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Edward Combes (Coombs, Coombes), China Mender / China Burner

One sample of a repaired bowl. On the base of the bowl is a name and address 'Coombs, Queen St, Bristol' written in enamels and fired on.
Photo and collection of: Ian Rogers, 2007

By the late 18th and early 19th centuries repairing porcelain was an important business as shown by the number of extant pieces repairs. Most common are repairs with staples but a more rare type of ceramic repairs also occurs. The method of repairing porcelain and presumable glass was by re-firing with an enamel or a frit that if successful would create a permanent ceramic seal. Some if not all of these repairs was made in Bristol, England.

In Hugh Owen, Two Centuries of Ceramic Art in Bristol, 1873, on page 239, says:

Almost half a century later in Old Bristol Potteries, 1920, W J Pountney on pps. 116-117, adds:

My view on this is that although some repairs might, at some occasion, have been fired in a full size porcelain kilns observation hole, usual repair work would have been made in a small muffle kiln of their own, that could be fired when needed. Also no signed examples of repaired pieces appear to have any "invisible" repairs. Either different methods were in use or the word invisible meant a different thing in the early 19th century than today.

In the collection of Bristol Museum and Art Gallery there are pieces repaired and marked by Combes (Coombs, Coombes) between 1778-1801. For five years 1785-1790 he styled himself "china burner". A trade he seems to have been performing together with "Daniel" (Pountney, 1920) between 1787-1789.

In 1793 "Edward Coombes, China Mender, Queen Street" appear in Mathews Trade Directories (Bristol Reference Library). By 1820 he is listed by Mathews as a china and glass mender, &c after which the business was taken over by Rebecca Inman, daughter and administratrix to the estate of Edward Coombes, late of Queen Street, deceased, china and glass mender, no 18 Lewins Mead (Felix Farley's Bristol Journal, January 15, 1820).

Further entries in Mathews trade directory for 1826 and later suggests that the China and Glass Mender business was continued by Rebecca Inman (late Combes) until 1839, then by Joseph and Rebecca, and from 1840 Joseph is listed, without Rebecca.

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