Our Museum Feature this month is a charming bread & butter plate in the Tartans pattern (number 4514) by Royal Winton. This colorful square plate showcases a variety of different overlapping tartan designs. Tartans was produced in the late 1930s, around the same time as Quilt, a similar Royal Winton pattern (number 4515). Known best for their chintz designs, Royal Winton utilized a specialized transfer printing process to affordably produce bold, elaborate patterns like “Tartans.”
Defined by stripes of alternating widths and colors, the tartan design has become closely associated with Scotland. The word “tartan” is believed to be derived from the French word “tiretaine,” meaning a “strong, coarse fabric.” Although there is no official record of different tartan designs, there are believed to be as many as 14,000 different designs (known as “setts”). Although it is commonly believed that tartan designs were developed as a form of Scottish clan identification, the idea of each clan claiming its own tartan design didn’t begin until around the start of the nineteenth century. Before then, tartan colors were more specific to region than clan, since weavers depended on local, regional plants for the dyes they used in their designs.
Following the Jacobite rebellion of 1745, the wearing of tartans was banned by British law in an attempt to assimilate the Highland clans and prevent further rebellion. The act was repealed in 1782, and tartan designs became a more universal symbol of Scottish heritage. The use of tartans as a symbol of national pride gained additional momentum when King George IV visited Scotland in 1822, becoming the first reigning monarch to visit Scotland in more than 170 years. Sir Walter Scott was a key figure in planning a grand festival to prepare for his arrival, which included crowds of tartan-clad citizens. “Tartanwear,” which incorporated tartan designs on a vast array of items, became very popular in the Victorian era. Tartanwear items ranged from thimble holders to letter openers, and included tableware pieces like the bread & butter plate featured here.
Although the Tartans pattern isn’t a traditional chintz design, its creator, Royal Winton, has become inexorably linked with chintz dinnerware. The story of Royal Winton begins when Leonard Grimwade and his brother Sydney began a small pottery trade in Stoke-on-Trent in 1885. Two inventions of Leonard Grimwade's, duplex lithographic transferring, and the Climax kiln, would forever change how chintz was produced, and also had a significant impact on the dinnerware industry as a whole.
Duplex lithographs were designs printed on thin tissues, with detachable backs. Pattern prints were applied to the paper, and then transferred to the ceramic piece by removing the detachable backing. This new process allowed chintz patterns to be produced quickly and efficiently. To complement the pattern application process, Leonard created the Climax kiln. Unlike traditional kilns that had to be loaded, heated, cooled, then unloaded, the Climax Kiln operated continuously, and ceramics were moved in and out with carts on wheels. Ceramics, and in particular chintz patterns, could now be mass-produced. Royal Winton’s first chintz design, Marguerite, was an immediate success upon its introduction in 1928. The company followed this success with another chintz pattern, Delphinium, three years later. Over the next 30 years, Royal Winton would release more than 50 chintz designs, including popular patterns like Summertime, Old Cottage Chintz, Welbeck, Sweet Pea, and Cheadle . Royal Winton patterns remain highly collectible.
The Royal Winton Tartans bread and butter plate in our museum is not for sale, but we do have Tartans items available for purchase in our inventory; be sure to browse our web site. And remember that we always invite you to visit our facilities – here you’ll see a stunning variety of silver, china, crystal, and collectibles! Our retail store and museum are open from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm ET, 7 days (except holidays); free tours are available from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm ET, 7 days. The retail store and museum are conveniently located between Greensboro and Burlington, NC, at exit 132 off Interstate 85/40. We look forward to seeing you!