The Willow pattern is the most recognisable of blue and white patterns.
The scene, which depicts a Chinese love story in dark blue on a white background, was originally designed by Thomas Minton for printing on ceramics circa 1780 in reaction to the scarcity of Chinese porcelain imports and levies on silver, made payable from the Napoleonic wars. Soon the design was used by a large number of Staffordshire factories throughout the 1800’s and 1900’s.
The design composed a willow tree, a Chinese temple, a bridge with figures on it, a boat, birds in flight and a distant island. The willow tree in the design gave rise to the name willow pattern.
The Willow pattern story is about a young girl, Koong-se, forced into marriage against her wishes, running away with her lover, Chang, and being chased by her father, the Mandarin.
The pattern depicts the two lovers running over the bridge carrying jewels and clothing, being chased by the Koong-se's father.
Chang & Koong-se chased by the Mandarin
The couple escaped and settled on an island, however both eventually perished after the Mandarin had Chang destroyed and Koong-se set fire to the house she was in.
Thus they both perished and the gods, touched by their love, immortalised them as two doves, eternally flying together in the sky.
Two doves eternally flying in the sky
The design has been developed over the years with every maker’s interpretation of the pattern different,
The Broseley pattern shows the same story but in a much paler blue and the pattern differs in that it shows two temples instead of one, the bridge appears on the right hand side rather than the left and it only has two figures instead of three. However not all Willow patterns show the complete story, as larger transfers were often cut down to fit a variety of small items such as spoon rests.