Now this is as nice a piece of satirical transferware as you’re ever likely to see. It’s a creamware baluster jug carrying a copy of James Gillray’s Independence (1799). Sometimes the engravers and colourists who worked in the potteries were not particularly careful about the way in which they interpreted designs; images were frequently altered to accommodate the restricted surface of a pottery vessel or to highlight only the most important features of the image. The engravers working in provincial potteries were also often less capable craftsmen than their counterparts in the publishing trade and were not always as concerned with accuracy and attention to detail. This design however, has been copied with a surprising degree of care and skill. The potter has even copied minute details of colouring, such as the pink hatband inside the upturned top hat behind the protagonist. This indicates that the pottery was almost certainly working from an original copy of Gillray’s print which has either been ordered from Humphrey’s shop, or purchased by an agent of the company who was based in London.
The design depicts Thomas Tyrwhitt Jones (1765 – 1811), MP for Denbigh from 1797 to 1802. Tyrwhitt Jones was an outspoken independent (meaning he was neither affiliated with the Whigs nor the Tories) often likened to John Bull because of his brusque speaking style, strident patriotism and ample girth. Here he is shown delivering a speech in the chamber of the House of Commons. He stands in a suitably dramatic pose, one arm held up to snap his fingers, the other tucked in his waistcoat pocket and says:
‘I’m an Independent Man, Sir, – & I don’t care That! who hears me say so! – I don’t likeWooden Shoes! no Sir, neither French Wooden Shoes, no nor English Wooden shoes, neither! – and as to the tall Gentleman over the way [Sheridan], I can tell him, that I’m no Pizarro! – I’ll not hold up the Devil’s Tail to fish for a Place, or a Pension!! – I’m no skulker! – no, nor no Seceder neither! I’ll not keep out of the way, for fear of being told my own! – Here’s my Place, & Here I ought to speak! – I warrant I’ll not sneak into Taverns to drink humbug-Toasts that I am afraid to explain, not I! My motto is, “Independence & Old England” – and That! for all the rest of the World! there; That! – That! – That! – That! – That!’
By 1799 Tyrwhitt Jones had become the sort of politician that the English love the most (or indeed, the only sort of politician they like at all): an eccentric. Gillray evidently thought him a worthy subject for caricature and the fact that his design was circulated on pottery indicates a much wider audience for the subject matter.
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Which pottery made it?
Good question. Sadly, we don’t know. Creamware pottery such as this was relatively cheap and rarely carried a maker’s mark. Most of it was produced in small potteries located in the North West and the West Midlands, although there were also people making creamware in Wales, the North East and London. The plate itself doesn’t carry any stamps ir signatures either.