Famous Potters of Stoke-on-Trent


John Doulton  &  Henry Doulton

John Doulton and his partner John Watts established a pottery and porcelain in Lambeth, south London in 1815. 

Henry Doulton
Henry Doulton

Developed by his son Henry Doulton, it became Britain's leading manufacturer of sanitary wares and other industrial ceramics as well as a major producer of art pottery and of ornamental and commemorative pieces, and tablewares.

In 1877, Doulton took over the Nile Street Burslem factory of Pinder Bourne, where tablewares and Art Pottery were being produced alongside industrial ceramics. By 1882, this branch of Doulton's operation was making bone china (porcelain containing bone ash).

The Lambeth Studio in London continued in existence until 1956, and since then Doulton production has been concentrated at Burslem. 
Having taken over many of its rivals both in industrial and decorative wares, the Royal Doulton Group is now the largest manufacturer of ceramics in Britain.

Back-Stamp from the Burslem Works
Back-Stamp from the 
Burslem Works

John Doulton

In 1815, on the eve of Waterloo, John Doulton was taken into partnership by the widow Martha Jones who had inherited from her late husband a pottery in Vauxhall Walk, Lambeth, by the side of the Thames. Her foreman John Watts was also taken into partnership and the firm became Jones, Watts and Doulton.

The young Doulton was just out of apprenticeship with one of the most important of the early commercial potteries of England, the Fulham manufactory founded by the great John Dwight in the latter quarter of the 17th century, where the making of stoneware in its true, vitrified form was brought to a high degree of perfection. Thus began the long and distinguished history of the Royal Doulton Potteries and it is not surprising that the earliest years of the firm's existence were devoted to the making of articles ranging from decorative bottles to drain-pipes in that very challenging of ceramic materials, stone clay.


Henry Doulton

It was John Doulton's son, Henry, however, who carried that tradition of the Lambeth pottery to its zenith.
By the time Queen Victoria came to the throne, Doulton was established as a manufacturer of domestic and industrial products in a fine stoneware body that bore comparison with any in Europe. Within the first ten years of Victoria's reign, by 1846, the Lambeth factory was in the vanguard of the revolution in sanitation which Chadwick and the great reformers of the day brought to metropolitan England. Without the hard work and foresight of Henry Doulton that revolution would have been best delayed by decades.

In 1882 Henry (later to be knighted by Queen Victoria, the first potter so honoured), acquired the small factory of Pinder, Bourne and Company at Burslem, mother town of the Staffordshire potteries and, the home of that unique and essentially English ceramic body, bone china.

The incursion of the Lambeth potter was looked upon with little enthusiasm or favour by the proud and insular men of Staffordshire. "In their view we Southerners know little about God and nothing at all about potting", observed Henry Doulton.


The development of The Doulton Company

The early relationship was uneasy and by no means profitable. But by shrewd investment in men and plant he succeeded where more timid men would have succumbed to local advice and given up the unequal struggle. Early commercial success and artistic renown came to the factory through domestic and art wares made in earthenware and decorated in the limited range of colours which that body permits under its lead glaze.
But Doulton's brilliant young art director, John Slater and his forceful and enterprising manager, John C. Bailey, hankered after the colourful effects produced on the Continent by the on-glaze enamel decoration of so-called faience, maiolica and delft wares; and on the now popular porcelain body. They also sought the bone china body with which near neighbours in Staffordshire were enjoying increasing success.

By 1884 they wrung from a reluctant Henry Doulton permission to use the new body and to spread their artistic wings. Soon they were surrounded by one of the most outstanding teams of modellers, decorators and painters in the world of ceramics. The fame of the company and of its products became truly international, and that fame was extended into the 20th century under a new art director, Charles C. Noke, and through the talents of a brilliant generation of artists who had grown to maturity under the old guard of the Victorian period; Joseph Hancock, Harry Tittensor, Edward Birks, Percy Curnock and others.

In 1901 King Edward VII conferred on the company the double honour of the royal warrant and the specific - as opposed to the assumed - right to use the title "Royal". Along he way the honours were won at the great international exhibitions at Chicago and Paris and the range of products proliferated: the much sought-after Sung and Chang wares, and Rouge Flambe, in those rare colour-effects which western potters had tried to simulate since the dynastic wares of ancient China first found their way to Europe centuries before; figures and character jugs reflecting the moods and fantasies of the world around them; decorative and utility china, on earthenware and bone china bodies, decorated both under the glaze and in a dazzling array on on-glaze enamels.

The inter-war years

The inter-war years saw the continued growth of the firm's product range, of its renown and prosperity. In America, especially, the name Royal Doulton became synonymous with the finest English china. By the conclusion of the second world war, however, a new spirit was abroad. Simplicity became the watchword in domestic furnishing and decoration; art, as practised by the great ceramic painters of the past, began to give way to the concept of design; new decorative and manufacturing techniques emerged to make fine china available at a price that millions could afford where it had, hitherto, been the preserve of the privileged. 

Jo Ledger, a product of the modern school of designers, joined the company as its new Art Director in the mid 1950's, and so another era began - an era in which a healthy regard for past achievements and for the decorative traditions associated with the finest of English tableware, bone china, was allied to the fast-changing demands of the present. 


Recent Developments

In 1960 the company introduced a new product, English Translucent China, developed over several years by research team led by Richard Bailey, who was then Technical Director. By evolving his fine, translucent body while eliminating the costly ingredient of calcined bone from the clay mix, Royal Doulton was able to offer many of the qualities associated with the best bone china to the world's markets at a relatively modest price.

Now known simply as Royal Doulton Fine China, the new tableware has proved one of the outstanding successes of the firm's long and eventful history. In 1966 it brought one of the first Queen's Awards for Technical Innovation to the Doulton Company. Alongside these firmly established bone china and fine china tableware ranges, has sprung a revival of Doulton Lambeth wares, motivated by modern man's sympathy towards his natural environment. Royal Doulton's Lambethware oven to tableware range captures the spirit of the present day in a series of well-researched designs with a rural but progressive flavour.

The present day Lambethware range derives many practical advantages from its rich inheritance. Its combination of tough, quartz-like compounds with feldspathic Cornish stone gives it immense strength; a startling robustness of appearance and feel. Modern ceramic technology adds refinement of glaze and colour to those qualities, plus the essential characteristics of inherent resistance to chemical attack and to extremes of heat and cold. The result is a tableware range with a refreshing, country feeling whose keynote is practicality; the entire range is oven and freezer proof and is unaffected by detergent or dishwasher.

In 2006 the firm of Royal Doulton were taken over by the Waterford Wedgwood group.

Identifying marks on Doulton ware 

Doulton's own Internet site: www.royal-doulton.com 


questions/comments/contributions? email: Steve Birks

updated: Feb 2008