Gew Graze (Soapy Cove)
Gew Graze (Soapy Cove)

History of Gew Graze

Extract from Mullyon Its History, Scenery and Antiquities by E.G. Harvey 1875


The principal ingredients for the manufactory of porcelain, it was long ago known, were to be found in this county, where lead and tin for the glazing, and the best description of clays, lay close along side one another.

The valuable properties of the Soap Rock do not seem to have been fully appreciated, even if known, until the middle of the 18th century; but after the discovery of it in this spot, by Mr. R. Chaffers, in 1755, greater quantities appear to have been raised here, at Gue Greze, or "Corez Cove" as it was then called, than in any other part of Cornwall.

Mr. Richard Chaffers, who was a native of Liverpool, and a contemporary of Josiah Wedgwood, having obtained permission from several land proprietors to quarry or bore for soap rock, made a journey into Cornwall in the year 1755 or thereabouts. After varied attempts, attended with varied success, he at length discovered in this valley a larger quantity of clay than he had found elsewhere, and a cargo of this was speedily shipped for Liverpool. Here, Chaffers, by his perseverance and chemical skill and knowledge, soon succeeded in producing from the soapy clay such excellent specimens of china ware, as fairly to win from the great Wedgwood himself the acknowledgement that he had met with a formidable rival; "Mr. Chaffers," said he, "beats us in all his colours, and can produce for two guineas what I cannot for five."

Chaffers lived for ten years after this, during which time the works were continued here for a supply of the Kaolin, and he was enabled to mature his operations on his important discovery; but on his demise, his principal assistant, Podmore, having died just before him, commenced the breaking up of this branch of the ceramic art that he had brought so near perfection.

At Mullyon, Mr. Chaffers's foreman of the works was one Gavregan Teppit (whose burial is recorded in our register, 4th June, 1785, "aged about 70 f and whose daughter was married to the then Vicar of Mullyon), and several letters of this man to his master are still extant. From these, it may be learnt that in 1756 Teppit had sent "eight tuns and fourteen hundred of sopey-rock to Hail," to be shipped for Liverpool: and so during the years following, the work of raising and sending off the clay was continued, save, perhaps, in the depth of winter. In 1759, he writes, "We have the finest parcel of clay that was ever seen in Paradock. There was a man down in October who said he would give any money for such a parcel." In 1762 they "could raise half a tun a day." In the last three months of 1763 he sends off 32 tons ; and in his last letter to Mr. Richard Chaffers, dated 28th November, 1765, there is an account of all monies received and paid by him up to that date. It must have been in the following December that Mr. Richard Chaffers died, for Teppit's next letter, towards the end of January, 1766, is written to Mr. Hannibal Chaffers, saying he has 20 tons to weigh off, and that there was a very good vein in sight. He also describes some copper works which they had come across, very rich, and bringing ,£96 a ton. The last of his letters is dated December, 1767, when the soap rock works were still being carried on.

Mr. Christian, co-executor of Mr. R. Chaffers, with Mr. Hannibal, is spoken of as producing large china vases of equal quality with the oriental. The lease of this mine of soap rock in Gue Greze was sold in 1775 to the Worcester Porcelain Company, for £500. The value of the clay had been about £20 a ton; the lord's dues being £1 upon every ton when weighed off.

In the extracts from the Duesbury papers {Art Journal, 1862, p. 4) we find that Richard Holdship, on leaving Worcester a few years after his bankruptcy, offered his services at Derby, and that he was enabled at that time (1764) to offer soap rock at fair prices to the Derby works.



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