In 1849 John Caldwell Bloomfield inherited the Castlecaldwell estate, which encompassed the village of Belleek, from his father. Mindful of the plight of his tenants in the aftermath of the potato famine he sought to provide some form of worthwhile employment. An amateur mineralogist, he ordered a geological survey of his land. To his delight it revealed the necessary raw materials to make pottery – feldspar, kaolin, flint, clay and shale.
The village of Belleek, whose name in Gaelic, beal leice, translates to ‘‘Flagstone Ford’’, was a natural choice to locate the business, especially the part of the village known as Rose Isle. This small isle provided the best opportunity to unleash the yet untamed power of the River Erne – power to drive a mill wheel strong enough to grind components into Slip, the term applied to liquid potters clay.
Bloomfield acquired partners in the venture, Robert Williams Armstrong an architect from London but originally from Co. Longford who had an abiding interest in ceramics, and David McBirney, a wealthy Dublin merchant.
Next he pulled strings, lobbied and practically paved the way single handedly for the Rail Service to come to Belleek. By rail, coal could be brought in to fire the Kilns and the finished Belleek product could be sent to market with ease.
Raw materials, power, capital and transportation all in place, plans for the construction of a pottery building were drawn up. On Thursday 18th November 1858 Mrs Bloomfield laid the foundation stone.
Irish Eyes carries a wide range of Belleek products and can get you any item in their product range. Why not stop by Irish Eyes and explore the entire Belleek Collection.