Early Day Alchemy: Shelley Manufacture

factoryAll of us have marveled at the dazzling diversity of shapes, sizes, and patterns created by the artisans who brought us the glory of Shelley.  Every bit as important, but seldom mentioned, is the extraordinarily fine craftsmanship that is embodied in every piece.  Hold a cup to the sunlight, and it is almost luminescent.  Look at the thickness of that cup, and wonder how it survived nearly a century.  Listen to the mellifluous “ping” which resonates when tapping the rim.  Then consider that some of the finest potteries in the world tried to duplicate what you hold in your hand and failed utterly.   The magic of Shelley remains a mystery even today and will probably remain so for the rest of time. 

Fortunately, Shelley endeavored to enlighten us with a "simple description of the process employed in the manufacture of English Bone China."

This page is dedicated to the manufacture of Shelley and to the alchemists who worked their magic on a humble mixture of bone, clay, and stone.

We are indebted to the UK Shelley Group for providing the rare aerial view of the Shelley Factory (above).

The slideshow below is best viewed in full screen mode which may be accessed via the full screen button on the navigation menu. To access the navigation menu, simply roll your mouse over the slideshow. To return to normal view, click on the button or press the escape key.


  • The Oldest Craft in the World
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Through the generosity of Robert Senft, a half hour long Youtube video showing production in the factory is now available. The original lacks a sound track, and we are fortunate to have a copy narrated by Ray Reynolds, Shelley's last Decorating Manager. The video is quite large so it will take some time to load, but it's well worth the wait for anyone who wants to see the actual production process. As an aside, shortly after completion of the film's narration, Ray noted that he had made a couple of "howlers," not the least of which was an error in describing the composition of the china; contrary to his statement in the narration, the china was made from roughly equal parts of stone, bone, and clay.