Born 1705 Died 1780
William Cookworthy, famous for his discovery of the existence of china-clay and chinastone in Cornwall, and as the first manufacturer of a porcelain similar in nature to the Chinese, from English materials, was born at Kingsbridge, Devon, of Quaker parents who were in humble circumstances. At the age of fourteen he was apprenticed to a London apothecary named Bevans, and he afterwards returned to the neighbourhood of his birthplace, and carried on business at Plymouth with the co-operation of his master, under the title of Bevans and Cookworthy.
The manufacture of porcelain was at the time attracting great attention in England, and while the factories at Bow, Chelsea, Worcester and Derby were introducing the artificial glassy porcelain, Cookworthy, following the accounts of Pere d'Entrecolles, spent many years in searching for English materials similar to those used by the Chinese. From 1745 onwards he seems to have travelled over the greater portion of Cornwall and Devon in search of these minerals, and he finally located them in the parish of St Stephen's near to St Austell. With a certain amount of financial assistance from Mr Thomas Pitt of Boconnoc (afterwards Lord Camelford) he established the Plymouth China Factory at least as early as 1768. The factory was removed to Bristol about 1770, and the business was afterwards sold to Richard Champion and others and became the well-known Bristol Porcelain Manufactory. Apart from its historic interest there is little to be said for the Plymouth porcelain. Technically it was often imperfect, and its artistic treatment was never of a high order. But Cookworthy deserves to be remembered for his discovery of those abundant supplies of English clay and rocks which form the foundation of English porcelain and fine earthenware (see Ceramics).
Being the entry for COOKWORTHY, WILLIAM in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the text of which lies within the public domain.