Earlier this year found me scrounging for ideas for an Irish table setting for St. Patrick’s Day. Googling “Irish Tea” turned up this tea set by Aynsley with the charming name of “Cottage Garden”.
Always a sucker for multi-coloured patterns, I liked it immediately, though the Irish connection puzzled me at first. I understood Aynsley to be a producer of very high-quality bone china from Staffordshire, England.
There has been a lot of consolidation in the tableware industry, however, and in 1997 Aynsley was acquired by Belleek, best known in their own right for their white wicker ware pattern with shamrocks, which they’ve been producing since 1880 (photo courtesy of their website). Irish to the core is Belleek, with all those shamrocks! Susan, from Between Naps on the Porch, toured the Belleek factory not so long ago. You can read about it here.
Little did I know that this multicoloured tea was a fresh and modern take on one of Aynsley’s most enduring and popular patterns, produced between 1985 and 2001, and now discontinued. Replacements, as usual, was a font of knowledge. Here’s the dinner plate (photo courtesy of Replacements’ website).
Beleek describes the plates from their new tea set as “Cottage Garden Plate Set is part of an exciting collection with a twist. Using our Aynsley patterns we have reinvented them using daring colours and contemporary placement. These plates are the perfect addition to this floral range and ideal to be used with the Cottage Garden Range.”
The tie-in to the original pattern is obvious now that I see them together, particularly the flowers and butterflies.
The very soft yellow in the body of the teapot is particularly appealing, along with the curvy shape of the top and the elegant handle.
I ended up going with something completely different for St. Patrick’s Day this year but took the first opportunity I could get to set a table on the porch with Cottage Garden.
I kept tea very simple: some carrot muffins and blueberry scones from the local bakery, along with meringue nests with whipped cream and berries for the sweets course.
My sole contribution to nutrition was a fresh salad of Blueberries and Cucumber with Chevre served in short champagne or sorbet glasses in from a Depression glass pattern, Rosepoint by Cambridge. I’ve collected that pattern for years from various sources. Replacements have an excellent inventory of Depression Glass, and it’s readily available on eBay.
Whipped cream and jam for the scones were presented in a jam jar and open bowl in the same Rosepoint pattern. I get a ton of use out that set – it’s elegant without being precious and I don’t fear breakage too much as replacement pieces are readily available.
Dark blue champagne flutes from a shop in Provincetown many years ago added another layer of colour. They’re such an unusual shade of navy, picking up the dark blue accents on the plates.
I have eight of the flutes and somehow, despite the fact they’re not particularly well balanced, they’ve survived prowling cats on the counter and swishing golden retriever tails. My only quibble is the rather tacky beaded rings that adorn the bottom of the stems. I’ve never bothered to remove them and they do assist in distinguishing which glass belongs to who (whom?).
The dinner plates are from Ikea – seriously! They’re actually not navy (or teal, as it’s advertised) for that matter. FÄRGRIK comes in a 16 piece set, or you can buy the pieces individually. They do the trick here, nicely, whatever colour you want to decide they are. The napkins are from Williams Sonoma a few years ago.
But back Cottage Garden and Aynsley China. Back in the 18th century, Spode and Aynsley were among the first producers of bone china (which, yes, does contain bones). John Aynsley II, son of the founder, built on his father’s already flourishing business and shifted the company’s focus to higher-end wares with the introduction of 50% “calcined bone ash” in their porcelain compound. The result? Very strong, translucent, and exceptionally white pieces which soon became very popular among the well-to-do.
Queen Victoria commissioned a set of ornate tableware for her personal use, leading to Aynsley gaining a coveted Royal Warrant, a mark of recognition of those who have supplied goods or services to the Household of HM The Queen. Royal Warrants are granted for five years; clearly Aynsley has maintained their quality as more recent commissions include gold embossed sets for Queen Elizabeth II and Charles, the Prince of Wales.
A far less illustrious, but happy customer, I have much enjoyed the new Cottage Garden.
Thanks for coming to tea. Please pull up a chair and enjoy while it’s still fresh.
I’m sharing this post with Between Naps on the Porch.