Around 1785, Miles Mason took over his father-in-law's London business selling imported Oriental porcelain - thus starting the family's prestigous connection with pottery. In 1791 the East India Company ceased the bulk importation of porcelain from the Orient, forcing Miles to look elsewhere for wares. His first manufacturing venture c1792 was a partnership with Thomas Wolfe and John Lucock in Liverpool, and he later formed a partnership with George Wolfe to manufacture pottery in Staffordshire. In 1800 these partnerships ceased however Miles kept the Victoria Pottery in Lane Delph (Fenton) where he started to produce his own wares.
Efforts to replicate the much sought after and expensive imported porcelain from China had been ongoing across Europe from the 15th century but its composition was little understood - and highly guarded by the Chinese. So called "soft-paste" porcelain was being produced in Europe as early as the late 16th century however, despite many refinements, it suffered from slumping in the kiln and was uneconomic to use in mass as well as being weak and prone to being chipped.
Miles Mason 1752-1822
The cessation of bulk porcelain imports from China spurred English potters to accelerate experimentation with different clays. One development,"ironstone" was being produced by different potters by the early 19th century - including Spode, who was known to be producing ironstone ware by 1805 which he exported to Europe in large quantities. However it was Mile Mason's third son, Charles Mason, who patented his "Ironstone China" in 1813 - the name becoming synonymous with Mason's. Ironstone had the advantage of being easier to produce as well as being much stronger.
Transfer printed designs were applied to ironstone patterns by Mason's in an attempt to copy Chinese porcelain. The basic decoration was transfer-printed onto the body of the ware and then given a protective glaze. Detail colours were then hand painted on top (over-glaze painting) and then the ware re-fired.
But developments in English porcelain production marched-on - with Spode producing his Felspar Porcelain in 1822. This started the demise of ironstone as the popularity for the more refined and durable bone-china grew. By 1861 Mason was bought by Ashworth Brothers Ltd who continued to produce "Mason's Ironstone" (sometimes re-using the printed Mason's mark) however never regaining the popularity it had during the first half of the 19th century.