If you visit the Goldfields to do a bit of fossicking around old abandoned sites, it would be an exciting and newsworthy event if you happened to find a lost gold nugget. What you are more likely to find is the common detritus of the everyday lives of miners and their families, including bits of broken pottery, and there’s a sure bet some of it will be blue and white Willow Pattern.
The pattern originated at a time when England was fascinated with Chinese porcelain, but which was far too expensive for ordinary people. Around 1790, Joshua Spode launched his range of affordable transfer-printed dinnerware, every piece telling an invented romantic story of star-crossed Chinese lovers: rich girl falls in love with poor boy; father wants girl to marry rich man, lovers elope, are pursued and escape across a bridge, only to die tragically and the gods turn them into doves.
It was sheer marketing genius on the part of Spode but in those days before patent and copyright regulations, it was inevitable his original design was copied and altered and since then more than 500 manufacturers have produced versions of the ever-popular Willow Pattern.
This blog article was written for Tansley & Co by Regina of Arbeia, author of the Digging the Dust history blog.