Victorian Jennens & Bettridge Papier Mâché Tray, c. 1840

Circa 1840
68cm x 58cm
Oversize/Overweight Parcel
£ 70
A Jennens & Bettridge papier mâché tray, lacquered and painted by hand with flowers to the centre and framed within a border of gilded scrolling foliage. It is impressed with the crown and ‘Jennens & Bettridge Makers to the Queen’ on the back.
The tray is in unrestored condition, with wear and scratches to the paintwork and to the lacquer surface. There is one bit of damage to the edge.
Jennens & Bettridge (1810/13-1860/1) are the best-known manufacturers of English papier mâché. The partnership between Aaron Jennens and John Bettridge began in Birmingham in 1810-13 and quickly grew. They acquired Henry Clays Birmingham workshops who was Japanner to George III and the Prince of Wales and as their business progressed they opened a branch in West Halkin Street, Belgravia London in 1837 and then offices in Paris and New York. They exhibited at all the major provincial and international exhibitions, both at home and abroad, and won many medals and awards. They claimed to have been the inventors of the gothic shape for trays which became synonymous with their brand. It was the gift of such a tray to George III which led to Jennens & Bettridge being appointed ‘Makers in ordinary to the King.’ In the 1840s they employed between three and four hundred workers, making items for all sectors of society. However, they only put their name to the finest goods. Japanned papier mâché manufacture began in France in the 1740s. Developed by Guillaume Martin, sheets of paper were glued together and pressed into a mould. When dry, this produced a firm, hard surface ideally suited to the varnish known as ‘vernis martin’. Birmingham had experience japanning tinware and so was quick to embrace this new technique with Henry Clay taking out a patent in 1772. Although the term was dropped during the Napoleonic wars in favour of ‘paper ware’, by 1839 ‘papier mâché manufacturers’ returned as a separate trade in Birmingham directories.