John Dwight - Encyclopedia

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JOHN DWIGHT (d. 1703), the first distinguished English potter. One can only surmise as to his parentage, and the date of his birth has been variously given from 1637 to 1640. Apparently he was educated at Oxford, and in 1661 was appointed registrar and scribe to the diocese of Chester, and the same year he proceeded to the degree of B.C.L. of Christ Church, Oxford. He resided at Chester for some time and acted as secretary to four successive bishops. One of these, Bishop Hall, also held the rectory of Wigan, Lancashire, and Dwight seems to have resided in that town, for three of his children were baptized there between 1667 and 1671. In 1671, while he still apparently resided in Wigan, he was granted his first patent for "the mistery of transparent earthenware, commonly known by the names of porcelain or china, and of stoneware, vulgarly called Cologne ware." It is not believed that much, if any, work was executed at Wigan, and he probably removed to Fulham in 1672 or 1673, as his name first appears on the rate books of Fulham, where he was rated for a house in Bear Street, in 1674. He died in 1703, and his business was carried on by his descendants for some time, but with gradually diminishing success. It has been claimed that Dwight made the first porcelain in England, but there is no proof of this, though magnificent specimens of stoneware from his hands are in existence. The British Museum contains a number of the best of Dwight's pieces, of which the finest is the bust of Prince Rupert. Other specimens are in the Victoria and Albert Museum, and they are sufficient to establish Dwight's fame as a potter of the first rank. (See CERAMICS.)

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