Roses and Castles - Origin

As you can tell from Albert's decoration we are keen on the tradition of narrowboat decoration. As a result, few years ago we purchased a small decorated can bearing the name Forget me Not and, as part of our research into its origin, we met with Tony Lewery who identified it as probably being painted in Nurser's yard around 1911. At the time Tony had just published his excellent book Flowers Afloat, so we became familiar with his hypotheses concerning the origins of "Roses & Castles".

It was therefore with some interest that I came across a blue underglazed transfer plate for sale on ebay which claimed to show a scene from the "Middlesborough Canal" and dated c. 1840. I knew that the details appeared to be suspect, and it was cracked, but nevertheless it was intact and I managed to get it for £5!

The scene of the plate is very interesting because it shows a boating scene and a "castle". Looking up the plate on the web, and correctly reading the auctioneers label on its base, it appears that the plate was produced by Middlesborough Pottery between 1832 and 1840. Further research revealed that the cartouche pattern is actually called Wild Rose and that the "canal scene" is actually of Nuneham Courtney on the River Thames. It is based on an engraving by W. Cooke, after a drawing by S. Owen published in 1811. It appears that Nuneham Park house was the seat of Earl Harcourt and one of the most celebrated of Eighteenth-Century English gardens. A good condition plate with the same design, but from another pottery, is currently for sale on the internet at an antiques dealer for £65.

Middlesborough Pottery blue underglaze transfer print plate

The plate design strongly supports Tony Lewery's idea that the origins of Roses & Castles lie in the popular art of the early nineteenth century. In Flowers Afloat, on page 45, Tony shows an illustration of a blue underglaze transfer printed meatdish that shows a castle scene and a river. Our plate appears to go one stage further since it clearly links a castle scene and a roses pattern - in one item. In fact, a complete roses and castle decoration - circa 1840.

NB Gifford's decorated cabin table

For reference above is a more familiar mid-20th century example of Roses & Castles.

Steve Parkin