Cookworthy, William

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b. 1705 Kings bridge, Devon, England
d. 16 October 1780 Plymouth, England
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English pioneer of porcelain manufacture in England.
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The family fortunes having been extinguished by the South Sea Bubble of 1720, Cookworthy and his brother had to fend for themselves. They set up, and succeeded, in the pharmacy trade. At the age of 31, however, William left the business, and after a period of probation he became a minister in the Society of Friends. In a letter of 5 May 1745, Cookworthy mentions some samples of kaolin and china or growan stone that had been brought to him from Virginia. He found similar materials at Treginning Hill in Cornwall, and between 1755 and 1758 he found sufficiently pure china clay and china stone to make a pure white porcelain. Cookworthy took out a patent for his discovery in 1768 which covered the manufacture of porcelain from moonstone or growan and growan clay, with a glaze made from china stone to which lime and fern ash or magnesia alba (basic carbonate of magnesium) were added. Cookworthy's experiments had been carried out on the property of Lord Camelford, who later assisted him, in the company of other Quakers, in setting up a works at Coxside, Plymouth, to manufacture the ware; the works employed between fifty and sixty people. In the absence of coal, Cookworthy resorted to wood as fuel, but this was scarce, so in 1770 he transferred his operation to Castle Green, Bristol. However, he had no greater success there, and in 1773 he sold the entire interest in porcelain manufacture to Richard Champion (1743–91), although Cookworthy and his heirs were to receive royalties for ninety-nine years. Champion, who had been working with Cookworthy since 1764 and was active in Bristol city affairs, continued the firm as Richard Champion \& Co., but when in 1775 Champion tried to renew Cookworthy's patent, Wedgwood and other Staffordshire potters challenged him. After litigation, the use of kaolin and china stone was thrown open to general use. The Staffordshire potters made good use of this new-found freedom and Champion was forced to sell the patent to them and dispose of his factory the following year. The potters of Staffordshire said of Cookworthy, "the greatest service ever conferred by one person on the pottery manufacturers is that of making them acquainted with china clay".
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Further Reading
W.Harrison, 1854, Memoir of William Cookworthy by His Grandson, London. F.S.Mackenna, 1946, Cookworthy's Plymouth and Bristol Porcelain, Leigh on Sea: Lewis.
A.D.Selleck, 1978, Cookworthy 1705–80 and his Circle, privately published.
LRD

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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