The Willow Pattern Case Study: Conclusion and bibliography

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Figure 11. Detail of Willow Pattern plate. Dunham Massey, Greater Manchester. Image courtesy of Francesca D’Antonio.


This case study explored a type of ware, created in terms of material and design, as a result of Britain’s trade with China through the East India Company. The research on Dunham Massey’s Willow Pattern collection confirms the design’s popularity amongst different social classes. Its specific role within the estate was not determined in this case study, as the records documenting the material analysed made any claims tentative. The difficult path of following these wares into the past through inventories has demonstrated the silence of these prosaic forms in the historical record. Nonetheless through its reading this case study has tried to reconstruct their presence in order to suggest that alongside armorial wares, export objects, and bespoke gilded furniture, East India Company families also engaged with home-grown chinoiserie.

Furthermore the idea of an English collective identity realised through the ownership of this pattern has been explored and supported. The acquisition of Willow Pattern ware was perhaps not made for its monetary value, but rather for its sentimental importance or use value. The wares played (and perhaps continue to play) a role as symbols of comfort and familiarity—symbols, that is, notwithstanding their ‘foreign’ qualities, of home. Identified as mass production goods, the wares resonated with an English culture increasingly embedded in industrialisation. Willow Pattern wares are, after all, defined by the development of technological processes such as transfer printing. The absence of the historical China known to the educated East India Company families such as the owners of Dunham Massey, was not a demerit but rather a characteristic which allowed the design to enchant consumers with its own myth. Their ubiquity made them familiar items, which put them in contrast with blue and white export wares and gave them their own ‘raison d’être’. The pattern, which included an idyllic, exotic landscape and told a captivating and tragic love story, still resounds in English homes today.

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Primary sources

The University of Manchester, The John Rylands University Library


·   Papers of the Lumsden Family Collection


·   Dunham Massey Papers Collection


Printed secondary sources

Bedell, John, ‘Archaeology and Probate Inventories in the Study of Eighteenth-Century Life’, The Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 31:2 (2000), pp. 223-45.

Beevers, David. Chinese Whispers: Chinoiserie in Britain, 1650-1930 (Brighton: Royal Pavilion & Museums, 2008).

Bellemare, Julie, ‘Design Books in the Chinese Taste: Making the Orient in England and France, 1680-1760’, [Unpublished Dissertation: M.St in History of Art and Visual Culture. University of Oxford, 2012].

Chang, Elizabeth Hope, Britain’s Chinese Eye: Literature, Empire, and Aesthetics in Nineteenth-century Britain (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2010).

Clunas, Craig, Chinese Export Art and Design (London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1987).

Cohen, Warren I, Reflections on Orientalism: Edward Said, Roger Besnahan, Surjit Dulai, Edward Graham, and Donald Lammers (East Lansing, Mich: Michigan State University, 1983).

Copeland, Robert. Spode’s Willow Pattern (London: Studio Vista, 1999).

Ebrey, Patricia Buckley, The Cambridge Illustrated History of China (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

Elsner, John, and Roger Cardinal, The Cultures of Collecting (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994).

Fisher, Stanley W., The Decoration of English Porcelain, a Description of the Painting and Printing on English Porcelain of the Period 1750 to 1850 (London: D. Verschoyle, 1954).

Garner, Frederick Horace, and Michael Archer, English Delftware (London: Faber, 1972).

 “George Booth.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press, n.d. 26 Mar. 2014.

Glanville, Philippa, and Hilary Young. Elegant Eating: Four Hundred Years of Dining in Style (London: V & A Publications, 2002).

Godden, Geoffrey A., Godden’s Guide to English Blue and White Porcelain (Woodbridge: Antique Collectors’ Club, 2004).

Hildyard, Robin J. C., European Ceramics (London: V & A Publishing, 1999).

Honour, Hugh, Chinoiserie; the Vision of Cathay (London: J. Murray, 1961).

Hyam, Ronald, Britain’s Imperial Century, 1815-1914: A Study of Empire and Expansion (Basingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan, 2002).

Impey, Oliver, ‘Eastern Trade and the Furnishing of the British Country House’, in Gervase Jackson-Stops, et al, eds., Fashioning and Furnishing of the British Country House,  Studies in the History of Art, 25, National Gallery (Washington, D.C., 1989), pp. 177-192.

Impey, O. R., Chinoiserie: The Impact of Oriental Styles on Western Art and Decoration (New York: Scribner’s, 1977).

Irwin, Robert, For the Lust of Knowing: The Orientalists and Their Enemies (London: Allen Lane, 2006).

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Le Corbeiller, Clare, and Alice C. Frelinghuysen, ‘Chinese Export Porcelain’, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, 60.3 (2003), pp. 1-60.

Lubbock, Jules, The Tyranny of Taste: The Politics of Architecture and Design in Britain 1550-1960 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995).

MacGregor, Neil, A History of the World in 100 Objects (London: Penguin, 2012).

MacKenzie, John M., Orientalism: History, Theory, and the Arts (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004).

McKendrick, Neil, John Brewer, and J. H. Plumb, The Birth of a Consumer Society: The Commercialization of Eighteenth-century England (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982).

Marschner, Joanna, and Oliver Impey, ‘“China Mania”: A Reconstruction of Queen Mary II’s Display of East Asian Artefacts in Kensington Palace in 1693’, Orientations, (1998), pp. 60-61.

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Pierson, Stacey, Collectors, Collections and Museums: The Field of Chinese Ceramics in Britain, 1560-1960 (Oxford: P. Lang, 2007).

Pierson, Stacey, ‘The Movement of Chinese Ceramics: Appropriation in Global History’, Journal of World History, 23.1 (2012), pp. 9-39.

Reichwein, Adolf, China and Europe: Intellectual and Artistic Contacts in the Eighteenth Century (New York: Routledge, 2000).

Riello, Giorgio. ‘Things Seen and Unseen: The Material Culture of Early Modern Inventories and    Their Representation of Domestic Interiors’, in Paula Findlen (ed.), Early Modern Things: Objects and their Histories, 1500-1800 (Basingstoke: Routledge, 2013), pp. 125-150.

Skinner, Deborah, ‘Robert Copeland On Spode’, Spode Ceramics. (Aug. 2008). Online video interview: 

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