In 2008 the National Trust purchased a rare eighteenth century Chinese punch bowl with a provenance from Nostell Priory, West Yorkshire. It is decorated with a depiction of the western trading posts on the waterfront at Canton (Guanghzhou). The acquisition was made possible by generous grants from the Royal Oak Foundation, the Art Fund and the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund.
By imperial edict all foreign traders coming to China had to conduct their business in a restricted zone just outside Canton. There they could lease trading posts known as ‘factories’ or hong.
Patricia Ferguson, who has researched this bowl (and written an article on it in the 2009 NT Historic Houses and Collections Annual), dates it to either 1786 or 1788. This is based on a comparison between the national flags shown on the bowl and dated records and pictures of the trading activities in Canton.
The flags flown are those of Denmark, Spain, France, America, Sweden, Britain and the Netherlands. It is one of the earliest examples of a depiction of the Stars and Stripes.
The bowl appears in an 1806 inventory of Nostell Priory, but it is not known how it was originally acquired – the Winn family of Nostell Priory had no links with the China trade.
Patricia Ferguson makes the amusing suggestion that Sir Rowland Winn, sixth Baronet (1775-1805), who was a keen fox hunter, may have won the bowl as a prize for winning a horse race.