Vibrant orange parrot tulips showcase the rich colours of Ashworth Ironstone. What could be more cheerful?

The Ashworth Ironstone pattern has many jewel-toned accent colours, so choosing which one to highlight is hard.

With a bunch of shockingly orange parrot tulips to hand, I was inspired to set a table. One day, I might try emphasizing the aqua and pink colours. But for now, let’s run with the orange.

The gold and green base colours of the Ironstone form an intricate pattern.

So I pulled out a woollen jacquard pattern throw I’ve had for years. It pairs well with green tumblers by Magnolia Home. The simple, rather hefty tumblers echo the robust nature of the Ironstone. First made in the early 19th century by potters in Staffordshire, UK, it was an inexpensive alternative to porcelain. It’s named for its superior strength because, as tableware goes, it’s practically indestructible. 

Both Ashworth and Mason’s Ironstone were famous in their own right, though Mason’s is probably more readily recognized. Charles James Mason (or CJ, as he was known) coined the term. Born curious and constantly experimenting, he was a mere 21 years of age in 1813 when he registered the patent for Mason’s Patent Ironstone China,

The name’ Ironstone China’ was a marketing triumph, though it’s factually inaccurate. The iron content was less than half of one per cent. The word “China” is equally misleading – it wasn’t from the East, nor was it porcelain. But naming it “Ironstone” was a stroke of marketing genius: it was iinstantly identifiable, it conveyed high quality, and most of all, it implied that the earthenware was as hard and durable as iron. It was an immediate success. Readily available and reasonably priced, public demand soared.

Even in its earliest days, Mason’s Ironstone reached extraordinary levels of technical and artistic excellence, for Charles employed only the best painters and craftsmen. The Quail pattern, which I adore, is one of Mason’s more well-known. It lends itself to all seasons of tables, from Fall with the chinoiserie pumpkins

…to spring with cheerful yellow parrot tulips.

Then there is the very colourful Mason’s Strathmore Blue. Which best lends itself to spring and summer tables, like this one with cheerful pink peonies.

It wasn’t all beer and skittles for CJ Mason, though. Sadly, the company incurred some significant financial setbacks, and CJ declared bankruptcy in 1848, whereupon he sold the business privately to Francis Morley. Henceforth, the business became listed as Mason & Morley.

In turn, Francis Morley joined forces with Taylor Ashworth, and from 1859 to 1862, the company traded publicly as Morley & Ashworth. The Morley portion didn’t last long, though and three years later, the company became known as  G.L. Ashworth & Brothers. It stayed that way for more than a hundred years until 1968 when the Ashworth brand reverted to “Mason’s Ironstone China”. It was under that name that the Game Bird Series was issued. Which comes in both green

…and brown multicoloured versions.

The Wedgwood Group acquired Mason’s Ironstone China in 1973. So there we have it! After a rapid whirl through two hundred years of Ironstone, both Mason and Ashworth are still going strong on Entertablement tables.

Don’t you love a china pattern with a story?