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19th Century Staffordshire Blue Transfer Printed Pottery
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Pattern History

Asiatic Pheasants was the most popular dinnerware pattern of the Victorian era; its principal production and popularity virtually coinciding with the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901) and such is its enduring charm that it is still produced in Staffordshire today.

Much lighter than its dark Georgian counterpart Willow it reflected the Victorian age. Staffordshire pottery had come of age and its products no longer needed to rely on copies of chinese styles which Willow undoubtedly was; and with the spread of the railways throughout the United Kingdom this new romantic pattern proved to be far more popular. With the Industrial age now dawned ordinary people gained access to what had been the preserve of the wealthy and what they wanted was a pattern that was clean light and above all affordable. "Asiatic Pheasants" took pride of place on the kitchen dresser, the cleanness and lightness of the pattern setting off the oak and mahogany and covering the rude pine boarding of the rack.

The body of most Asiatic Pheasants dinnerware was commonly earthenware and the sheer volume of demand led inevitably to a general loss of quality in both the potting and the printing. This was not universal and good examples were produced in the late C19th and early C20th but they rarely match the quality and fineness of the earlier pieces.

There is some difficulty in identifying the originator of the pattern, but it was almost certainly Ralph Hall of Swan Bank Pottery, Tunstall, Staffordshire active from 1822 to 1849, although subsequently Podmore Walker & Co, who opened for business in Well Street, Tunstall in 1834 claimed to be the originators of the pattern. They were joined by Enoch Wedgwood in 1854, after which new patterns were produced with Podmore, Walker & Wedgwood backstamps, but older patterns continued to be produced with the old cartouche marks. Whether Podmore Walker & Co ever wholly owned the Asiatic Pheasants pattern is doubtful, the cartouche mark associated with the pattern is not typical of the Podmore Walker partnership and even before the renaming of the company in 1860 other manufacturers were using the pattern widely. Co-operation between pottery firms was not uncommon, patterns were known to be loaned and when large orders came in they were frequently sub-contracted to firms with spare capacity, even competitors to meet the demand. Piracy, however, was also not unusual and the engravers of the copper plates used for printing, who were usually in business on their own account, would often sell their popular designs to more than one Pottery, and were not averse to copying a pattern or two if there was profit in it. The Copyright Act of 1842 was intended to control this, but it would certainly be true to say that when Podmore Walker & Co. became Wedgwood & Co in 1860 the Asiatic Pheasants pattern was long since their sole preserve and subsequently the list of companies using the pattern has grown considerably. The list of marks associated with the pattern is around 100 and is by no means exhaustive.

The proliferation of producers broadly spans the period 1860-1914 when the greater proportion of the pattern was produced. This was as much to do with the changing partnerships and managements of the potteries as it was to do with the expanding market. A single factory could have several owners, all with their own marks, whilst being in almost continous production.

Body shapes changed as the feathered or gadrooned edged pieces made way for the cheaper Oblong shapes and several potters found markets in North America for versions in black, red, brown, purple and mulberry.

The Staffordshire town most associated with the pattern is Tunstall where the pattern was in continuous production from about 1838 to 1939 by several pottery firms at a number of locations, including the Well Street, Swan Bank, Unicorn and Pinnocks works. Outside Staffordshire the pattern is known to have been copied by a number of potteries along the Clyde in Scotland, the Tyne and Tees in Northumberland, in Yorkshire, London, Devon and South Wales.

Difficulties come in dating pieces largely because the pattern was principally produced for the domestic market and not the American market, which from 1891 required the country of origin to be included in the mark. Goods not destined for export did not need the ENGLAND mark to be included. Consequently some assume that all "Asiatic Pheasant" wares are earlier than 1891 whereas a large part of the survivals are C20th and Georgian attributions for C20th pieces are not uncommon!

The pattern continues today, still made using traditional methods by Burgess Dorling & Leigh Ltd of Burslem, Staffordshire, under their Burleighware backstamp and completely faithful to the original design. To view the current range of brand new Burleigh Asiatic Pheasants click here Burleigh Asiatic Pheasants