Royal Doulton

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Royal Doulton
IndustryCeramic Manufacturing
PredecessorJones, Watts & Doulton (1815), Doulton & Watts (1820), Doulton & Co. (1853)
SuccessorWWRD Holdings Limited
FounderJohn Doulton, Martha Jones & John Watts
Key people
Henry Doulton
OwnerWWRD Group Holdings
ParentFiskars Corporation

Royal Doulton is an English ceramic manufacturing company dating from 1815. Operating originally in Vauxhall, London, later moving to Lambeth, in 1882 it opened a factory in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, in the centre of English pottery. From the start the backbone of the business was a wide range of utilitarian wares, mostly stonewares, including storage jars, tankards and the like, but also pipes for drains, lavatories and other bathroom ceramics.[1] From 1853 to 1902 its wares were marked Doulton & Co., then from 1902, when a royal warrant was given, Royal Doulton.

It always made some more decorative wares, initially still mostly stoneware, but the Burslem factory was for making bone china tablewares and decorative items, and from the 1860s the firm made considerable efforts to get a reputation for design, in which it was largely successful.[2] It was a latecomer compared to firms such as Royal Crown Derby, Royal Worcester, Wedgwood, Spode and Mintons, but made a place for itself in the later 19th century. Today it mainly produces tableware and figurines, but also cookware, glassware, and other home accessories such as linens, curtains and lighting.

Three of its brands were Royal Doulton, Royal Albert and Mintons. These brands are now owned by WWRD Holdings Limited (Waterford Crystal, Wedgwood, Royal Doulton), based in Barlaston near Stoke-on-Trent. On 2 July 2015 the acquisition of WWRD by the Finnish company Fiskars Corporation was completed.

History - 19th century[edit]

Vase, 1874, Doulton Ceramic Factory V&A Museum no. 352-1874. decorated by Hannah Barlow

The Royal Doulton company began as a partnership between John Doulton, Martha Jones, and John Watts, with a factory at Vauxhall Walk, Lambeth, London trading as Jones, Watts & Doulton in 1815. After Martha Jones left the partnership in 1820, the trade name was changed to Doulton & Watts. The business specialised in making stoneware articles, including decorative bottles and salt glaze sewer pipes. The company took the name Doulton & Co. in 1853 after the retirement of John Watts.[3]

As the company became interested in diversifying from its utilitarian wares into more decorative objects, it developed a number of earthenware and stoneware bodies. The so-called "Lambeth faience" (from 1872) was "a somewhat heavily potted creamware much used in decorative plaques and vases",[4] often with underglaze painting.[5] Other bodies were called "Impasto" (1879); "Silicon" (1880), "a vitrified unglazed stonware decorated with coloured clays"; "Carrara" (1887); "Marquetrie" (1887), "marbled clays in checker work", then glazed; "Chine" impressed with fabrics to texture the clay.[6]

Doulton also manufactured architectural terracotta, and would execute commissions for monumental sculpture in terracotta. One of the largest schemes they made is the Doulton Fountain, now in Glasgow Green, given by Sir Henry Doulton for the International Exhibition of 1888. When the over life-size statue at the top was destroyed in a lightening strike in 1901, Doulton paid for a second hand-made statue to be produced. Sir Henry's mausoleum is another fine example of Doulton's exterior terracottas.

By 1871, Henry Doulton, John's son, launched a studio at the Lambeth pottery, and offered work to designers and artists from the nearby Lambeth School of Art. The first to be engaged was George Tinworth followed by artists such as the Barlow family (Florence, Hannah, and Arthur), Frank Butler, Mark Marshall and Eliza Simmance. In 1882, Doulton purchased the small factory of Pinder, Bourne & Co, at Nile Street in Burslem, Staffordshire, which placed Doulton in the region known as The Potteries.

The pulpit in St. Alban's Anglican Church in Copenhagen, Denmark, donated and manufactured by Doulton

When the Anglican St. Alban's Church was built in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1887 with Alexandra, Princess of Wales as one of the driving forces, Doulton donated and manufactured an altarpiece, a pulpit and a font. They were executed in terracotta with glazed details to the design of Tinworth.[7]

By this time Doulton was popular for stoneware and ceramics, under the artistic direction of John Slater, who worked with figurines, vases, character jugs, and decorative pieces designed by the prolific Leslie Harradine.

20th century[edit]

In 1901 King Edward VII awarded the Burslem factory the Royal Warrant, allowing the business to adopt new markings and a new name, Royal Doulton. The company added products during the first half of the 20th century while manufacturing fashionable and high-quality bone china.

The headquarters building and factory of the Royal Doulton ceramics firm were in Lambeth, on the south bank of the Thames. This Art Deco building was designed by T.P.Bennett. In 1939 Gilbert Bayes created the friezes that showed the history of pottery through the ages. The Lambeth factory closed in 1956 due to clean air regulations preventing urban production of salt glaze. Following closure, work was transferred to The Potteries. The factory building was demolished in 1978 and the friezes transferred to the Victoria & Albert Museum. The office building in Black Prince Road survives, complete with a frieze of potters and Sir Henry Doulton over the original main entrance, executed by Tinworth.[8]

Backside of a Frost Pine plate of Royal Doulton with the seal


In 1971, S. Pearson & Son Ltd, a subsidiary of the Pearson industrial conglomerate acquired Doulton & Co. Pearson & Son owned Allied English Potteries and merged operations into Doulton & Co. All brands from Allied English Potteries and Doulton & Co. Ltd. including Royal Doulton, Minton, Beswick, Dunn Bennett, Booths, Colclough, Royal Albert, Royal Crown Derby, Paragon, Ridgway, Queen Anne, Royal Adderley and Royal Adderley Floral were moved under the umbrella of Royal Doulton Tableware Ltd. Royal Doulton Tableware Ltd was a subsidiary of Doulton & Co. Ltd, itself a subsidiary of the Pearson Group Doulton & Co. became Royal Doulton plc in 1993. Pearson spun off Royal Doulton in 1993.[9] Waterford Wedgwood completed a takeover of Royal Doulton in 2005, acquiring all assets and brands.[3]

On 30 September 2005, the Nile Street factory closed. Royal Doulton Ltd., along with other Waterford Wedgwood companies, went into administration on 5 January 2009. Royal Doulton is now part of WWRD Holdings Limited. Some items are now made in the parent company, WWRD Holdings Ltd in Barlaston, south of the Potteries Conurbation. Further production is carried out in Indonesia[10] On 11 May 2015, in a deal expected to close July 2015, the Fiskars Corporation, a Finnish maker of home products, agreed to buy 100% of the holdings of WWRD.[11] On 2 July 2015 the acquisition of WWRD by Fiskars Corporation was completed including brands Waterford, Wedgwood, Royal Doulton, Royal Albert and Rogaška. The acquisition was approved by the US antitrust authorities.[12]

Cultural references[edit]

  • In the comedy television series Keeping Up Appearances her Royal Doulton china was frequently mentioned with great pride by the main character, Hyacinth Bucket.[13]
  • A Royal Doulton bowl features prominently in the 2018 film Mary Poppins Returns, and is the basis for the song "The Royal Doulton Music Hall".
  • In the James Bond 007 franchise films, Judi Dench's M character has a Royal Doulton’s "Jack the Bulldog" figurine on her desk at MI6.[14]

Notable designers[edit]


See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Godden, 149; Hughes, 252
  2. ^ Godden, 149
  3. ^ a b "Royal Doulton". Pottery Histories. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  4. ^ Godden, 149
  5. ^ Hughes, 252
  6. ^ Hughes, 252 (quoted); Godden, 149
  7. ^ "About the Church". St. Alben's Church. Retrieved 26 February 2010.
  8. ^ TQ3078 : Doulton building at Black Prince Road near Lambeth High Street
  10. ^ "Royal Doulton". 2012. Retrieved 17 January 2012.
  11. ^ Bray, Chad. "Fiskars Agrees to Buy Owner of Waterford and Wedgwood". New York Times. Retrieved 11 May 2015.
  12. ^ "Fiskars Corporation has completed the acquisition of WWRD and extended its portfolio with iconic luxury home and lifestyle brands". NASDQ Global News Wire. Retrieved 6 July 2015.
  13. ^ IMDB
  14. ^ "Jack the Bulldog". Retrieved 5 August 2019.


  • Godden, Geoffrey, An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of British Pottery and Porcelain, 1992, Magna Books, ISBN 1 85422 333 X
  • Hughes, G Bernard, The Country Life Pocket Book of China, 1965, Country Life Ltd

External links[edit]

Media related to Royal Doulton at Wikimedia Commons