Bread plate

Ref: 2766
  • Designer / Maker

    Designed by A.W.N. Pugin (1812-52)

    Manufactured by Minton & Co. (1796-1968)

  • Detail

    Encaustic (inlaid) earthenware

    33.5 cm (diameter)

    English (Stoke-on-Trent), circa 1848

  • Marked

    ‘430’ on reverse

  • Notes

    Although the ‘Waste Not Want Not’ plate has become one of the icons of the Victorian Gothic Revival, as well as a famous example of flat pattern ornament, it was not until 1973 that an example entered the V&A, the year after one from the pioneering Handley-Read’s collection was acquired by the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.   Pugin’s encaustic plate was produced in large numbers but, apart from his floor tiles, appears to have been the only independent object using this technique that he supplied for the firm.  A small number of other examples of the pattern exist with five-colour decoration, including one formerly in the John Scott Collection; there is also a majolica version.

    A design registration mark on an example in our 1997 edition of Furniture and Works of Art (no. 11) suggests that the ‘Waste Not Want Not’ plate may have been designed in 1848, although confirmation cannot be found in the National Archives, where design registration records are held.  The design date for this plate is generally given as circa 1849, the year it was shown at the Birmingham Exhibition of Manufactures and Arts. The number ‘430’ on the back refers to the Minton ‘shape pattern book’, where it is described as ‘Pugin’s Bread Tray – Encaustic’ (see Judy Rudoe, Decorative Arts 1850-1950: A Catalogue of the British Museum Collection, 1991, pp. 95-96, no. 246).

    At the date of its manufacture, admiration for Pugin’s achievement was not universal.  An article in the Journal of Design, III (1850), p. 88 notes: ‘The bread plate is made on the encaustic tile principle: very dark … in colouring and disagreeably associating with the bread.  The design might do very well for a pavement, but is rude and coarse, and unfit for an object close to the eye on the table.’