Although unattributed, it was adequately described and illustrated – the body decorated with a detailed scene of a Georgian farmstead within a printed grape and vine border. It was named and dated John Cowburn 1785 below the handle.
Pieces such as this, commissioned by prosperous farmers, industrialists and ship owners in and around Liverpool, represent the best of the Pennington family output.
John Pennington operated porcelain factories at Copperas Hill from c.1770-79 and then at Folly Lane from 1779-86, a business continued by his widow Jane until 1794.
His brother Seth started porcelain manufacture at Shaw’s Brow in 1778 with John Part, a partnership continuing until 1799.
The core of production at both these concerns were workmanlike underglaze blue transfer-printed domestic wares.
However, the finest pieces are a very rare group of survivors decorated – much in the manner of Liverpool delft – with bespoke scenes of shipping or buildings.
This 8¼in (21cm) jug, with its distinctive mask spout, scroll handle and pedestal foot, is the same form as another later documentary piece painted with an equally location-specific view of a windmill and inscribed J Shaw 1798, which appears on the front cover of Bernard Watney’s Liverpool Porcelain of the Eighteenth Century (1997). Made after John and Jane Pennington ceased trading, it is attributed there, and again in Maurice Hillis’ Liverpool Porcelain, 1756-1804 published in 2011, to Seth Pennington.
Cowburn was, one can safely assume, a Lancashire farmer. It is relatively common surname in the county and there are references during this period to the family of one John Cowburn at the church of St Mary the Virgin in Prestwich and others in Preston and Leyland itself.
Certainly this jug appeared to have travelled relatively little since its firing 236 years ago.
Auctioneer James Warren told ATG it had been consigned as part of a local deceased estate. It had survived in very good condition with one crazed line a firing imperfection rather than a hairline.
The jug sparked plenty of interest as soon as the images were viewed online and multiple bidders hoped to secure it around the £200-400 estimate at the auction on April 7.
It sold at £7400 (plus 17.5% buyer’s premium) to a specialist trade buyer.