Royal Doulton is a classic English brand name in tableware and ceramics with a pedigree dating back to 1815, when John Doulton used his life's savings to launch a partnership with Martha Jones and John Watts at a stoneware factory in Lambeth, London. Today, Royal Doulton is a world-class brand in quintessential British tableware, collectable figurines, crystal, glass and giftware.
Yet it had truly down to earth origins. Thanks to stoneware, the business that subsequently focused on the Doulton family name took full advantage of the revolution in sanitation during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837- 1901). It established the world's first stoneware pipe factory and went on to become Britain's top Victorian manufacturer of water and drain pipes.
John worked with his son Henry to grow the business, and their portfolio soon extended to artistic pottery, ultimately embracing ornamental, commemorative, and tableware products. Indeed, Doulton set the pace in new art schools and reaped the rewards at exhibitions. By 1871, Henry had launched the Lambeth Studio with local designers and artists who experimented with a variety of materials and glazes in an industrial setting. Their names included the Barlow family, Frank Butler, Mark Marshall, Eliza Simmance, and George Tinworth. Today their pioneering work commands increasingly high prices.
It was a success story that would go on to be made in Stoke-on-Trent. In 1877 Henry purchased a major shareholding in the factory of Pinder, Bourne and Co at Nile Street in Burslem, Staffordshire - a facility that handled tableware as well as ornaments and earthenwares.
Studio-based success prompted diversification. The business introduced new techniques and produced bone china from 1884. The ideas and inspiration of key individuals like John Slater and Charles J Noke built its reputation in figurines, vases, and decorative pieces. When Henry died in 1897 he was widely mourned. But the Doulton name for fashion and functionality was spreading apace.
The Doulton name caught the attention of the royal family itself. During 1901 the Burslem factory was granted the Royal warrant by the new king, Edward VII. Now the business could adopt a bold new logo - the British lion - and a classic brand name - Royal Doulton.
Between the World Wars, the name Royal Doulton became synonymous with the finest English china across the world. Innovation and inspiration were key to its growth, whether that be flambé ware, titanian ware, or bone china. And it didn't stop there. Royal Doulton had launched its definitive HN Series of Pretty Lady figurines in 1913 and these collectables went from strength to strength. Under Charles Noke, it successfully moved into the market for Character Jugs too. What's more, it had established Bunnykins as nurseryware in 1934, moving into collectable figurines by 1939.
Royal Doulton stayed ahead of the field. In 1960 it introduced a new product - English Translucent China (ETC), which is now better known as Royal Doulton Fine China. ETC offered the excellent translucent quality of bone china, without the expense. In 1966 Royal Doulton became the first china manufacturer to receive the Queen's Award for Technical Achievement.
Royal Doulton is no longer a family business. But it has a 'family' of English brands, having merged with Minton in 1968, and gaining Royal Albert from the merger with AEP in 1971. And, in 2005, these historic names became part of the Waterford Wedgwood group.
True to its heritage, craftsmanship and quality remain paramount. Royal Doulton's largest and most expensive figure takes no less than 160 hours to hand paint and costs more than £14,000. Its collectables have proved so popular that it launched the Royal Doulton International Collectors Club (RDICC) in 1980. Royal Doulton Archives give the business and its designers access to some 10,000 watercolours dating right back to 1815. And the Doulton Lambeth pedigree lives on with modern limited edition Lambethwares.
From the twentieth century onwards, the pedigree of the Lambeth and Burslem Studios has been followed through with the work of key individuals such as Peggy Davies, Alan Maslankoswki, and Robert Tabbenor, to name but a few. It also has a Design Studio based in Stoke-on-Trent, and a state-of-the-art production facility based in Indonesia. Nevertheless, the family links remain -- Michael Doulton direct decendant of John Doulton makes numerous appearances around the world each year, meeting with Royal Doulton consumers, collectors and fans.
Most recently, Royal Doulton collaborated with a number of celebrated chef’s, designers and stylists including Gordon Ramsay and Donna Hay. The collaboration with Gordon Ramsay brings together Ramsay's Michelin-starred expertise and the British china brand's commitment to quality and innovation.
Today, Royal Doulton is at the forefront of retail and e-tail with a lifestyle offer that covers the classic and the contemporary, tableware and collectables, oven to tableware, and personal style. Royal Doulton is not only one of the world's oldest chinaware companies -- it's also one of the most up to date.