by Dr. Lori Verderame
The beginnings of Royal Doulton
John Doulton founded Doulton Lambeth pottery in 1815 with John Watts. The factory was a tiny pottery located in Lambeth near London, England. They produced salt glazed utilitarian household items like pitchers and canisters, plain figural bottles, and stoneware objects. The company also found commercial success in the manufacture of sewage pipes in the 1840s.
From 1858 until his death, John Doulton directed Doulton and Watts Pottery in Lambeth, England. After John Watts retired from the company, John Doulton began experimenting with a more decorative pottery line. Many glazes and decorative effects were developed including faience, impasto, silicon, carrara, marqueterie, chine, and rouge flambe. The factory operated in Lambeth until 1956. In the late 19th century at the original Lambeth location, fine artwares were decorated by artists including Hannah Barlow, Arthur Barlow, George Tinsworth, and J. McLennan.
Henry Doulton, the second son of John Doulton, joined the firm in 1835 and brought with him new technological innovations to the production of ceramics. A major innovation was the steam driven potters’ wheel which put the business ahead of its competition. Production then expanded to include hand-decorated stoneware.
In 1878, Sir Henry Doulton purchased Pinder, Bourne and Company of Burslem. Queen Victoria knighted Henry Doulton in 1887 for his innovations in the ceramic arts. In 1882, the company became Doulton and Company, Ltd.
In 1882, a second factory was built in Burslem which still continues to produce the famous figurines, jugs, and table wares. It added porcelain and earthenware production to its offerings in 1884. Shortly thereafter, Doulton added decorated porcelain to the firm’s other production lines. Doulton figurines were made at the Burslem plants from 1890 until 1978. Stoneware production ceased at Lambeth in 1956.
The three main ingredients for Royal Doulton wares include cornish stone, china clay, and calcined bone ash. This mixture results in a translucent yet strong ceramic body. More than 2000 different figurines have been produced by Royal Doulton over the years. Doulton’s Rouge Flambe (veined sung) is a high glazed ware known for fine modeling and exquisite colors used in the production of animal figurines. Nearly all Royal Doulton figurines and porcelain pieces are made at the Burslem factory today.
Some of the more prominent and popular figures are serial wares. For instance, the Gibson Girl series–drawn by artist Charles Dana Gibson–by Royal Doulton was introduced in 1901 (plates).
Dickensware pieces by Royal Doulton were produced, based on the characters from the books of Charles Dickens, from 1911 to the early 1940s.
The Robin Hood series by Royal Doulton was introduced in 1914 based on the famous tale of the hero and his merry men.
Works based on Shakespeare’s characters resulted in two series of production items by Royal Doulton. Shakespeare’s series #1 portrays scenes from the plays were made from 1914 until World War II and Shakespeare’s series #2 was made from 1906 until 1974 featuring decorative characters from the famous writings.
The Nursery Rhymes series were first produced in earthenware in 1930 and later in bone china and have become a very popular Royal Doulton line.
The Bunnykins series were produced from 1933 for children and over 150 bunnykins scenes have been designed. The most valuable Bunnykins pieces were signed by artist Barbara Vernon for Royal Doulton.
In 1872, the “Royal Doulton” mark was used on all wares from the company. The Royal Doulton mark has been used since 1902 and is still in production today. In 1912-13, Charles Noke launched a new group of Royal Doulton figures. The first figure was HN1, “Darling” in honor of Queen Mary.
Beginning in 1913, a HN number was used on all wares. This HN number refers to artist/designer Harry Nixon of Royal Doulton. Harry Nixon was an artist in charge of painting the figures. Other artists included John Sparkes, George Tinsworth, Arthur Barlow, and Agnete Hoy among others. The HN numbers were chronological until 1940, after which time blocks of numbers were assigned to each modeler of the figures.
From 1928 to 1954, a small number was placed to the right of the crown’s marks on all items made between those years. This number (the one at the right of the crown’s mark) when added to the year 1927 will give you the year of manufacture of a particular piece.
The pieces with a limited production run, those signed by an artist, or those pieces marked “Potted” (indicating a pre-1939 origin) are highly collectible and perceived to be more valuable than other pieces of Royal Doulton. Wares made after 1920 were marked with a lion (with or without a crown accompanying the lion) over a circular Royal Doulton mark.
Request an online appraisal for your Royal Doulton piece from Dr. Lori.