The first development of what would become known as bone china was made by Thomas Frye at his Bow porcelain factory near Bow in East London in 1748. His factory was located very close to the cattle markets and slaughterhouses of Essex, and hence easy access to animal bones. Frye used up to 45% bone ash in his formulation to create what he called ‘fine porcelain.’ Although in quality it rivalled porcelain imported from Europe and China the factory was not a commercial success.
Later, Josiah Spode in Stoke further developed the concept, and finalised his formulation sometime between 1789 and 1793. Amongst his developments was to abandon Frye’s procedure of calcining the bone together with some of the other body raw materials, instead calcining just the bone. Bone china quickly proved to be highly popular leading to it being introduced by other English pottery manufacturers. Both Spode’s formulation and business were successful: his formulation of 6 parts bone ash, 4 parts china stone and 3.5 parts china clay remains the base for all bone china still, and it was only in 2009 that his company, Spode, went into receivership before eventually being purchased by Portmeirion.
From its initial development up to the twentieth century, bone china remained almost exclusively an English product, with production being effectively localised to Stoke-on-Trent.