THE PRINCE OF WALES ICE PAIL
In 1849, John Caldwell Bloomfield inherited an estate in Ireland from his father known as Castle Caldwell. The massive estate nearly surrounded the village of Belleek. Bloomfield was a bit of an amateur mineralogist and he was well aware that the ground in the region and on his own land was rich in materials such as fine clay, silica, feldspar, and other raw materials; materials that were useful for the manufacture of earthenware. Bloomfield, in an effort to provide some manner of employment for the tenants occupying his lands, then decided to build a pottery.
The village of Belleek was the natural choice to locate the business. Pulling together other investors, Bloomfield laid the cornerstone for his new pottery along the River Erne. Young apprentices and other workmen were hired locally and a dozen or more skilled craftsmen were brought in from other potteries in the country.
Early production at the Belleek Pottery was limited primarily to domestic ware and some commercial items like hospital bedpans and telegraph insulators. However, due to the deposits of fine clay in the region, the company had planned from the beginning to produce a line of porcelain ware.
The company finally achieved its goals at the Dublin Exposition of 1872 where Belleek displayed, for the first time, statues, busts, ice buckets, and centre pieces out of Parian (unglazed porcelain).
The Belleek ice pail seen here, originally designed in 1880 for presentation to the Prince of Wales (Edward VII), was made sometime in the 1930’s and was intended to be presented at the coronation of Edward VIII in 1937. However, Edward abdicated in December of 1936 and the coronation never took place. Consequently, the pail remained at the factory. Sometime later, Charles Troyer of Jacques Jewellers in Vernon, while on a buying trip to Ireland, complained to officials at the Belleek factory that they had never sent his business a really good example of fine Belleek porcelain. After Mr. Troyer returned to Vernon, the ice pail arrived a short time later from Belleek; there was no invoice.
Owing to the complexity of its manufacture, the Prince of Wales Ice Pail was one of the most expensive items ever produced by Belleek. The Prince of Wales Ice Pail in the collection at the Vernon Museum was donated to us in 1983 by Hattie Jacques. Hattie was wife to the former owner of Jacques Jewellers, George Jacques.
Ron Candy, former Director/Curator