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The Royal Doulton company is one of the world’s largest manufacturers and distributors in the premium tableware and giftware market.
The Royal Doulton story began in 1815, the year of Waterloo. It was then that John Doulton invested his life savings of 100 pounds to become a partner in one of the many small Thames-side potteries of the day at Lambeth, South London.
The pottery produced utilitarian items in stoneware such as candlesticks, spirit flasks, and bottles for the many local factories. By 1826 the firm was trading as Doulton & Watts, and had moved to bigger premises in Lambeth High Street, which became known as the Lambeth Pottery.
A few years later John’s son Henry joined the firm. Driven by his dedication and personal ambition, he quickly acquired a full knowledge of all aspects of the pottery trade. It was Henry who became the driving force behind the firm’s growth. He was the first potter to appreciate the likely impact of the “sanitary revolution” being urged by social reformers. In 1846, he established at Lambeth the first factory in the world for the production of stoneware drainpipes, conduits and related wares.
With the firm’s future secure, Henry turned his attention to decorative wares. Inspired by the work of the Kensington School of Art he established a studio which attracted leading artists of the day including the Barlow sisters and George Tinworth. The Doulton artists were exceptionally innovative and produced an unprecedented variety of salt-glazed stoneware which won many prizes at the numerous exhibitions of the late 1800’s
Fired by the phenomenal success of the Lambeth art wares Henry Doulton decided to extend his interests into the field of fine earthenware and bought a factory in Nile Street, Burslem, North Staffordshire, the traditional home of the English pottery industry since Roman times.
The Nile Street factory began to develop the reputation for artistry quality and diversity that has characterised it ever since. In 1884, a new wing was built for manufacture of fine bone china and a still larger group of designers, artists, etchers, engravers and modellers was recruited to cope with demand, especially from overseas for bone china tableware.
Charles Noke was among the many new artists who came to the Burslem factory. He is perhaps most responsible for the image of Royal Doulton in the 20th Century, having investigated the figures range, the character and toby jugs, and many experimental glazes such as flambé.
Ten years after his arrival in Burslem, Henry Doulton was knighted by Queen Victoria for his services to the ceramic industry. He was the first potter to receive his honour, which followed his Albert Medal from the Society of Arts in 1885.
In 1905, King Edward VII conferred another notable honour on the company granting it the Royal Warrant and specifically authorising the use of the word “Royal” to describe its products. The latter is a rarely granted honour, quite distinct from the Royal Warrant itself.
In the late 1960’s some of the most collectable names in the history of china merged with Royal Doulton - Royal Albert, Royal Crown Derby and Minton – and the Royal Doulton company became a formidable entity in the Staffordshire potteries.
Each of these brands has their own identity:
Royal Doulton is a quintessential British brand of quality china tableware and collectables. It successfully blends the rich heritage of the English potteries with a continuous commitment to excellence in craftsmanship and design.
Royal Albert is passionate about florals. Taking as its inspiration the English country garden and the national flower – the rose – Royal Albert has been dedicated top English grace, elegance and romance since Victorian times.
Dating back to 1793, the Minton brand is the epitome of good taste with a design pedigree that includes Christopher Dresser and AW Pugin. It has always been patronised by the cream of society.
Royal Crown Derby is a prestigious English brand with a rich heritage dating back to 1750 and with designs inspired by the Orient. In 2000 Royal Doulton sold the Royal Crown Derby brand, however in many markets (including Australia) Royal Crown Derby continues to be distributed by the Royal Doulton company.
In 2004 the Royal Doulton company became part of the Waterford Wedgwood Group.
Australians have always appreciated Royal Doulton. Traditionally, this has been one of the strongest markets for our product, and today our sales figures per capita of population are third in the world.
The original agents for Doulton in Australia were the Shorter family. John Shorter had the responsibility of supervising the Doulton display at the Great Sydney Exhibition in 1879, housed in the magnificent Garden Palace which was specifically built in the Botanic Gardens.
The Doulton and Watts contribution to this exhibition was well received, both by the public and by the judges, and it was decided to incorporate it into the Museum which was to be built to preserve this Exhibition for the people to enjoy. Sadly, the Garden Palace burnt to the ground before this could happen, destroying all pieces.
The factory generously replaced the display for the Museum, sending crates of examples of Faience, Impasto, Silicon ware and other Doulton products, and these formed the basis of one of the world’s best displays of our product. This impressive collection is now found in the Powerhouse Museum, and has been joined by John Shorter’s personal collection of several hundred items.
The Shorter Family remained the Australia Doulton agents until 1979, when the present company, Royal Doulton Australia was formed.
Today, Royal Doulton Australia is based in Castle Hill and has around 300 employees throughout Australia. The company has a wholesale sales force and a retail sales team with 70 retail concession stores within Myer, David Jones and Your Habitat.
Royal Doulton Australia has been the Australian distributor of Royal Crown Derby since 2000, and since February 2007 has been the Australian distributor of Rosenthal and Lenox (which includes the kate spade home collection).
The above history information on Royal Doulton was kindly provided by Jacqui Walker at www.royaldoulton.com.au