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House of dragons

Chamberlain's Worcester dessert service

This week I am thrilled to present a very rare dessert service by Chamberlain's Worcester, from about 1795. This pattern is sometimes called "Dragons in Compartments" and sometimes "Kylin". The original Worcester factory started this pattern back in the 1770s and variations of this have since been done many times by all three Worcester factories.⁠ ⁠

Kylin or qilin

The word Kylin comes from the Chinese "qilin", or "kirin" in Japanese. It is a mythical monster that features in most East Asian cultures: a dragon-like ox/horse with antlers and a long tail. But unlike in Western culture, where monsters bring terror and disaster, the qilin is a symbol of luck, protection, prosperity, success and longevity. Seeing a qilin is a good omen and it might be a sign of fertility, so this explains why people loved eating off dishes with qilin - it was believed that just having breakfast off a dish like this might bring a new baby into the family.

When the first Chinese people travelled to Africa in the 15th Century they thought giraffes were qilins, and they brought some back for the Emperor, who kept them in his garden for centuries, thinking it would be auspicious for the Empire.⁠ ⁠


There are more connections to qilins: it is thought that the Western unicorn is related to the same creature. And you can find references to it in Western popular culture, such as the adorable yet fierce nirik (reversely spelled kirin) in My Little Pony 🐎😂

These dishes

The qilins on these dishes are fabulous creatures, painted with great detail and imagination. They look strange, ferocious and mischievous, with (gilt) fire and vapour coming out of their big dangerous mouths. And as they are set in compartments, this pattern is known by the name of "Dragons in Compartments" among porcelain collectors.

It is rare to find a whole service like this; at the time, this a polychrome porcelain dessert service with gilt would have been a great luxury that few people could afford, and not many of these services have survived. The dishes have been lovingly used and one of the tureen covers has been extensively stapled, but all of them are stable and good for use. Personally I love these 19thC rivets or staples; I wish they still did those today. They are entirely stable, usually water tight, and mean the dishes can still be washed in warm water as normal.

I have, by the way, also a little orphaned coffee cup available in the same pattern... see below.

Where to find stock

You can find all my dessert services here; and you can find all my available stock here. If you always want to see the latest additions, follow me on Instagram... I post pictures and a story several times a week.

Happy weekend, and watch out for dragons! 🐉🐲


This week's treasures:​



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