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  • Place of origin:

    Birmingham (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1850 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Jennens & Bettridge (manufacturer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Papier-mâché, japanned and gilded, with appliqué of mother-of-pearl

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 125c, case 3

Object Type
In the 19th century large numbers of trays were produced with fashionable designs, such as the Islamic style decoration on this example. It illustrates the skill of artists and craftsmen in interpreting fashionable styles for a domestic object. The decoration is carefully designed to allow some of the detail to be visible even when the tray is in use.

Jennens & Bettridge, the firm run by Theodore Hyla Jennens and John Bettridge between 1816 and 1864, was famous for the range of papier-mâché goods manufactured in its factory at 99 Constitution Hill, Birmingham, West Midlands. They also had premises at 6 Halkin Street West, Belgrave Square, London. The firm produced a range of products including writing boxes, trays, fans, and larger pieces of furniture such as chairs, tables and sofas. The bottom of this tray is stamped with the firm's name.

Materials & Making
Papier-mâché was made by pasting layers of paper over moulds of the required shape, a job mainly done by women and girls. The object was then oiled and baked at very high temperatures. The shape of this tray would have been finished by a cabinet-maker before it was varnished and dried in a stove. The mother-of-pearl was applied before the painted decoration, which was followed by a final coat of varnish, further stove drying, and polishing.

Physical description

A large tray of papier-mâché, with shaped sides, of the pattern known by the makers as 'king-gothic', japanned on a black ground with Persian style ornament, the edges showing scrolling plants and flowers, the ground covered overll with a gilded trellis pattern set with five shaped reserves with more elaborate floral and scrolling decoration. The decoration is highlighted in places with inlays of mother-of-pearl.

Place of Origin

Birmingham (made)


ca. 1850 (made)


Jennens & Bettridge (manufacturer)

Materials and Techniques

Papier-mâché, japanned and gilded, with appliqué of mother-of-pearl

Marks and inscriptions

Stamped Jennens & Bettridge below a crown on the back


Length: 64.3 cm, Width: 48 cm

Object history note

Manufactured by Jennens & Bettridge, Birmingham

Descriptive line

Papier mâché tray manufactured by Jennens & Bettridge. Birmingham, ca. 1850.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Jones, Yvonne, Japanned Papier-Mâché and Tinware c. 1740-1940. Woodbridge, Antique Collectors' Club, 2012 (ISBN 978 1 85149 686 0), p. 159, fig. 157
The following excerpt is taken from Jones, Yvonne, Japanned Papier-Mâché and Tinware c. 1740-1940. Woodbridge, Antique Collectors' Club, 2012 (ISBN 978 1 85149 686 0), p. 144.

"The partnership between Aaron Jennens (1788-1868) and John Bettridge (b.1790) is one of the best known in the history of the English papier mâché industry. It first appeared in the Birmingham Rate Book for the years 1810-13 when they occupied premises in Lionel Street, where one of their varnish suppliers, Messrs Thornley and Knight, was also situated.
Between 1851 and 1852, when they were described as the largest manufacturers of papier mâché in England, they had an office in New York, possibly in anticipation of the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations, held there in 1853.
Though there is now a popular tendency for any unmarked yet good examples of Victorian papier mâché to be attributed to Jennens and Bettridge, there is no doubt that their reputation is justly deserved and of long standing; in their day, they were judged to have 'no rivals, or anything approximating to an equality' (Court, W.B., Rise of the Midland Industries 1600-1838, Oxford University Press, 1965, p.235)."

Labels and date

British Galleries:
These pointed shapes and stylised flowers were based on Islamic designs, including carpets. This tray is typical of the skill of artists and craftsmen employed by the prominent papier-mâché manufacturers, Jennens & Bettridge, who produced a wide range of goods in fashionable styles. [27/03/2003]

Subjects depicted

Basket-work (motif); Floral patterns


Tableware & cutlery


Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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