The technique of making papier mâché was introduced into England, probably from France, in the late 17th century. In 1772, Henry Clay of Birmingham applied for a patent for heat resistant panels of laminated paper. It was this invention that transformed a craft then known as 'paper ware' from a small industry into a profitable large-scale international one. Clay described himself on his trade card as 'Japanner in Ordinary to His Majesty and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales'. His main products were trays and other small items such as tea caddies. He supplied papier mâché trays to the Earl of Jersey at Osterley in 1804 and 1807 as well as a Pembroke table decorated in the Etruscan style. In 1802 he moved to London where the firm remained until 1860, whereas Clay's Birmingham firm was purchased in 1816 by the firm Jennens & Bettridge. (M. Tomlin, Catalogue of Adam Period Furniture, 1972, J5)
A similar tray, stamped by Clay, was sold from the collection of the late Villiers David at Christie's London, 21 November 1985, lot 72. A further closely related example was sold by Vernay & Jussel at Sotheby's New York, lot 321.