking about those Brownfield dishes, recalling the pattern, the colors, and the crazing on the glaze. What was especially interesting was the very wide range of wear and use amongst the pieces, from chipped, cracked and color-worn, to almost perfectly preserved, and all had a gorgeous aged patina. Clearly these varying levels of wear show how the items were individually used and cared for during their lifetime over the past century and a half. From a favorite teacup used each and every morning for many years, to the one dinner plate that sat reserved for a special guest, just imagine the stories that each piece could tell!  

As well, I realized that the pattern, with its graceful chrysanthemum-like flowers and the interestingly shaped urn with a depiction of a tiny Asian style building with mountains and a tree in the background, were in fact, the very Chinoiserie style I have recently come to love.

So, when Saturday morning came around, I went back to the shop to see if the box of antique dishes was still there, and if so, that I would buy them. And I did.

Brownfield & Son, W. Brownfield & Son, W. Brownfield & Sons, Chinoiserie pottery, Brownfield & Son Trademark VS, Brownfield & Son 4773, Brownfield & Son 8909, Brownfield & Son 8908, Cobridge Works, Cobridge Factory, Cobridge on Waterloo, Cobridge 1808

Although the Chinoiserie style was fashionable worldwide during the 17th and early 18th centuries, it fell out of favor by the 1760s. Then in the mid-nineteenth century there was a renewed interest in Asian themed decor, and it has continued in popularity into the modern era.

My 'new' old box of dishes were made during the 19th century revival period of the Chinoiserie style. A few of the pieces are back stamped 'Brownfield & Son, No. 115', and I've been able to confirm that this particular back stamp was used between 1871 and 1891. Each of the pieces has the number '4773' hand painted in red, as well as 'Brownfield' and dates of manufacture impressed into the clay. These dates are 1878, 1879, and 1880.

Brownfield & Son, W. Brownfield & Son, W. Brownfield & Sons, Chinoiserie pottery, Brownfield & Son Trademark VS, Brownfield & Son 4773, Brownfield & Son 8909, Brownfield & Son 8908, Cobridge Works, Cobridge Factory, Cobridge on Waterloo, Cobridge 1808

Curious to know the history behind these lovely dishes, I did some research, and here's what I found:

According to an 1886 advertising pamphlet, William Brownfield & Son were successful manufacturers of  'Useful and Ornamental Goods in China, Earthenware, Stoneware, Majolica, and Parian'. From about 1850 until 1891, their Cobridge Works factory, at Stoke-on-Trent, England, made these house wares, and employed about 500 men, women, and children.

William Brownfield (1812-73), the son of an earthenware potter, began his own career in earthenware manufacturing at the Cobridge Works pottery factory, which was built in 1808 and located on Waterloo Road. The factory was occupied by a succession of producers over the years, including Brownfield, until November of 1850 when Brownfield started working on his own there, producing his signature earthenwares, blue-printed and iron-stone ware, hand-painted wares, and one of the firm's specialties: moulded stoneware and Parian jugs. In 1871 the business became a partnership, when Brownfield's eldest son, William Etches Brownfield, joined his father. Porcelains were introduced that same year. In 1876 another of Brownfield's sons joined the business. W. Brownfield and Son(s), as it became known, grew into a successful large home and export trade business, with about 600 employees, into the 1880s.

In 1893 Brownfield's Guild Pottery Society Ltd. was formed to carry on the work of William Brownfield, until 1900 when the Cobridge Works was closed down and demolished. The Myott brothers rebuilt on the site in 1901, establishing yet another pottery factory - but that's another story in the great tradition and historical timeline of pottery manufacturing in the United Kingdom!

As mentioned, I've become very fond of the Chinoiserie style and a recent purchase of a c.1950 James Mont Chinoiserie Limed Oak Hutch brought the historic aspects of Asian themed house wares into focus for me. Since then I've been actively researching it, as well as going through my vintage collections looking for similar items with which to style my hutch.

I'm very pleased with the purchase of these historic pieces of Brownfield and Son pottery. These new old dishes will certainly enhance the variety of Chinoiserie style items in my collection, and I look forward to adding my story to such beautiful old relics.



  1. What a great find and bargain. Serious chinoiserie envy here 😀👍

  2. Thank you and thanks for stopping in Henrietta!

  3. I have had no luck finding out about the 4 plates that have been hanging on the wall in my families home since the '40s. I had a little luck on Brownfield but thought I must have the only plates with that pattern.

    1. I actually found 4 more like yours in a thrift store,I love them


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