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Royal Worcester

History of Royal Worcester

Early History

Founded in Worcester, England in 1751, the factory was established on the banks of the River Severn by a group of local businessmen, with the guidance of Dr John Wall, a physician.  Dr Wall, along with another of the group, apothecary William Davis, developed their method for producing porcelain.  Dr Wall secured the sum of £4,500 from the partners to establish the factory in Worcester and those original partnership deeds are still housed in the Museum of Worcester Porcelain.

The Flight & Barr Partnership

In 1783, the Worcester porcelain factory was purchased by Thomas Flight, the former London sales agent for the concern.  He purchased the factory for £3,000 from the former owners.  He let his two sons run the concern, with John Flight taking the lead role till his father's death in 1792.  Knowledge of this period is largely a result of the excellent diary that John Flight kept from 1785-1791. 

During this period, the factory was in poor repair.  Production was limited to low-end patterns of mostly blue and white porcelains after Chinese porcelain designs of the period.  It was also pressured by competition from inexpensive Chinese export porcelains, and from Thomas Turner's Caughley Factory.

Martin Barr joined the firm as a partner in 1792 - porcelains of this period are often identified by an incised capital "B" and later, by more elaborate printed and impressed marks.

Thomas Flight died in 1800, leaving the factory in the hands of his son Joseph Flight and Martin Barr.  Barr's sons, Martin Barr Jr and George Barr were being prepared at that time to run the factory.

The factory received a royal warrant from King George III in 1789 during his visit to the city.  Others followed, including a Royal Warrant by the Prince of Wales in 1807, another granted by the Princess of Wales in 1808.  The factory is still in service to the crown, by appointment to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

James Hadley (Artist)

By 1870 James Hadley had become the principal Worcester modeler and in 1875 he left the factory and set up his own modellling studio in High Street, Worchester.  Hadley is reputed to have sold complete output of his factory's ornamental vases and figures to Royal Worchester and he inscribed his name on the base of his master models.  In 1895 Worchester cancelled James Hadley's contract due to a drastic drop in the demand for elaborate luxury gods.  Softly painted roses in full bloom, painted in the Hadley style, later came to be known as Hadley Roses by collectors of Royal Worcester wares. 

In 1901 Royal Worcester tried to prevent Hadley & Sons Ltd and Locke & Co (Hadley's old friend Edward Locke) using the title "Worcester" on their wares.  The case against them was taken to the high court.  In 1902 the court ruled that they had to clearly distinguish their goods from those of the plaintiff.  Hadley then began using a new mark with a ribbon enclosing the words "Worcester, England".  In 1905, after James Hadley's death, Royal Worcester purchased the Hadley factory.

Modern History

At its height, the firm employed nearly 1,000 people, but after the 2006 merger with Spode, and heavy competition from overseas, the production was switched to factories in Stoke and abroad.  100 staff were made redundant in 2003 and other 100 went in 2005.  Fifteen porcelain painters left the Severn Street factory in 2006, together with 100 other workers.  The last trading date for Royal Worcester was 14th June, 2009.  The company went into administration on 6th November, 2008.

In April, 2009 Portmeirion Pottery purchased the rival Royal Worcester and Spode brands, together with some of the stock, after their parent company had been placed into administration the previous November.  The purchase does not include Royal Worcester and Spode's manufacturing facilities.  The Worchester site closed in June, 2009 after the staff thanked all the customers for their loyalty over the 258 years of trade.

The factory's former site includes a visitor centre and the independant Worchester Porcelain Meseum.  The Museum houses the world's largest collection of Worchester porcelain.  The collections date back to 1751 and the Victorian gallery, the ceramic collections, archives and records of factory production, form the primary resource for the study of Worchester porcelain and its history.

Information obtained from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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