One of the most famous visits to Royal Worcester must be the Lord Nelson visit in the late summer of 1802. Taking advantage of the brief pause in the wars with France, Admiral Nelson took a tour of Wales and the West Country with his mistress Emma Hamilton and her husband Sir William Hamilton. On Sunday 26th August they arrived in Worcester where they were warmly received by crowds.
They visited Mr Chamberlain’s china shop at 33 High Street, opposite the Guildhall. Nelson was full of admiration and placed a large order for a breakfast, dinner and dessert service to be decorated in the Fine Old Japan pattern, number 240 ‘with the arms of several orders conferred’ , two vases, two cups and saucers and an inkstand, to be sent to ‘No 23 Piccadilly, opposite the Green Park’ . This ‘Fine Old Japan’ pattern refers to this sumptuous Imari style of decoration with blue, red and other bright colours and rich gilding and required much laborious hand-painting.
It is notable that Nelson asked for his full coat of arms to be painted on the service as he had recently been elevated to the peerage and made Viscount Nelson and so given the right to display his arms which feature references to his military victories and bravery.
Three years later, when Nelson died at Trafalgar (21 October 1805), Chamberlain had only delivered part of the order. Nelson left the breakfast service in his will to his beloved Emma Hamilton. It must have been a blow to her to receive the bill from Chamberlains for the breakfast service, plus four 10 inch dishes and one 12 inch dish at a total cost of 120 pounds 10 shillings and sixpence, only one week after Nelson’s state funeral in January 1806.
Material: Soft paste porcelain
From the Archive
Showstopper sponsor: Mark Regan
“Lord Nelson has been my hero since my father helped me build a model of the Victory. Nelson is the hero of Captain Jack Aubrey in Patrick O’Brian’s historical novels which I regularly read. I love the beautiful design and the historical significance of the Royal Worcester Nelson service, especially the teapot.”