Made in both England and Wales between 1820 and 1860, the earthenware, creamware, ironstone and bone china is decorated in charming patterns picked out in underglaze cobalt blue, often in panels, rust or burnt orange and copper lustre, while floral decoration often included pink lustre, green and yellow, all on a white background.It appealed to people of modest incomes in both Britain and the United States, and even today connoisseur collectors are dismissive of Gaudy Welsh. It’s not as posh as the porcelain from Meissen, Chelsea or Worcester or any of the wondrous products of Japan or China, although that is undoubtedly where it has its roots.
Gaudy Welsh china is pretending to be something it is not and never will be. It was produced for working class families and a piece cost only a few pennies. It had aspirations, though, like the people who bought it.
The name for the distinctive ware appears to have been coined by American collectors. Their Welsh counterparts know it by more prosaic names such as Welsh lustre, peasant enamel, cottage Swansea or simply cottage ware. Fact is, more Americans than Brits collect the stuff, perhaps because it was exported in huge quantities to that country.
The result was a burgeoning middle class which could afford the finer things in life and a working class that couldn’t but was striving to make it so. A home decorated with cheap and cheerful china ornaments was tangible proof that a family’s move from country farmhouse to industrial slum was a wise one.
Welsh manufactories that produced Gaudy Welsh were responsible for less than a quarter of total production. They include the Cambrian Pottery in Swansea; the South Wales Pottery in Llanelly and the Glamorgan Pottery, also near Swansea.
Staffordshire potters were quick to spot the potential market of Gaudy Welsh and were soon producing versions of their own having pirated designs from their Welsh cousins.