Cymdeithas Hanes Resolfen History Society

A web log for the Resolven History Society which publishes articles and stories related to Resolven and the immediate surroundings.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Society's visit to Nantgarw

The Society visit to Nantgarw China Works.

Frequent travellers along the busy A470 Trunk Road could well be forgiven for missing this gem of a museum. On Saturday 15th July some thirty four members and friends of Resolfen History Society visited Nantgarw as part of their annual historical visit.

The famous porcelain works had a very short if illustrious history and the porcelain is now regarded as highly collectable and of a superb quality. The four main characters in the story, which lasted less than a decade, as a producer of high quality wares, are William Billingsley, Samuel Walker, entrepreneur William Weston Young ( who had connections with the Neath area) and artist/illustrator Thomas Pardoe.

Trained in Derby, Billingsley and Walker were attracted to the Nantgarw area in 1813 by the easily available local coal to fire the kilns and the presence of the Glamorganshire Canal which runs adjacent to the works.This enabled the fragile porcelain to be shipped safely. Using his unique formula for soft paste porcelain and with £250 to erect the buildings, production started. However, owing to the vast wastage in production the venture quickly ran into financial difficulties. They received help from William Weston Young, however an offer from industrialist L.W.Dillwyn in 1814 moved production to Swansea (and hence producing the equally collectable Swansea porcelain) until 1817 when Billingsley returned to Nantgarw. Porcelain production then re-started, however by 1820 the works had once again hit the financial buffers .Billingsley and Walker then left Wales permanently.

William Weston Young, who is better remembered for glorious failure had a stroke of genius and persuaded London illustrator Thomas Pardoe to decorate the large number of porcelain plates remaining and so increased the number of decorated pieces available. Unfortunately, Thomas Pardoe died in 1824. Nantgarw continued as a producer of domestic ware, especially clay pipes until it closed in the 1920s. In recent years The Friends of Nantgarw have restored Nantgarw House and are now in the process of restoring the works.

Members may be interested that an illustrated lecture on Nantgarw China works will be given by Mr David Phillips to the Society on Monday,October the 9th.
Trefor Jones


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