Unlike other ‘objects studies’ featured in the East India Company At Home 1757-1857 project, this case study focuses on a specific ceramic ware pattern rather than a particular item associated with the East India Company (EIC). With particular attention to the contents of Dunham Massey, Greater Manchester, I focus here on the Willow Pattern, a type of blue and white ‘Chinese style’ design, which was created in 1790 at the Caughley Factory in Shropshire. The large-scale production of ceramic wares featuring the same design became possible only in the late eighteenth century after John Sadler and Guy Green patented their method of transfer printing for commercial use in 1756. Willow Pattern wares became increasingly popular in the early nineteenth century, allowing large groups of people access to this design. Despite imitating Chinese wares so that they recalled Chinese hard-stone porcelain body and cobalt blue decorations, these wares remained distinct from them, often attracting lower values and esteem. Although unfashionable now, they should not be merely dismissed as poor imitations by contemporary scholars, but rather need to be recognized for their complexities. To explore and reveal the contradictions and intricacies held within Willow Pattern wares, this case study asks two simple questions. First, what did Willow Pattern wares mean in nineteenth-century Britain? Second, did EIC families—who, as a group, enjoyed privileged access to Chinese porcelain—engage with these imitative wares and if so, how, why and what might their interactions reveal about the household objects?
To read the case study, click here.