Learn about Toleware
Toleware is painted and varnish-coated tin kitchen ware, made in imitation of the imported Chinese lacquer wares that were popular in the 18th century Britain, but difficult to obtain. The varnishing process was developed in the 18th century by Thomas Allgood, from the coal mining area of Pontypool in South Wales and it prevented the objects from rusting.
The varnish was created with asphalt, a by-product of the coal that was mined locally, mixed with shellac, and the mixture was applied to the thinly-rolled iron plate objects. This varnish was applied in several layers, each being fired at a high temperature, which rendered the finished object extremely durable.
The process was known as Japanning because it resembled the lacquer on Japanese trays.
The Pontypool factory remained in operation until 1820, but a rival factory in nearby Usk owned by two of Allgood’s grandsons, continued until the mid-19th century. Another member of the family founded a japanning factory in Birmingham, which became the main centre of the industry in Britain during the 19th century. more...