I’ve spent part of the last weekend looking more closely at the finds from the excavations in the grounds of Hanging Heaton Primary School. Most were what you’d expect – 19th and 20th century pottery, clay pipe stems, a few modern coins and marbles and so on.
However, a few pieces of pottery started me thinking. One is a small piece of rim which comes from a Willow Pattern plate. The other fragments come from a jar with a blue leaf pattern on a white background which is reminiscent of some styles of Chinese porcelain.
Both seem to demonstrate the influence of oriental design on western art or perhaps I should say the European capacity for producing oriental-looking fakes. . The Willow Pattern story was invented in the 1780s to promote the sale of a new ‘oriental’ design from the Minton factory in Staffordshire (UK). The design on the other vessel may have been inspired by Chinese porcelain designs but whatever its fabric may be, it’s certainly not porcelain.
It’s all Georgian and Victorian kitsch really. Not that we’re any different. When, for example, was the last time you managed to get through a gift shop without your eyes being assailed by dozens of mass-produced pottery Buddhas? And then there are all these oriental dragon designs. Perhaps it only goes to demonstrate a continuing European fascination for Chinese style and design.