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John Dwight

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John Dwight (1637-1703) first of the distinguished English potters, producer of works in stoneware

c.1637 Born

In the later 1650s he worked in the laboratory of the distinguished scientist Robert Boyle, in company with Robert Hooke. After taking the degree of bachelor of civil law at Christ Church, Oxford, Dwight was appointed registrar and scribe to the diocese of Chester where he stayed until 1668

1665 He moved to Wigan and tried experiments into making china ware. When he felt he had succeeded, he sold his ecclesiastical office and moved to Fulham, London, encouraged by Boyle and Hooke

1671 Dwight set up a potters shop in (what is now) the New Kings Road in Fulham[1].

1671 Dwight took out a patent for "transparent earthenware, commonly knowne by the names of porcelaine or china" and "stoneware, vulgarly called Cologne ware." He did not actually make porcelain; the partly translucent quality of his stoneware apparently led him to mistake it for that material.

1672 Dwight discovered a process for making salt-glazed stoneware which was to be the source of financial success for his pottery; William Killigrew submitted a patent application for the same process 13 days after Dwight in April 1672. Dwight's determination to set new standards of ceramic refinement, his employment of the best available throwers, lathe-turners, etc and his invention of new types of decoration, together with his ceaseless pursuit of the secret of porcelain, set him apart from other potters of the seventeenth century.

1672 Started the Fulham Pottery.

Despite searching, Dwight was unsuccessful in finding china stone to mix with his china clay - this was eventually found in Cornwall in 1745 by William Cookworthy.

1693-1696 Dwight was involved in lawsuits with 19 other potters over infringements of his stoneware patent.

1693 Brought a lawsuit against 3 of the Wedgwoods for infringement of his patent for the manufacture of stoneware. He claimed that they had "for several years past in a private and secret manner made and sold great quantities" of stoneware using his patented method.

Despite his efforts to contain the secrets of lathe-turned salt-glazed stoneware, the knowledge spread rapidly from the 1690s, eventually reaching Staffordshire, where by the 1720s it had developed into a major industry, the basis of the later wealth of the Staffordshire potteries.

The most important works from Dwight's pottery are finely modelled stoneware busts and statues, including busts of Prince Rupert of the Rhine and Charles II, a recumbent half figure of his daughter, and various classical figures, all by an unknown modeller. Dwight's figures can be seen more as ceramic sculpture than as the precursors of Staffordshire pottery figures.

Among the useful objects attributed to his pottery are various stoneware bottles and mugs. His brown salt-glazed stoneware tavern mugs and bottles formed the basis of many highly productive potteries in London, Bristol, Nottingham, and Derbyshire in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, especially Doulton's of Lambeth.

Though Dwight did not make a great fortune, none the less the pottery that he founded worked continuously from 1672 to 1969.

1703 Died


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. The Times, 18 December 1970
  • [1] Encyclopædia Britannica Online
  • Biography of John Dwight, ODNB [2]