Mason’s Patent Ironstone China was introduced in 1813 as a less expensive but no less beautiful alternative to Chinese porcelain. Ironstone was so named after its durability and “iron” strength; at one point historians erroneously thought the clay recipe contained iron. In actuality, ironstone is a vitrified earthenware. Many English and American factories produced ironstone, and monikers for this ware abounded: English porcelain, new stone, opaque porcelain, semiporcelain, stone china, and white granite were all used to refer to different recipes for ironstone. The allusion to Chinese porcelain as well as iron strength is quite evident in these terms, reiterating the desired connection to both porcelain and durability.
William Turner of Longton, Staffordshire successfully manufactured the first ironstone wares in 1800. Upon his factory’s bankruptcy, Turner sold his patent for ironstone to Josiah Spode II, who beginning around 1813 began producing “Stone China” to great success. Around that same time, Charles James Mason obtained a patent to produce “English porcelain”.
Mason’s ironstone proved immensely popular at its introduction, however the factory failed to keep up with the demand for new and innovative designs. In 1848, the company went bankrupt and the factory’s contents were sold at auction to Francis Morley. Ten years later, Morley formed a partnership with his son-in-law Taylor Ashworth. After Morley’s retirement in 1862, Ashworth continued the factory in partnership with his father, George.
G. L. Ashworth & Bros. retained Mason’s original recipes, printing plates, and other equipment and continued to produce ironstone, which had become popular once again, well into the 20th century. This Mason’s ironstone bowl features a lively allover pattern of Chinese fans among stylized blooms and branches on a bold orange ground. The chinoiserie style was an apt choice for a ceramic body that originally served as an alternative to Chinese porcelain.