Rode Hall, a fine Georgian country house in Cheshire, is home to an important collection of English porcelain and pottery amassed by successive generations of the Wilbraham family since the mid-eighteenth century. English Ceramics: 250 Years of Collecting at Rode is the first comprehensive study of this historic collection. The book places the Rode Collection in the wider context of the lives and customs of the Wilbraham family whose remarkable history and elite position in eighteenth-century society delineates the development of England's ceramic industry. Central to the narrative is the heiress Mary Bootle who married Richard Wilbraham MP of Chester in 1755. Inspired by the Chinese armorial porcelain imported by her father, a captain and later Director in the East India Company, Mary became an enthusiastic patron of English porcelain. Most table of the purchases described in this book is the collection's important 'botanical' dessert service which she commissioned from the Derby porcelain factory in 1787. Rode's location, close to the Staffordshire border, enabled the Wilbraham family to develop lasting connections with the area's pottery manufacturers; their association with Wedgwood dates back to before 1771 when Josiah Wedgwood, whose wife's family lived close to Rode, was entertained to dinner. Included amongst the book's illustrations are the significant acquisitions made since 1980 by Sir Richard Baker Wilbraham. A collection of rare and early teapots and exemplary items of Chelsea, Bow and Worcester reflect and enhance the family's early patronage of English porcelain. A unique set of Victorian Arts and Crafts pottery by Walter Crane, who visited Rode during the 1860s, and specially commissioned contemporary studio pottery are evidence of the family's continuing commitment to good ceramic design. English Ceramics: 250 Years of Collecting at Rode effectively interleaves ceramic and family history to create a vivid record of a unique collection.
Julie McKeown has previously worked as an historical researcher for ceramics manufacturers, including Spode, Minton and Royal Doulton where she was employed as curator of the Sir Henry Doulton Gallery She is the author of a popular short history of Royal Doulton and Burleigh, the Story of a Pottery which was awarded the Antiques Trade Gazette 'Book of the Year' in 2003. She is especially delighted to write about the ceramics at Rode, having grown up in a cottage in Rode Park.