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Paragon China was introduced by the Star China Co. in 1903. This company began production at the St Gregory's Works, Gregory Street in Longton in the last few years of the 19th century and moved to the Atlas Works, Sutherland Road, Longton in March 1903.
The partners were initially Herbert James Aynsley, John Gerrard Aynsley and William Illingworth. Herbert was the eldest son of John, who founded the well-known firm of John Aynsley & Sons. He had gained much experience in the manufacture of good quality china, having been in business with his father for many years. John Aynsley retired in July 1900.
In 1907 Herbert Aynsley's youngest daughter married Hugh Irving, who was a sales representative for the Rubian Art Pottery Ltd in Longton. Irving subsequently joined his father-in-law as a partner in the Star China Company when Illingworth retired in 1910.
Such was the popularity of Paragon China that in 1919 the company decided to change its name and in 1920 became The Paragon China Company. Hugh Irving, who had been in active control of the business for many years, became sole proprietor in September 1927, when the partnership was dissolved and Herbert Aynsley retired. In 1930, the Company became known as Paragon China Limited.
Irving was a very astute businessman making the best of every opportunity afforded him. He introduced modern methods of publicity such as window display competitions for retailers and he organised events attended by celebrities of the day. These attracted much publicity in the national press, further encouraging shops to stock Paragon products.
Hugh Irving and his sons, Leslie and Guy, who had joined the business in 1928 and 1933, respectively, continued their association with the firm until it was taken over by Thomas C. Wild & Sons Ltd, manufacturers of Royal Albert bone china, in 1960. In July 1964, Wild and its subsidiary companies, including Paragon, merged with the Lawley Group Ltd which later that year changed its name to Allied English Potteries Ltd.
Paragon became part of Royal Doulton in 1972 and continued to produce china under that name until 1991. By 1989 the name and patterns had been absorbed into Royal Albert and by 1992 the Paragon name was discontinued. Some later Paragon patterns from this period continued in production under Royal Albert and were still available until the Royal Albert name was discontinued by Doulton.
In 1926 Paragon introduced the 'Two for Joy' design to commemorate the birth of HRH Princess Elizabeth. This depicted two magpies which were reputed to have been seen at the christening of the Princess. HRH The Duchess of York was delighted with the design and purchased some of the china. Thus, began a long history of royal patronage.
The Queen (Mary) and other members of the Royal Family were attracted by the Paragon designs and regularly ordered it for use in their own households or as gifts for others. In April 1933 Paragon was honoured by being granted a Warrant of Appointment to Her Majesty The Queen (Mary). Royal Warrants may be granted to people or to companies who regularly supply goods or services to a particular member of the Royal family. Strict regulations govern the warrant, which allows the grantee or his company to use the legend 'By Appointment' and display the relevant Royal Coat of Arms on products.
Towards the end of the 20's Paragon had started labelling some of their better quality china 'Royal' Paragon. The granting of the Royal Warrant prompted the company to introduce the new 'coat of arms' backstamp(trademark) and to describe all their products as Royal Paragon china. Unfortunately, in so doing, Paragon fell foul of the authorities as Warrants of Appointment do not carry the right to use the word 'Royal' and the prefix was withdrawn. Current evidence suggests that 'Royal' Paragon was no longer produced after the end of 1934.
In 1938 the company was similarly honoured by the new Queen, now Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, and in turn, her daughter, Her Majesty The Queen granted a Warrant of Appointment in 1955. A list of the Royal Warrants of Appointment granted is shown below. These may be followed in the Paragon backstamps from 1933 onwards. Interestingly, Royal Warrants of Appointment granted by both HM Queen Elizabeth II and HM Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother to Royal Albert Limited for the manufacture of Paragon Fine Bone China are still in existence.
|1933 - 1936||Her Majesty The Queen|
|1936 - 1953||Her Majesty Queen Mary, The Queen Mother|
|1954 - 1961||The Late Queen Mary|
|1938 - 1952||Her Majesty The Queen|
|1953 - 1960 (reissued in 1963)||Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother|
|1955 - 1960 (reissued in 1963)||Her Majesty The Queen (Elizabeth II)|
Backstamps are essentially trade marks, the main purpose of which is to indicate the manufacturer of a piece of china. Changes in these trade marks recorded from time to time enable collectors to estimate the approximate date of manufacture of an item. In the UK, a trade mark can be registered with the Patent Office to ensure that the manufacturer has sole right to its use. During the period 1899-1940, Star, then Paragon, registered only a single trade mark. Thus, though many different Star and Paragon backstamps can be found, all, bar one, were unregistered and cannot be dated with any great certainty.
Many ot the backstamps listed here are detailed in Geoffrey 'A Goddens Encyclopaedia of British Pottery and Porcelain Marks' and 'Encyclopaedia of British Porcelain Manufacturers' where that author gives an indication of when new styles were introduced. These estimates are thought to have been based on information gathered from the Pottery Gazette Diary. Corrections and additions, brought to light by the most recent research, have been included in the backstamps detailed.
Collectors of Paragon will soon come across marks not included in previously published lists and many mistakes arise because of unrecorded subtle changes in the star mark between c1915 and c1933. Further, the evidence suggests that Paragon were not too strict in their use of backstamps and some were used long after they had been superseded. This can give rise to each piece in a trio having a different backstamp, though, presumably, breakage replacement apart, they were all produced at the same time.
For each of the backstamps shown, the date it was introduced has been estimated, the mark being used from then on. For some of them, it has also been possible to deduce a date after which the mark was no longer used, for some reason, though, generally, backstamps of any particular type were used until the supply of transfers used to produce them became depleted.
Each mark has been coded to aid identification. Special backstamps, such as those found on the various nursery ware series, commemorative issues and china produced for specific retail outlets, have not been included but these items can readily be dated from the pattern number or from the historic event commemorated.
Prior to April 1933, the Company's backstamp was generally based on the star motif which was derived from the original name of the Company - The Star China Company. The name was changed towards the end of 1919.
From April 1933, when Paragon was granted its first Royal Warrant of Appointment by HM Queen Mary, the Company incorporated in their trademark or backstamp, the arms of the Royal Warrant Grantor(s). During this period dating can be estimated from the Royal Warrant information as above.
The above information was kindly provided by Brian Denton, Secretary, Paragon International Collectors Club. For more information visit their website: www.paragoncollector.org.uk