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The Iconic Midwinter Zambesi Design A Nod to 1950s African Fascination

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In the realm of classic pottery design, few patterns evoke the energy and zeitgeist of the 1950s as vividly as the Midwinter Zambesi design. Conceived in 1956, this timeless piece is the brainchild of one of the era’s most celebrated designers, Jessie Tait, who was a prominent figure in the Midwinter Pottery firm. We take a look at this classic pattern along with a price guide of realised pieces at auction.

A Midwinter style craft Zambesi pattern tea for two designed by Jessie Tait
A Midwinter style craft ‘Zambesi’ pattern tea for two, designed by Jessie Tait. Sold for £30 at Hansons, February 2022.

Zebra Stripes and African Inspiration

At the heart of the Zambesi design lies the unmistakable pattern of zebra stripes. These bold black and white linear motifs immediately command attention, reminiscent of the wild beauty and mystique of Central Africa. It’s no surprise that Tait drew inspiration from this region. The 1950s witnessed a burgeoning craze for all things Central African. From music and dance to fashion and decor, there was a palpable fascination with African culture that swept through Western societies. Tait masterfully tapped into this trend, translating it into a design that was both modern and exotic. Some of the pieces are accented with red handles and features.

Jessie Tait Midwinter Stylecraft A Zambesi pattern Fashion Shape coffee service
Jessie Tait – Midwinter Stylecraft – A Zambesi pattern Fashion Shape coffee service, comprising coffee pot, six cups and saucers, six side plates, milk jug and a sugar bowl, together with two lidded tureens, all decorated with black and white stripes with red detailing. Sold for £170 at Fieldings Auctioneers, March 2023.

A Standout in the Midwinter Fashion Style Range

But Zambesi was not an isolated phenomenon. It was part of a larger movement within Midwinter Pottery, embodied in the Midwinter Fashion style range. The man behind this innovative range was none other than Roy Midwinter, the founder of the company. With a keen eye for emerging trends and an insatiable desire for innovation, Roy Midwinter was determined to position his brand at the forefront of modern design.

A Midwinter Pottery Zambesi Fashion Shape coffee set for six
A Midwinter Pottery Zambesi Fashion Shape coffee set for six. Sold for £100 at Woolley & Wallis, December 2017.

Zambesi, with its mesmerizing patterns and contemporary appeal, was the perfect fit for the Midwinter Fashion style range. Its inclusion not only showcased Tait’s design prowess but also underscored the company’s commitment to marrying artistic expression with market demands.

Midwinter Zambesi Coffee Set
Midwinter Zambesi Coffee Set. Sold for £221 on ebay, August 2023.

Midwinter Zambesi Price Guide / Value Guide

Despite being a classic design , the current market for pieces is not strong. There is also great variation on prices within shops, on ebay and at auction houses. Cup and saucers can be bought for £5-£15, plates for £10, and more unusual shapes such as the oblong dish £15-£25. The highest prices can be seen for Zambesi teapots and coffee pots.

Over six decades later, the Zambesi design remains a testament to the power of intuitive design that captures the pulse of its time. For collectors and enthusiasts of mid-century pottery, it stands as an emblem of a period when the world was looking outward, drawing inspiration from diverse cultures and bringing them to the Western dining table. In the annals of design history, the Midwinter Zambesi pattern will always be remembered as an iconic representation of 1950s aesthetics and the enduring allure of Central Africa.

Jessie Tait Designs for Midwinter Pottery
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