The History of the Royal Doulton Company


Researched, complied & edited by Rodney G. Dalton from various sources on the World Wide Web.



The Royal Doulton Company is one of the most renowned English companies producing tableware and collectables, with a history dating back to 1815. Operating originally in London, its reputation grew in the area known as The Potteries, where it was a relative latecomer compared to other leading names such as Spode, Wedgwood and Minton. Today, its products include dinnerware, giftware, cookware, porcelain, glassware, collectables, jewellery, linens, curtains, and lighting, among other items.


The Royal Doulton company takes its name from John Doulton. John Doulton, born in Fulham in 1793, learned his trade at the Fulham Manufacturing Company, well known as one of the first English commercial producers of stoneware, founded by master potter John Dwight in 1688. John Doulton completed his apprenticeship, earning a reputation as one of the best pot throwers in London.


John Doulton 1793-1873


John Doulton then joined forces with Lambeth Pottery owner Martha Jones and foreman John Watts to form Jones, Watts and Doulton in 1815. This factory was a tiny pottery located in Vauxhall Walk, Lambeth, a borough of London, England. The factory specialized in producing utilitarian salt glazed stoneware, similar to the Fulham factory.


Martha Jones broke ties with the company in 1820 and by 1826, now trading as Doulton & Watts, the company moved to larger premises in Lambeth Walk to cope with the rapid expansion it was experiencing.


In 1835 Henry Doulton, the second son of John, joined the firm, at the age of 15. He had a great aptitude for all aspects of pottery making and was soon making major contributions to the business.


In 1846, in response to greater health awareness and the need for glazed piping to replace the older porous brick sewers, Doulton built a pipe factory on what was to become the Albert Embankment. The demand for these products was tremendous and within three years Doulton founded factories in Dudley and St. Helens to meet the need for pipes and other sanitary ware.


John Watts retired from the company in 1854. At this time, trading now as Doulton & 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.


By 1871, Henry Doulton had launched a studio at the Lambeth pottery and offered work to designers and artists from a local art school. Their names included Frank Butler, Mark Marshall, Eliza Simmance, J. McLennan, John Broad, W. Rowe, George Tinsworth and the Barlow family (Florence, Hannah, and Arthur). Henry was responsible for new technological innovations to the production of ceramics including a steam driven potters' wheel, which put the Doulton business ahead of its competitors by some ten years. Henry took full control of the company upon the death of his father, John, in 1873.


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. Pinder, Bourne & Co. was well known at the time for their fine bone china. Doulton art director John Slater recognized the growing trend toward gleaming porcelain pieces in brilliant colors, and he saw this new acquisition as an opportunity to move aggressively into these enamel on glaze decorations.


By 1885, Doulton was producing world-class wares for an international clientele. Doulton won honors at major international exhibitions and was producing a tremendous variety of figurines, character jugs, vases and other decorative pieces in vibrant colors and using both under- and on-glaze enameling techniques. Doulton products also came to the attention of the British Royal family. Queen Victoria was so impressed with his wares that she knighted Henry Doulton in 1887 for his innovative contributions to ceramic art, and in 1901 King Edward VII bestowed upon the Burslem factory the Royal Warrant as well as allowing it to adopt its new name, Royal Doulton.


When Sir Henry died in 1897, Henry's son Henry Lewis Doulton took over control of the company. The company continued to hire talented artists including the next art director Charles Noke, Harry Tittensor, Joseph Hancock, and many others.


The company continued to add products during the first half of the 20th century while retaining its reputation as a prime manufacturer of fashionable and high-quality bone china. The 2 world wars halted production temporarily but in between the wars new pipe works were established at Erith in Kent in 1925 (when production of pipes moved from the Lambeth site), a 1935 acquired pottery near Tamworth became the site for manufacture of electrical insulators and specialist chemical resistant ware and sanitary work slowly moved to Whieldon near Stoke-on-Trent in 1937.



After World War II, production emphasis shifted to simpler designs, which could be mass produced at more affordable prices. Another renowned art director, Jo Ledger, joined the company in 1954, and continued producing older designs while at the same time exploiting the newer techniques that allowed Royal Doulton to produce high quality works at modest prices.


The Lambeth factory finally closed its doors in 1956, due largely to new clean air regulations that prevented the production of saltglaze in the urban environment. Doulton figures were made at the Burslem plants from 1890 until 1978.


On September 30, 2005, DoultonÕs Nile Street factory closed after being sold to developers. The majority of Doulton pieces are today made in Indonesia, although the higher-quality items are still made in England at the home of parent company Waterford Wedgwood in Barlaston, in the countryside south of the Potteries.



Another history of Royal Doulton:

Royal Doulton has been producing porcelain ceramics and tableware for approximately 200 years. John Doulton learned the trade of pottery making at the tender age of twenty two while working at the Fulham Manufacturing Co, well known as the first English commerical pottery, producing stoneware. Fulham was founded in 1688 and later assumed the name of Jones, Watts and Doulton. Sometime after the firms name changed to Doulton and made a variety of decorative products for the affluent buyer.


From a meager beginning John Doulton amassed one of the largest pottery and porcelain factories the world has ever known. In the year 1815. John Doulton, at the tender age of 22, invested his lifetime savings of £100 in a small pottery. His previous experience in other potteries gave him the knowledge necessary to attempt such an adventure.


The year was 1815 and the company founder, John Doulton, began producing practical and decorative stoneware from a small potery in Lambeth, South of London. With much effort in manufacturing utility items such as sewer pipe and the like, he went into partnership with John Watts. The firm took on the name of Doulton & Watts and become a well known firm in the area. As time passed, Doulton's son Henry joined the firm as an apprentice.


Henry built up the business and relocated it 60 years later to Stoke-on-Trent.


England: The epidemics of 1832 and 1864 saw the death of thousands of people. Dr. John Snow discovered the relationship of Cholera and the Broad Street pump. Doulton contributed greatly with the production of sewer pipe to improve the quality of the water supply. The above pictures are examples of samples of sewer pipe created and sold by Doulton.

From 1858 until his death, John Doulton directed Doulton and Co. Pottery in Lambeth, England. 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 and George Tinsworth.




Doulton Niles St. Pottery



Doulton Pottery Kilns


Doulton Workers



Henry Doulton

d. 1897


Sir Henry Doulton, the second generation 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 including a 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 art. 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 production and earthenware production to its offerings in 1884. Also in 1884, Doulton added decorated porcelain to the other production lines. Doulton figures were made at the Burslem plants from 1890 until 1978. Stoneware production ceased at Lambeth in 1956.


Another history of Royal Doulton:


Royal Doulton is one of the world's best-known fine china companies, designing and producing high-quality tableware and giftware under the popular brand names of Royal Doulton, Minton, Royal Albert, Caithness Glass, and Holland Studio Craft. The company operates five ceramic factories, four of which are in England and the other in Indonesia, and two glass factories in Scotland. Its products are marketed in more than 80 countries, with non-U.K. sales accounting for more than half the total and sales in the United States amounting to nearly 30 percent. In addition to its commercial product lines available in higher-end specialty shops and department stores--including the company's own retail outlets, which include some 360 stores and concessions within department stores--Royal Doulton also has accepted commissions to produce unique china service for royalty, wealthy individuals, embassies, luxury hotels, and England's House of Lords.


The history of Royal Doulton may be traced to the early 19th century, when John Doulton began an apprenticeship at London's Fulham Pottery, one of the most important of the early commercial potteries in England. Becoming an accomplished potter known for his hard work and innovation, Doulton found employment in Lambeth, along the south bank of the Thames River, at a small pottery business owned by Martha Jones, who had inherited it from her late husband. In 1815, Jones asked Doulton and another employee, John Watts, to enter into a partnership with her, and the three founded a business called Jones, Watts and Doulton.


Producing utilitarian salt glaze and stoneware ceramics, stone jars, bottles, and flasks in its early years, the company eventually expanded its line to include mugs and jugs modeled in the likenesses of Napoleon and the Duke of Wellington, bottles for beer, gallipots (ointment pots), and blacking bottles. Allegedly, as a laboring child, Charles Dickens was said to have pasted labels on thousands of Doulton blacking bottles. Among product lines that became central to the history of Royal Doulton was the Toby jug, or beverage mug, first produced in the early 18th century. This jug was designed to represent a seated male figure, stout and smiling, with the spouts at either side of the mug's rim serving as points on the character's tricorn hat. Figurines were another important product line, and Doulton became known for the quality and attention to detail of its figurines. The earliest recorded figurative work produced by the company is attributed to John Doulton, who made a flask depicting Queen Caroline around 1820.


Five of John Doulton's sons joined him in the family business, but the second son, Henry, took his father's place in the pottery. Henry had become a master potter, learning all aspects of the business from the production stages through management, and he played an important role in product development and in improving working conditions at the Lambeth pottery. In the 1840s Henry Doulton established the world's first factory for making stoneware drainpipes, a significant development that helped England achieve improvements in healthcare by providing more sanitary conditions through the provision of piped water. As the pipe business continued to thrive, Henry opened an art studio in the early 1870s where he encouraged and employed talented artists. Meantime, the company was incorporated in 1854 as Doulton & Co.


Henry also became known for his interest in the welfare of workers, a rare concern at a time when industrialists capitalized on cheap labor. Potteries generally were hazardous places during this time, as arsenic was used in painting and lead in glazing. Workers often succumbed to a debilitating lung disease then known as "potter's rot." In addition, laborers had to carry an enormous amount of weight, lifting several tons of materials from depths of eight to ten feet. To help workers with this burden, Henry Doulton obtained a mechanical hydraulic lifting device to help eliminate some of the manual labor. He also encouraged scientific research to determine more modern and safe methods of production.


In 1877 Henry Doulton bought a factory at Burslem in Stoke-on-Trent, a city known as The Potteries and home of English bone china. Other famous potters located here included Wedgwood, Minton, Beswick, and Royal Adderly. Indeed, the area became the center for potters, given its wealth of raw materials including clay for earthenware, coal to heat the kilns, as well as lead and salt for glazing. The established potters in this area initially were annoyed when Doulton moved in on their territory, and they predicted doom for the newcomer. Henry Doulton summed their attitude up thus: "In their view we Southerners know little about God and nothing at all about potting."


Through persistence and careful investment in staff and plant, Henry Doulton did succeed. The company's early success came from earthenware, decorated in the limited colors available from lead glaze at that time. This expansion into tableware design and decoration began in 1877, when Henry Doulton entered into a partnership with and later bought out Pinder & Bourne Company, a medium-sized producer of earthenware tableware. Later, Doulton's art director John Slater and manager John C. Bailey encouraged Henry to pursue the idea of using bone china in production, a material that could be painted with more and brighter colors. By 1884, Henry Doulton had given his consent to the new medium, and the success of the results attracted to Doulton an outstanding team of modelers, decorators, and painters.


By the late 1880s, the company and its products had become internationally famous. In 1885 Henry was honored for his achievements, receiving the Albert Medal of the Society of Arts for his "encouragement in the production of artistic pottery." Only one Albert Medal was awarded each year, and previous recipients had included the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Sir Rowland Hill, honored for his creation of the penny postage system. Henry's greatest honor, perhaps, came in 1887, when Queen Victoria awarded him knighthood; he was the first potter ever to be distinguished in this fashion. When Sir Henry Doulton died in 1897, he left behind a company that had diversified and established itself as one of the leaders in its field.


Sir Henry Doulton's son, Henry Lewis Doulton, who had been made a partner in the firm in 1881, became a leader at the company. In 1901, four years after his father's death, he received on behalf of the company the Royal Warrant of King Edward VII and was granted permission to add the word "Royal" to the Doulton name--a great and rare honor. As chairman and managing director, Henry Lewis Doulton guided the company through a difficult recession and period of war between 1900 and 1920.


Regarding product development, Henry Lewis Doulton was particularly interested in experimental glaze processes that produced unique, rare color effects. One such glaze, Rouge Flambˇ, a dramatic red and black glaze, remained unique to Royal Doulton, with a secret formula known only to three or four people in the company into the 1990s. The company also introduced new lines of character jugs, figurines, and decorative and utility china on earthenware and bone china bodies, and their popularity continued to grow. The character jugs represented a continuation of the beverage mugs of the 19th century and gained popularity in the 1930s when they were produced to represent famous characters from English songs, literature, and history.


In America, Royal Doulton became known as the finest English china. Indeed, Royal Doulton's presence in the American market was an important part of the company's growth and success. In 1945, a subsidiary, Royal Doulton USA Inc., was formed to help in the sales and marketing of the products in the United States.


Family leadership in the company continued. Ronald Duneau Doulton, a cousin of Henry Lewis Doulton, became one of the first directors of the business when it changed to a limited company, known as Doulton & Co. Limited, in January 1899. Lewis John Eric Hooper, son of Henry Lewis's sister, joined Royal Doulton in 1902. Under Eric's guidance much scientific research into the physical and chemical behavior of ceramic materials was carried out and new technology was developed and installed. His nephew, Orrok Sherwood Doulton, joined the company in 1935 and became director. Under his leadership, Royal Doulton captured the Queen's Awards for Industry, Technological Innovation, and Outstanding Export Performance.


In 1960, Doulton & Co. introduced English Translucent China, a medium it pioneered and from which the costly ingredient of calcined bone had been eliminated. Through this new product, which became known as Royal Doulton Fine China, the company was able to offer the qualities associated with fine bone china at a modest cost to consumers.


The year 1968 saw the first series of acquisitions by Doulton & Co. It first purchased the world-renowned Minton China, a company founded by Thomas Minton in 1793. Minton dominated the industry during the middle of the 19th century and the company's innovations included the acid gold decorating process, the majolica-type body, the p‰te-sur-p‰te relief decoration technique, encaustic tiles, and Parian statuary. In the same year, Doulton acquired Dunn Bennett, a company founded in 1876 when Thomas Wood-Bennett joined his father-in-law William Dunn to begin potting, concentrating on hotelware. In 1969, Webb Corbett and Beswick became part of the Royal Doulton group. Webb Corbett was founded in 1897 to make English full-lead crystal; Beswick traced its history to 1890, when James Wright Beswick and his son began producing both table and ornamental ware. The hand-cut crystal of Webb Corbett later would be rebranded under the Royal Doulton name.


Orrok Sherwood Doulton's sons, Mark and Michael, both joined the company. Michael Doulton joined the company in 1970, working under a fictitious name while learning the different aspects of pottery production. Starting in 1976 he began acting as traveling ambassador for the company and with the formation of the Royal Doulton International Collectors Club, a group dedicated to the collection and preservation of Royal Doulton products, he served as honorary president beginning in 1980. Although the Doulton family remained an important and integral part to running the business, leadership extended outside the family in later years.


The greatest merger in the history of ceramics came in 1972, when Pearson PLC purchased Doulton & Co. Pearson had a controlling interest in Allied English Potteries and combined the two tableware groups under the Royal Doulton Tableware name. Pearson's emergence in the pottery industry came about almost by accident. Originally, the Pearson empire was concerned mainly with construction engineering and the development of oil fields. But after investing money into a struggling business called Booth's pottery during the 1920s, Pearson eventually became the controlling shareholder. Then, 20 years later, Pearson began increasing their pottery interests. In 1944, the company bought Colclough's of Longton, a business founded in 1893 that made moderately priced bone china teaware. Pearson combined its Booth pottery with that of Colclough's, forming a new entity called Booth and Colclough. In 1952, Pearson acquired the Lawley Group, a company controlling a national chain of specialist china and glass retailers and pottery manufacturers, including Ridgway and Adderly. Seven years later they purchased Swinnertons and Alcock, Lindley and Bloor, manufacturers of redware pots. Other names joining the group were Royal Crown Derby, Royal Albert, and Paragon. Royal Crown Derby, a luxury brand, traced its roots back to 1750 and founder William Duesbury; it was the oldest surviving maker of English porcelain. Founded in 1896, Royal Albert was a tableware maker whose "Old Country Roses," introduced in 1962, was one of the best-selling bone china patterns of all time.


In 1974, Royal Doulton revived the concept of its original Lambethware, creating a casual tableware with a country charm and practicality, being oven and freezer proof and unaffected by detergent or the dishwasher. Royal Doulton Tableware Limited grew to represent approximately one-third of the entire British tableware industry.


Also during the period of ownership by Pearson, Royal Doulton management focused on achieving a greater degree of efficiency at its facilities. From 1987 to 1990, the company spent £10 million (approximately US$16.4 million) annually to automate and mechanize its factories, resulting in even finer quality and manufacturing flexibility. The company maintained a dozen factories producing all types and grades of product at that time.


Pearson began focusing more on its media interests in the 1990s and divested many of its other holdings. Royal Doulton plc was thus spun off from Pearson in December 1993 and was listed on the London stock exchange; according to analysts, the company had a market value of between £150 million and £200 million at the time.


Under the leadership of Stuart Lyons, Royal Doulton returned to a strategy of acquisition in its initial years as a newly independent company. During 1996 the firm acquired Holland Studio Craft and Caithness Glass, the latter for £5.5 million. Holland Studio had been founded in 1986 as a producer of collectible cold-cast resin sculptures. Among the subjects of these sculptures were dragons, wizards, frogs, bears, and pigs. Established in Scotland in 1961 as a maker of art glass, Caithness Glass expanded into paperweights in 1969 and soon gained a world-class reputation for the production of high-quality abstract paperweights. Another development in 1996 was the start-up of production at a new manufacturing plant in Indonesia. With sales of fine china stagnant, this new facility was key to the company's strategy of expanding production of casual tableware for two of the company's core export markets, the United States and Japan. The new facility also was designed to counter the effects of high U.K. labor costs. Overall sales were flat in 1996, increasing just four percent to £251.8 million.


The situation at the company soon worsened. Lyons resigned suddenly in May 1997, after 12 years at the helm, following a failed acquisition of a large U.S. fine china company whose identity was not revealed. The botched takeover cost Royal Doulton £1.6 million in advisers' fees. Further acquisitions were put on hold as the new chief executive, Patrick Wenger, a 37-year company veteran, concentrated on turning around the company's core business. A restructuring was launched that included a workforce reduction of 330 because of the closure of its St. Mary's factory in Stoke-on-Trent as well as a restructuring of the group into six product divisions--tableware, giftware and collectibles, crystal and glass, hotel and airlines, prestige products, and licensing--each headed by its own managing director. Saddled with too much inventory, Royal Doulton drastically reduced its range of products, cutting the number of tableware patterns from 320 to 120 during 1997.


In December, Royal Doulton announced a fundamental restructuring program involving the cutting of a further 1,200 jobs (or nearly one-fifth of the remaining workforce), the consolidation of three warehouses into one, a temporary closure of most of the company's U.K. factories, a further writedown of inventory, and the closure of some underperforming retail outlets. Overall, the company was aiming to reduce the number of product lines it produced from 48,000 to fewer than 20,000 over the four years that Grossart estimated it would take to complete a turnaround. Needing to modernize its product styles, it also was working to speed up the development of new concepts, attempting to reduce the time from design to market from two years to six months. Charges related to the restructuring added up to £47.7 million, resulting in a net loss for 1998 of £45 million.


In August 1999 a secondary stock offering raised £31.3 million. This fresh infusion of cash helped Royal Doulton reduce its net indebtedness from £43.6 million to £17.8 million over the course of 1999. The company was far from a turnaround, however, as sales declined a further 20 percent, to £190.3 million (US$307.6 million). About £11 million of the reduction represented sales that were lost because of interruptions in deliveries caused by the bungled implementation of new warehouse software being installed to meet Y2K compliance. Other reasons for the sales decline were the continued economic problems in Asia and the closure of an additional 61 underperforming retail outlets, including both stores and concessions within department stores. A further threat emerged in November 1999 when arch-rival Waterford Wedgwood plc acquired a 15 percent stake in Royal Doulton on the open market for £11.1 million. Waterford termed the transaction a "strategic investment" and not a prelude to an outright bid, but nevertheless declined to rule out a future bid if a rival takeover company emerged. For 1999, Royal Doulton posted a net loss of £34.6 million (US$55.6 million), including a restructuring charge of £9.1 million.


At the beginning of 2000, Wayne Nutbeen was promoted to chief operating officer, taking over day-to-day management duties from Grossart, who remained chairman. Nutbeen had worked for Waterford Wedgwood from 1988 to 1996, when he was hired away by Royal Doulton to head up the company's Australian subsidiary (Nutbeen, in fact, had been in the accident in Australia that ended the career of Wenger). Nutbeen then became head of Royal Doulton's North American operations at the beginning of 1999. Disposals marked the first six months of 2000. The head office in Stoke-on-Trent was sold. In addition, the venerable Royal Crown Derby porcelain subsidiary was sold to a management-led group for £16.5 million as the company continued to scale back its exposure to the higher ends of the market (Royal Doulton would, however, continue to distribute the brand). These moves helped cut pretax losses for the six months to June 30 from the £14.4 million figure of the previous year to £1.3 million. Sales were down 3 percent, a vast improvement over the year-earlier result. Although it was too early to declare the consummation of a turnaround, and a takeover by Waterford or some other firm was still a distinct possibility, Royal Doulton clearly had made much progress on its road to recovery.


It was during the early years of the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901) that the great revolution in personal sanitation occurred and Henry Doulton was at the forefront of domestic and industrial stoneware products. This enabled Doulton to became Britains leading manufacturer of sanitary ware as well as a major influence and producer of artistic pottery and commemorative, ornamental and tableware products.


In 1871 Henry established a studio at the Lambeth pottery and offered work to designers and artists from a nearby Art school. Several of these designers have come to represent the best that Doulton had to offer. Names like the Barlow family (Florence, Hannah and Arthur), Frank Butler, Mark Marshall, Eliza Simmance and George Tinworth are commanding increasingly higher prices. The Lambeth pottery ceased production in 1956.


It was during this time of intense creativity and expansion that Doulton came to the attention of the Royal Family. In 1882 Doulton acquired the small factory of Pinder, Bourne and Co. at Nile Street, Burslem, Staffordshire, in the heart of Bone China country. Henry soon discovered that as a Londoner he wasn't welcome 'up North' and is ascribed with saying "In their view, we Southerners know little about God and nothing at all about potting".


In spite of this, and through the artistic direction of John Slater, Doultonware grew ever more popular with its tremendous variety of figurines, vases, character jugs and decorative pieces, and in 1901, the factory was granted the Royal Warrant by King Edward VII. This resulted in the company adopting bold new markings and a new name, Royal Doulton.



Misc. Royal Daulton Photos



Some examples of Lambeth Doulton and Royal Doulton marks.









More examples of quality Doulton pottery: