Archaeologists have found fragments of blue and white porcelain in China, dating from ancient times. In the 1700’s, China exported tea sets to Britain, and these were very popular.
In about 1790, Josiah Spode was inspired to develop a new range based on the Chinese pattern. The Willow Pattern design is possibly the best known of all porcelain designs.
Most homes today have at least one Willow Pattern tea cup, coffee cup or tea pot in the cupboard.
Blue & White China
Other manufacturers such as Minton followed, and made their own variations of Spode’s design. Blue and white was a fashionable combination, as it remains today. In the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, any Chinese style blue and white porcelain tended to be dubbed “Willow”, whether it was Spode’s original pattern or not.
Identifying Authentic Willow Pattern China
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Characteristics of Willow Pattern China
There are many copies of Willow Pattern available today.
The defining characteristics of an authentic Willow Pattern design are the distinct elements of the Chinese scene depicted on the china.
Look for three people crossing a bridge, a willow tree, a boat and a teahouse. You will also notice the garden with two birds and a fence.
Josiah Spode’s Design & Variations
While the Willow Pattern was a variation of the Chinese porcelain designs Spode had seen, it was not a replica.
Spode added many of the design elements himself, so the Willow Pattern, despite its Chinese inspiration, is a uniquely British contribution to teaware.
Prior to 1833, Spode dabbled with variations, producing three different versions. The main differences were in the techniques he used, and the shades of blue. In the late 1990’s, it became part of Spode’s Blue Room Collection.
Willow Pattern China Used as Land Fill
Willow Pattern collectors may be surprised to learn that broken Willow China (and other patterns) was used as land fill for building foundations in Spode’s early factory extensions. This was discovered when repairs were being carried out at the factory in 2000.
The Willow Pattern Chinese Legend
Read the Willow Pattern Story - The Chinese Legend of the Willow Pattern as depicted on the porcelain. This is a modern day story inspired by the Willow Pattern design.