The Rockingham China Works was only officially known as such for the sixteen year period between 1826 and 1842. Nevertheless, the name has become synonymous with porcelain of the highest quality, extravagance and opulence. The owners, the Brameld family, ran the pottery at Swinton in Yorkshire from 1806, initially making good-quality earthernwares, much as had previous partnerships on the site from about 1745 onwards.
By about 1825 the ambitious Bramelds began to produce porcelain of the highest quality destined for the luxury market. This venture significantly increased costs, employing as it did new workmen as well as new materials and techniques. The Bramelds were already in financial difficulties due to rent arrears, servicing interest on loans and problems recovering payment from overseas debtors. They were therefore extremely fortunate to have a long-term patron in the 4th Earl Fitzwilliam. It was either his enthusiasm for their experiments in porcelain manufacture, or his disinclination to see a local industry collapse with resulting high unemployment and general misery for the populace at a time of general financial hardship, that caused him to help with re-financing the brothers in 1826, allowing them to continue with their plans for porcelain manufacture.
It was the Earl who gave permission for the works to be re-named the Rockingham China Works, after his uncle Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham, who had owned the land on which the factory stood. The new name and status gave rise to a factory mark which used the symbol of a griffin, based on the family crest. Visitors to the family home, Wentworth House, were encouraged to enjoy the wares supplied to the family by the Bramelds and to place orders with the factory.
The enterprise was however doomed to eventual failure, due to the Brameld's tendency to put artistic achievement before budgetary considerations and their habit of borrowing heavily from various sources. The 4th and 5th Earls, although generous sponsors, could not have continued to support the works indefinitely; other manufacturers in the region were also making calls upon their generosity. The dessert-service ordered by William IV in 1830, of which the present lot is part, was perhaps the factory's most prestigious commisssion and allowed the Bramelds to style themselves 'Manufacturer to the King'; it nevertheless contributed to their financial problems. It consisted of 144 plates and 56 other shapes, for which new moulds were created and the most lavish decoration and gilding applied. The bill for this new Royal service was a staggering ¨5000. Despite this, the Bramelds made a loss.
See Alwyn Cox and Angela Cox, Rockingham Pottery and Porcelain 1745-1842 (1983), col. pl. E. for another wine-cooler from this service in the collection of Her Majesty the Queen.