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Recent Acquisition: Godfrey Malbone’s 18th Century Plate

The Newport Historical Society recently acquired a polychrome Chinese export porcelain plate, dating to the first half of the 18th century, that belonged to Godfrey Malbone of Newport. The plate was donated to the Society by Antony Underwood.

Godfrey Malbone (1695-1768) was a Virginia-born merchant who arrived in Newport around 1700. He amassed enough of a fortune to build a lavish house in town by 1728 and a large country house at the foot of Miantonomi Hill by 1741. Malbone’s town house was attributed to Richard Munday and his country house to Peter Harrison. Malbone Hall, as the country house was known, was said to have been constructed of pink sandstone from Malbone’s stone quarry in Brooklyn, Connecticut. Visitors to the estate remarked on the lavishness of the house and the beauty of the gardens. George Washington is believed to have been a guest at Malbone Hall during his 1756 travels through Newport.

On June 7th 1766 disaster struck at Malbone Hall when sparks from the chimney caught the roof on fire and “the whole Building (except the Walls) was reduced to Ashes. We hear the greatest Part of the Furniture was saved.” (Newport Mercury 9 June 1766). A story passed down recounts that Godfrey Malbone was hosting a dinner party at the time and when he was told that the house would be lost “he ordered the dinner carried to an adjacent building and a table set there for the company.” (Memoir of Rhode Island, Henry Bull, as published in the Newport Rhode Island Republican 1832-1858 and the Newport Mercury, 1854-1861, Vol III, 1906).

Godfrey Malbone passed away in Newport in 1768. His son Godfrey Malbone Jr. removed to Brooklyn, Connecticut, where he had shipping and stone quarry interests, and erected Brooklyn’s Trinity Episcopal Church. His family remained in the Brooklyn/ Pomfret area for generations. The burned remnants of Malbone Hall and surrounding estate became a romantic ruin until 1848, when J. Prescott Hall constructed a new Malbone Hall on the site, designed by Alexander Jackson Downing.

Family tradition states that this recent acquisition was one of a set of china that was taken from Malbone Hall at the time of the fire, brought with Godfrey Malbone Jr. to Brooklyn, and passed down to the Fogg family.

The family’s account of the plate’s history is inscribed on the back.