In December 1744 a patent to cover a recipe proposed for the manufacture of a porcelain body, was taken out by Heylyn and Frye. In 1749 Frye alone issued a further patent. The Bow factory was founded in 1747 by five partners, chief among whom were Edward Heylyn, a clothier of Bristol and Thomas Frye, an Irish artist and mezzotint engraver, well known in his own lifetime as an able portraitist. The others were John Weatherby and John Crowther, merchants engaged in the wholesale china and pottery trade, and George Arnold, a wealthy liveryman of the Haberdashers Company and an Alderman of the City of London.
In 1747 the buildings of the Bow porcelain works were established on the Essex side of Bow Bridge on the North of Stratford Causeway. The factory was primarily set up to manufacture porcelain in the imitation of that which was imported in such vast quantities from China, hence the name of the ware ‘New Canton’. The Bow factory became probably the largest of the 18th Century china works and wares were being exported to America from as early as 1754.
A number of Staffordshire potters were employed at Bow, one of the earliest of which was Samuel Parr. The use of calcined bone ash used in the China body at Bow was taken up by almost every porcelain company in the country by the end of the century. The forms and methods of decoration at Bow were also adapted and imitated which indicates that Bow had a more widespread influence upon eighteenth-century British porcelain manufacture. From records it appears that several of the Bow workmen moved to Suffolk to work at the Lowestoff manufactures after 1757. Some of those employed at Bow also went onto work at Chelsea and to Worcester.
Wares were sold by auction, to wholesalers and direct to the public. The Duke of Argyll was among the noteworthy customers at Bow and in May 1756 the Duke’s account stood at the phenomenal sum of £207.5s 0d. In the middle years Bow became one of the most successful commercial manufacturers of Porcelain in eighteenth century England.
By 1749 the factory was operating on what was its finally established site on the north side of Stratford High Street, with a frontage probably exceeding sixty metres immediately west of Marshgate Lane.
Many of the early underglaze blue and white designs were direct copies of the imported Chinese porcelain. White porcelain, again in the Chinese style was produced quite early on, many with prunus flower decoration and often marine shapes, shells, seaweed, coral and snails. Candlesticks were an increasingly popular product at Bow with a widening range of designs appearing from the late 1750’s to the end of manufacture.
There appears to have been a small but notable range of coloured wares produced at Bow between 1748 and 1750. There was however a rapid increase in the range of enamelled useful and ornamental wares from the early 1750’s onwards. Some of the patterns used were the Kakiemon and Imari designs of oriental origin. The imari palette of iron red, blue and gold were extensively used by later factories and these designs and colours are used even to the present day on fine porcelain. The original oriental imari pallet also included green yellow and black.
As well as the oriental shapes and designs much of the tableware was made using the popular silver shapes and with botanical decoration.
Transfer printed wares were produced at Bow during the 1750’s using purple, red, lilac or brown although underglaze blue transfer – printing never replaced underglaze blue painting, which was continued to the end of trading.
Before 1752 the production of figures was very modest. It would appear that after 1752 Bow had access to Meissen figures to copy. A wide range of figures were produced, derived from or direct copies of Meissen originals and production of these continued until the end.
Initially when Bow entered the market the products were predominantly in the oriental style. Nine years later in 1756, although a significant proportion of the products were now decorated in European style, the oriental was still the dominant influence even more in the blue and white decorated than in the enamelled wares. In this prosperous phase it is understandable that the management were slow to change the style of wares produced. However, the failure to take account of the changing requirements of the fashionable public together with the illness and death of three of the principles by 1765 were undoubtedly factors in Bow’s subsequent decline. In 1755 according to account books peak sales occurred but there was a steady decline thereafter.
In 1774 the factory stock and equipment were sold.
Reference from “Bow Porcelain” by Adams & Radstone.