Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

The blue and white tea bowl and saucer – only the 10th and 11th pieces known by ‘America’s first porcelain factory’ – form part of a four-day sale at Adam Partridge in Macclesfield on May 26-29. They will be sold as a single lot with an estimate of £20,000-30,000.

Bartlam’s kilns operating on the Wando river c.1765-70 are now recognised as the first to produce porcelain in America, preceding by about five years the previously better-known Bonnin and Morris factory in Philadelphia. Low-f ired phosphatic soft-paste porcelain sherds with blue and white decoration were found at Cain Hoy in 2007, followed in 2010-11 by the discovery of four matching tea bowls and two saucers in English collections. The Chipstone Foundation and the Philadelphia Museum of Art both acquired tea bowls at prices of around $50,000 and $75,000 respectively, through dealers, while another offered for sale by Christie’s New York in 2013 sold at $120,000 (£76,000).

Five years passed before Woolley & Wallis sold a Bartlam teapot to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a sensational £460,000, followed by the sale of a tea bowl and saucer in the Man on the Bridge pattern for £40,000 in February 2019.

The duo at Partridge is decorated with a plantation pattern and a triple-lattice border. Like other previous discoveries, it had been bought by the vendor from a London dealer some years ago as Isleworth porcelain.

Quite why all examples of Cain Hoy porcelain have been found in Britain is a matter for conjecture. The pieces may have formed part of a set that survived due to its novelty value, but perhaps Bartlam was shipping his porcelain to Britain for sale or had returned home with some of his stock as his venture failed.