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Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Belleek Pottery, Past and Present

At Graham Smith Antiques we are always delighted to learn and share more about the origins of our antiques.  In this week's blog we explore the heritage of two of our popular ceramic antique pieces, both of which are Belleek china, made in Ireland.  Belleek ceramics was founded by John Caldwell Bloomsfield in 1858, who inherited the Castle Caldwell Estate, in the village of Belleek.  

After the potato famine of 1845 he sought to provide employment for his tenants, the villagers of Belleek. He started by commissioning a geological survey of the soil.  Results of the survey proved the contents to be the raw materials for making high quality pottery. This fuelled Bloomsfield, and later his partners, to set up the factory and indeed, even bring the railway to Belleek which brought the much needed coal for Bloomsfield's kilns. 

Below is the Belleek stamp, taken from our 1950's 18 piece dinner set, a delightful set with typical cream and shamrock decorations, as can be seen by the photograph further below featuring the tea cups from the set.

In Belleek's early days, the main production was of high quality domestic ware: pestles, mortars, washstands, floor tiles and tableware.  From the beginning, continuing after Broomsfield's death, and through both World Wars, the Belleek company were hugely successful, managing to sustain not only itself but also the lives of countless people throughout the years and even today, it is still going strong with over 275 employed workers.


Although the Belleek type of production and style has evolved over the years, some older styles remain popular and memorable such as the four-strand basket weave style, shown below.  This delicate piece (circa 1930) can be found on the Graham Smith Antiques website along with further photographs, showing the precise beauty crafted into each strand and petal.

If you would like to know more about the history of the Belleek company, follow the link to view their website:

You can also follow us on Twitter or Facebook for regular updates, photographs and more insights into the antiques business, or better yet, pop into our well-stocked themed showroom in Benton, Newcastle Upon Tyne.

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