Thomas Turner (potter)

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Thomas Turner by Lemuel Francis Abbott. Thomas Turner by Lemuel Francis Abbott.jpg
Thomas Turner by Lemuel Francis Abbott.

Thomas Turner (1749 – February 1809) was an English potter.



Turner was born in 1749, was the eldest son of Richard Turner (1724?–1791), vicar of Elmley Castle, Worcestershire, by his wife Sarah. Richard Turner (1753–1788) was his younger brother. It has been supposed that Thomas was brought up as a silversmith. He was, however, only formally apprenticed to his father, to qualify him for the freedom of the city of Worcester. It is probable that he was early connected with the Worcester china works. He was an excellent chemist, was a thorough master of the various processes connected with porcelain manufacture, was a skillful draughtsman, designer, and engraver, and was also a clever musician. He was a magistrate for Shropshire and Staffordshire, and a freeman of Worcester, Much Wenlock, and Bridgnorth. [1]

Richard Turner was an English divine and author.

Elmley Castle village in the United Kingdom

Elmley Castle is a village and civil parish in Worcestershire, in England, United Kingdom. It is located on the north side of Bredon Hill 3 miles south east of Pershore in the local government district of Wychavon.

Worcestershire County of England

Worcestershire is a county in the West Midlands of England.

In 1772 Turner succeeded Ambrose Gallimore (brother-in-law of Josiah Spode [2] ) as lessee of the porcelain manufactory at Caughley in Shropshire. [3] Gallimore had obtained the lease to the works, styled ‘The Salopian China Warehouse,’ in 1754, and under his management they had rapidly gained in repute. "In the early years of the Caughley manufactory, the ware was not many degrees removed from earthenware; but it gradually assumed a finer and more transparent character. Like the early Worcester examples, the patterns were principally confined to blue flowers, etc., on a white ground; and in this style and colour the Caughley works excelled, in many respects, their competitors." [4]

Josiah Spode English potter (1733-1797)

Josiah Spode was an English potter and the founder of the English Spode pottery works which became famous for the high quality of its wares. He is often credited with the establishment of blue underglaze transfer printing in Staffordshire in 1781–84, and with the definition and introduction in c. 1789–91 of the improved formula for bone china which thereafter remained the standard for all English wares of this kind.

Shropshire County of England

Shropshire is a county in England, bordering Wales to the west, Cheshire to the north, Staffordshire to the east, and Worcestershire and Herefordshire to the south. Shropshire Council was created in 2009, a unitary authority taking over from the previous county council and five district councils. The borough of Telford and Wrekin has been a separate unitary authority since 1998 but continues to be included in the ceremonial county.

On succeeding Gallimore, Turner set about enlarging the manufactory. He completed his improvements in 1775, and in 1780 visited France, in order to investigate the methods employed in the porcelain manufactories at Paris. He brought back several skilled workmen, who greatly aided him in his subsequent innovations. On his return he developed an early or predecessor form of the ‘willow pattern [5] (an imitation in transferware of a pattern popular in hand-painted chinese imported wares), and about the same time produced the ‘Brosely blue dragon pattern.’

Willow pattern distinctive and elaborate chinoiserie pattern, primarily used on pottery

The Willow pattern is a distinctive and elaborate chinoiserie pattern used on ceramic kitchen/housewares. It became popular at the end of the 18th century in England when, in its standard form, it was developed by English ceramic artists combining and adapting motifs inspired by fashionable hand-painted blue-and-white wares imported from China. Its creation occurred at a time when mass-production of decorative tableware, at Stoke-on-Trent and elsewhere, was already making use of engraved and printed glaze transfers, rather than hand-painting, for the application of ornament to standardized vessels.

In 1783 Turner married Dorothy Gallimore, daughter of William and niece of Ambrose Gallimore. [6] However she died and he made a second marriage. In 1798 or 1799 he retired from the business, which passed into the hands of John Rose, a former apprentice, who carried it on together with his own works at Coalport under the title Rose & Co. The works were finally abandoned in 1814 or 1815, chiefly owing to difficulties of transport and to the failure of the coal supply.

Coalport village in United Kingdom

Coalport is a village in Shropshire, England. It is located on the River Severn in the Ironbridge Gorge, a mile downstream of Ironbridge. It lies predominantly on the north bank of the river; on the other side is Jackfield.

Turner died in February 1809, and was buried in the family vault at Barrow.


Turner was twice married: first, in 1783, Dorothy Gallimore. She died in 1793 without surviving issue; and he was married, secondly, in 1796, to Mary, daughter of Thomas Milner and widow of Henry Alsop. She died at Bridgnorth on 20 November 1816, leaving a son and daughter.

Bridgnorth town in Shropshire

Bridgnorth is a town in Shropshire, England. The River Severn splits it into a High Town and Low Town, the upper town on the right bank and the lower on the left bank of the River Severn. The population at the 2011 Census was 12,079.

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  1. L. Jewitt, The Ceramic Art of Great Britain from Pre-historic Times down to the Present Day, 2 Vols (Virtue & Co., London 1878), I, 'Caughley', pp. 264-273. The Old D.N.B. article was strongly indebted to this source, which should be read with caution.
  2. R. Copeland, Spode (Osprey Publishing, 1998), p. 4.
  3. Shearman, J.; Shearman, N. "Turner, Thomas". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/2787.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  4. Jewitt, The Ceramic Art of Great Britain from Pre-historic Times down to the Present Day, I, at pp. 266-67.
  5. This was not, however, the later standard willow pattern with bridge and fence in the foreground - which the Caughley factory never produced, see G.A. Godden, 'The Willow Pattern', The Antique Collector June 1972, pp. 148-50.
  6. Shearman, J.; Shearman, N. "Turner, Thomas". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/2787.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.). Thomas Turner married Dorothy Gallimore at Barrow, Shropshire on 3 October 1783: she died in 1794.

Wikisource-logo.svg  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain :  Carlyle, Edward Irving (1899). "Turner, Thomas (1749-1809)". In Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography . 57. London: Smith, Elder & Co.

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Sidney Lee 19th/20th-century English biographer and critic

Sir Sidney Lee was an English biographer, writer and critic.

<i>Dictionary of National Biography</i> Multi-volume reference work

The Dictionary of National Biography (DNB) is a standard work of reference on notable figures from British history, published since 1885. The updated Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB) was published on 23 September 2004 in 60 volumes and online, with 50,113 biographical articles covering 54,922 lives.