This is a very rare Wileman part cabaret set consisting of a large tray, two teacups and saucers, two extra saucers, a milk jug and a sugar bowl. The set was made in or shortly after 1887 and would originally have had a teapot and two more cups, but sadly these got lost. It was made in the famous Alexandra shape and printed in pink with the Dolly Varden pattern. This design was made in many colours but the pink variety is the most desired one.


Wileman (later renamed Shelley and sometimes called Foley) was one of the most respected manufacturers of fine bone china tea sets in the late 19th and early 20th Century, and many of their products are now collector's items. They made many different shapes of cups and the Alexandra shape is without doubt one of the most sought after, eccentric and amazing shapes Wileman ever produced. It is quatrefoil (square), intensely fluted, and drinks surprisingly well.


The Dolly Varden pattern on the Alexandra shape cup was registered in 1887. Dolly Varden was a short-lived women’s fashion in the late 1870s, consisting of a very brightly flower-patterned overskirt that was draped in a bellowing way on top of an underskirt. You can see on the decoration that it looks like draped fabric with a dense flower pattern. The pattern was transferred from a metal plate etching, and then glazed over. The gilding was applied on top of the glazing.


There is another interesting feature to this design. What Wileman gave to Victorian design, which by the last part of the 19th Century had become quite stylised and sometimes removed from real life, is very vivid, life-like flowers the way you can find them in any meadow. This is refreshing and often a surprise today - it is also clearly inspired by the Aesthetic Movement of that period, which emphasised nature in its designs. These flowers are very natural and wild - there is nothing stylised about them.


CONDITION REPORT The set is in good usable condition but has some wear. As this set was made in the very first years of porcelain production at the Wileman factory (they previously only did earthenware), the porcelain has some production flaws: there is a little firing crack in the handle of one of the teacups, and there are some rough places on the rims of the cups which look more like patchy glazing than wear. The tray is very crazed and a little yellowed on its face and the pattern has worn off a bit on the fluted surface, which you can see if you zoom in on the picture. Some of the other items have some crazing, most visible on the sugar bowl, which has a little hairline coming off the rim (see last few pictures). However the cups, saucers and milk jug look bright white, the sugar bowl a bit less so. It is normal for these items from the 1880s to craze; Wileman had only just started production of porcelain and their recipes were not perfect at that time, often causing stress lines and crazing.


Kilns were fired on coal in the late 1800s, and this meant that china from that period can have some firing specks from flying particles. One reason Wileman was able to bring high quality tableware on the market for modest prices is that they decided to pass items with firing specks rather than discarding them and creating waste (and extra cost).


All items carry the famous large Wileman mark in pink, with hand painted in gold on each item the registration number 3744.


Please note that all items in my shop are of vintage or antique condition. They have often been used for many years and can have normal signs of wear. I will reflect any damage, repairs or heavy wear in the item description but some minor scratches, nicks and stains can be normal for vintage items and need to be taken into account.


There is widespread confusion on the internet about the difference between chips and nicks, or hairlines and cracks. I will reflect any damage as truthfully as I can, i.e. a nick is a tiny bit of damage smaller than 1mm and a chip is something you can see with the eye; a hairline runs over the surface glazing but not the body of the item and a crack runs through the body of the item, usually weakening its structure. Etcetera - I try to be as accurate as I can and please feel free to ask questions or request more detailed pictures!


DIMENSIONS (diameter at the widest point): to be added


SHIPPING I ship worldwide from the UK, mostly by Royal Mail 2nd Class for the UK and International Tracked and Signed for the rest of the world. I am happy to combine shipping charges on multiple items - please contact me to discuss. In principle I do not make a profit on shipping although for simplicity's sake I charge flat shipping fees. If the fee charged greatly exceeds the actual cost I will gladly refund you the difference - at the same time if it is slightly lower I will gladly make up the difference. In some countries shipping will end up significantly more than the expected fees and I will contact you to discuss our options. PLEASE CONTACT ME FOR ANY QUESTIONS REGARDING SHIPPING COSTS AND OPTIONS.

Part cabaret set, pink Dolly Varden, Wileman 1884

  • Your item will be shipped after receipt of funds, unless agreed otherwise in writing. 

    We will ship your items within a maximum of 2 working days after payment (usually quicker). We cannot be held responsible for delivery times once the item has been shipped as this is at the shipper's discretion and, in case of international delivery, can be subject to customs delays, weather, holidays and/or political instability.


    If your delivery failed to appear or was damaged in transit, please let us know as soon as possible and, in case of damage, provide us with pictures of the damaged item and/or packaging. Cut off dates for this are 14 days after shipping, or 2 days after a damaged delivery. We will need to comply with shippers' regulations in order to follow up the issue, but it is vital that you let us know what is wrong as soon as possible. We will do anything we can to follow up faulty deliveries but cannot be held responsible if we have not been notified within the required time period. 

    We always aim to have happy customers so if you have an issue with or questions about your item, please contact us and we will do anything we can to resolve the issue with you! 

  • Cancellations can only be accepted before the item has been shipped. Once an item has been shipped, the transaction cannot be cancelled anymore.

    Returns need to be requested within 2 days of receipt of the item and completed within 14 days from the date they have been agreed in writing.

    If you want to return an item because you changed your mind, you will be responsible for the return shipping. For international deliveries, this will need to be a fully tracked shipping mode. The item is expected to be received back in the same state it was sent - any damage due to insufficient packaging will be your responsibility. We will only pay for return shipping if we have mutually agreed that the item did not satisfy your expectations. A refund will be made immediately after receipt of the item.

    You are subject to the EU Consumers Rights Act, which protects your rights buying over the internet.


    We always aim to have happy customers so if you have an issue with or questions about your item, please contact us and we will do anything we can to resolve the issue with you! 

Covid-19 - we are open for business! 

We can ship normally to most destinations, but some are currently closed.

For the time being we have had to raise shipping prices as shippers are now charging more.

As we are living under lock down and can't always reach our stock, lead times will be a little longer than usual.

For now, please bear with us as we do our best to get your parcels to you as quickly as we can! 

If needed we are happy to hold your parcel for you until the end of the pandemic.

Please feel free to contact us to discuss and thank you for your business - it is a vital support for our business! 🙏

We will be away for our annual holiday from 6 to 20 September, but please feel free to shop and order items! We will answer your messages although probably with some delay. We will be able to ship all orders made before the close of 3 September immediately, orders after that time will be shipped when shipments resume after 21 September. 

© 2020 by Gentle Rattle of China - copyright on all images and text

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