One of the pieces chosen is a plate decorated with The Potteries Willow pattern. This pattern was designed by Peter Brears (better known as a food historian) in 1984 and was produced at the Gladstone Pottery Museum in Longton, Stoke-on-Trent to the mark the museum’s tenth anniversary.
The Willow Pattern, one of the most famous British ceramics designs , has been adapted to reflect the local industries of Stoke-on-Trent. The temples have been turned into bottle ovens and pithead winding gear. The boat has become a canal barge, the fence a steam train and the birds have become Spitfire planes. The three figures carry a miner’s pick, a pot and a saggar.
The design represents Stoke-on-Trent’s ceramic heritage, as well as the local coal industry. The abundance of coal in the area was to prove invaluable for pottery-firing and was the economic basis for the industry’s location. The Spitfire was designed by locally-born and educated Reginald Mitchell, who produced the first prototype which flew in 1936. Mitchell died in 1937 and never saw the plane fulfil its vital war-time role.
The plate was made by the Gladstone Pottery Museum which is formed of a typical medium-sized Longton potbank. These were once ubiquitous in The Potteries, but following the implementation of the Clean Air Act in the 1960s, the large majority of bottle ovens were demolished with the switch from coal firing to electric and gas kilns. The site was saved from demolition and became a working pottery museum in 1974.The museum today offers an insight into what conditions were like for the men, women and children working in the pottery industry in the 19th century. Demonstrators keep skills such as flower-making very much alive.
Other versions of this design were produced for different British cities, including Glasgow, Stratford-upon-Avon, Oxford, Cambridge, London and Ironbridge, Shropshire.