Champion, Richard (DNB00)

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CHAMPION, RICHARD (1743–1791), ceramist, born 6 Nov. 1743, was a partner in the Bristol china manufactory, the history of which has been written in detail by Mr. Hugh Owen. William Cookworthy was the first maker in England of true porcelain ('hard paste'). In 1768 he procured a patent for the protection of his discoveries. In 1770 his works were removed from Plymouth to Bristol, and carried on under the style of Cookworthy & Co. on Castle Green, also called Castle Street. Champion was Cookworthy's manager and partner in this concern. In 1773 he purchased the entire interest in the business, Cookworthy reserving to himself and his heirs a royalty for a term of ninety-nine years. There has been some confusion in the history of these two factories, which Mr. Owen has been able to dispel. Probably much of the china which bears the Plymouth mark was actually made in Bristol between the years 1770 and 1773. An advertisement dated 22 March 1770, in the 'Worcester Journal,' seems to establish this point: 'China-ware painters wanted for the Plymouth New Invented Porcelain Manufactory.' Applicants are referred to 'T. French, Castle Street, Bristol.' Evidently the produce of Cookworthy's factory was known as 'Plymouth' china after the removal of the works to Bristol. After the sale of Cookworthy's interest in the patent thestyle of the firm till 1780 was Richard Champion & Co. In 1781 it was Richard Champion simply. In 1782 the Castle Street or Castle Green premises were in other hands. The true 'Bristol' china was therefore the produce of the years 1773-81.

Champion was born in 1743, and in 1751 he was sent to London to join his father. In 1762 he returned to Bristol, and entered the office of his uncle, Richard Champion, merchant of that city. In 1764 he married Judith Lloyd. In the same year he made acquaintance with William Cookworthy. In 1768 he commenced china-making. (It has been established that china was made at the Castle Green works, Bristol, before either Champion or Cookworthy was connected with them.) In 1770, as before stated, he became Cookworthy's partner and manager. Champion took a lively part in the politics of his city. The richest produce of his factory resulted indirectly from the general election of 1774. He was a warm supporter, and became a friend, of Edmund Burke, who in 1774 stayed in Bristol with a friend of the Champions, Mrs. Smith, and to her, on leaving, presented a Bristol tea-service, requesting Champion to spare neither pains nor expense in the manufacture of it. In the same year Champion and his wife presented a still more splendid service to Mrs. Burke, of which service the teapot has since realised 210l., the milk-jug 115l. In 1775 Champion petitioned parliament for an extension of Cookworthy's patent to a further term of fourteen years. This petition was strongly opposed by the 'trade' in general, and particularly by Josiah Wedgwood, who showed a somewhat rancorous energy in his conduct of the affair. However, with some modifications, the act was passed. Nevertheless, Champion's affairs did not prosper. The various people who had put money into the concern lost it. The last dated work from his factory is a statuette of Grief, which commemorates Champion's loss of his daughter in 1779. In 1781, after several attempts, he was able to dispose of his patent to a company of Staffordshire potters, who founded the 'hard porcelain' works at 'New Hall,' Shelton. In 1782, through the influence of Burke, Champion was appointed 'joint-deputy paymaster-general of his majesty's forces,' with young Richard Burke as his colleague, and a salary of 500l. a year. This office he finally resigned in 1784, probably because his extreme political opinions made it untenable. In the same year he published anonymously a work upon current politics ('Comparative Reflections on the past and present Political, Commercial, and Civil State of Great Britain; with some thoughts concerning Emigration'), to which he afterwards, in a second edition (1787), attached his name. In 1784 he left England, and settled at Camden in Carolina. There he died, one year after his wife, on 7 Oct. 1791.

[Hugh Owen's Two Centuries of Ceramic Art in Bristol, 1873.]

E. R.