Saturday, 24 March 2012

Willow Pattern Fragments

Willow Pattern 1780- present. 
The Willow Pattern was first produced in 1780-90, from Thomas Turners Factory in Shropshire from an engraving by Thomas Minton or from Josiah Spode’s factory in Staffordshire.

It combined elements from standard Chinese designs, willow tree hanging over three figures on a bridge, fence, bridge , boat, the pagoda teahouse with orange tree, island and two birds. The design was popular and copied by other factories.

In 1849, the willow pattern became associated with the tale first published in ‘The Family Friend’. English in origin it had no links to China, but captured the public imagination for the next hundred years.

I’m not adept enough to identify which shards are from willow patterns, but have clustered found elements from Thames foreshore over the last 5 months, which look as though they originate from this design. 
A Mandarin, grown fat and rich from bribes in his duties as a customs officer for the Emperor, planned an alliance between his beautiful young daughter and an old but wealthy aristocrat. On discovering his daughter was in love with his secretary, Chang, the son of a poor fisherman, the Mandarin flew into a rage and locked Koong-se inside a small house,

 surrounded by a fence to prevent the lovers from continuing their association.

As is the way with all romances, at least in fiction, love finds a way and the lovers met in secret to make their plans – on the day appointed, they began their escape, sheltering in a gardener's cottage temporarily until their absence was discovered. Recovering his wits, Chang leads Koong-seout through a back door and they cautiously make their way across the bridge,

but are spotted by the Mandarin who gives chase. Reaching the other side, the lovers make use of a small rowing boat to attempt to cross the waters and reach refuge on a small island. But the Mandarin and his household are gaining on them, in faster boats propelled by stronger oarsmen. Seeing their desperate plight, the gods take pity on the young people and turn them into birds who soar away to freedom(from

Segments of orange trees

 and willow trees & the only bit of boat I’ve found.

Full willow pattern (Photo from


  1. Hi Julia,
    Great story! I've found several of these fragments on the foreshore but didn't realise the significance of the imagery. Thanks for enlightening me.
    Cheers, Jason

  2. This blog is amazing. I collected a number of blue and white pottery shards from near the Millenium Bridge and wanted to find out the history of London's ceramic factories. That hunt brought me to you. You've answered many of my questions and I now have an idea of what types I've found; some transferware, spongeware, porcelaine, mocha ware, debased scratched, and shell edged. I'm ridiculously excited about this and very grateful for all the time and effort you've put into this.

    1. Hi Justina, glad the blog has been of help. I so get the ridiculously excited. Much to the irritation/amusement of my family, it has't quite dissipated even after a year! Julia

  3. I have found some similar pottery fragments on the shore of the river Clyde in Scotland. Now reading this I am going to go find some more, great blog.

    1. Great, I bet there is a whole load of stuff to be found along the Clyde, happy hunting. Julia