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Plate from the Darwin Service: C.3-1988

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Object information

Current Location: Gallery 33


Plate from the Darwin Service


Factory: Wedgwood & Byerley




Earthenware plate printed and painted with 'Brown Water Lily' pattern

White earthenware printed underglaze in brown, painted overglaze in pale terracotta enamel and gilt. Circular with sloping rim, shallow well and flat centre. Decorated in the centre with 'Brown Water Lily' pattern, comprising on the left, Nymphaea stellata, on the right, Nymphaea lotus, and in the middle, Nelumbium speciosum (Nelumbo nucifera). On the rim, a border of overlapping circles and a gold band.


History note: Robert Waring Darwin, FRS (1766-1848) and his wife, Susannah (née Wedgwood, d. 1817), Shrewsbury; by descent in the Darwin family to George Pember Darwin (1928-2001), by whom lent to the Fitzwilliam in 1963.

Legal notes

Given by George Pember Darwin

Measurements and weight

Diameter: 24.8 cm
Height: 2.4 cm

Place(s) associated

  • Etruria ⪼ Staffordshire ⪼ England

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Given (1988-03-14) by Darwin, George Pember


19th Century, Early#
George III
Circa 1807 CE - 1808 CE


The Brown Water Lily service was not designed specially for Susannah and Robert Darwin, but became known as the 'Darwin Service' because of theirs, which was ordered in 1807 and it had been received by 29 March 1808 as recorded in a letter from Susannah Darwin to her brother Josiah II (L.2.2.35). It had 150 pieces of which 129 are known, including 57 10 in plates (i.e. 9 7/8 in). There are plates in the British Museum (1887,0307,1.795), and the Victoria & Albert Museum (C.139-1963) and( Wedgwood Collection WE.4043-2014).

This pattern was no. 495 in the first Wedgwood Pattern Book, described as 'Brown printed Water Lily, shaded in red and cut up with gold, and gold outside edge'. It was the first printed botanical pattern to be produced at Etruria, following a decision to introduce underglaze printed ware in March 1805. The earliest invoice for engraving the plates was from Semei Bourne for a pickle saucer in 1806, and most of the designs for the prints for the dinner service were engraved by John Robinson in 1807. The water lilies were based on the following illustrations: The Botanists' Repository, vol. VI, October 1803, pl. 330, Nymphaea stellata; The Botanical Magazine, December 1804, pl. 797, Nymphaea lotus; The Botanists' Repository, vol. VI, September 1804, pl. 391, Nymphaea lotus; The Botanical Magazine, February 1806, pl. 903a & b, Nelumbium speciosum. This and a few other botanical patterns, such as Peony (see C.864-1984) appear to have been introduced at Etruria because of John Wedgwood's interested in botany, and after he withdrew from the firm in 1812, they were not continued.

School or Style


People, subjects and objects depicted

Components of the work

Decoration composed of enamel ( pale terracotta) gold

Materials used in production

White earthenware

Techniques used in production

Moulding : Earthenware printed underglaze in brown, painted overglaze in pale terracotta enamel and gilt.

Inscription or legends present

  • Text: WEDGWOOD, 1 and slightly above to right, 1
  • Location: On the base
  • Method of creation: Impressed
  • Type: Factory mark

References and bibliographic entries

Related exhibitions

Identification numbers

Accession number: C.3-1988
Primary reference Number: 11974
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Monday 18 December 2023 Last processed: Monday 18 December 2023

Associated departments & institutions

Owner or interested party: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Associated department: Applied Arts

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The Fitzwilliam Museum (2024) "Plate from the Darwin Service" Web page available at: Accessed: 2024-05-29 19:23:24

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