Royal Doulton

By: Roger Hoffman

Mention the name "Royal Doulton" and most collectors will immediately speak of the company's more commonly known lines of 20th century figurines, animals, character jugs, tobies and bunnykins. In reality this venerable British company has produced a wide variety of products in its nearly 200 year history, from sewer pipes to whisky flasks, that continue to fascinate collectors. A little history may help to put the company in perspective.

John Doulton (1793-1873) joined a small pottery in Vauxhall Walk, Lambeth, South London in 1812. When the son of the original owner, Mrs. Martha Jones, ran afoul of the law and left England in a hurry, she sold her interest to Doulton and his partner John Watts in 1815. Thus the seeds of the modern Royal Doulton Group were sown. The company, initially known as Doulton and Watts, produced a line of stoneware bottles, jars, tobacco containers, match stands, butter dishes and utilitarian based industrial products in addition to some traditional brown stoneware tobies.

The opportunity to establish a fiscally strong company occurred when a cholera epidemic reached London in 1832. The horrible sanitary conditions in London that developed as a byproduct of the Industrial Revolution added to the spread of the disease. Doulton and Watts played a major role in the production of water and drain pipes in London and throughout England, becoming the leading producer of sanitary ware in the country.

While credit for setting the company on a firm foundation is given to John Doulton and John Watts, it was the genius of Doulton's son Henry (1820-1897), who joined the firm in 1835, that propelled the company forward to reach artistic heights. Demands for ceramic products of a utilitarian nature were the primary mission of the company through the 1860's until Henry Doulton aligned the company with the nearby Lambeth School of Art.

During the 1870's pieces designed by noted Lambeth School artists such as sculptor George Tinworth (1843-1913) and Hannah Barlow (1851-1916) and her sister Florence, were fired in the Doulton kilns and drew the favorable attention of art critics, the general public and even Queen Victoria who ordered pieces sent to Windsor Castle. Having attracted the attention of the royal family, the factory was granted a Royal Warrant by King Edward VII in 1901. This resulted in the company adopting bold new markings featuring a crown and lion and a new name, Royal Doulton.

Early Doulton marks prior to the "royal" designation include, but are not limited to, Doulton and Watts, Doulton Lambeth, Doulton & Co., Lambeth and Doulton Burslem (from the 1882 purchase of a factory there). Although many of the pieces produced in the 19th century bearing these early marks are priced beyond the reach of the average collector, there are many types of Royal Doulton collectibles easily affordable to most.

Figurines have played a prominent role since the early days of the company. Art Director Charles Noke, who joined the company in the late 1880's, was the force behind the HN series of figurines which represented a revival of the Staffordshire figurines of the 18th century. Figurines of the HN series (1913 to present) are made from earthenware or the more delicate English Porcelain, formerly known as English Translucent China (ETC). Although several thousand HN numbers have been issued, many are size and color variations of each other. Perhaps the most prominent modeler of the first half of the 20th century was Leslie Harradine who produced a prolific number of figurines over a forty year period. Even the most casual of Royal Doulton enthusiasts would recognize Harradine's figures including "The Old Balloon Seller", "The Balloon Man", "The Flower Seller's Children", "Top o' the Hill", "Autumn Breezes", and "Biddy Penny Farthing". An excellent reference source for this form is "Royal Doulton Figurines" by Desmond Eyles and Richard Dennis.

The largest number of figurines made by Royal Doulton is the "fair ladies" type but there are several other types that a collector might focus on. A number of figurines reflect childhood themes. The delicate Kate Greenaway series is a wonderful example. Character studies reflect all walks of life including street vendors, nautical characters, and country folks as well as mature ladies, clowns, sea characters and various occupations. For lovers of literature there are Dickens and Shakespearean characters. History lovers may enjoy the Soldiers of the Revolution and Williamsburg series in addition to a wide range of historical personages.

From the 1870's through the mid 20th century Royal Doulton produced a variety of products that are highly collectible. Included are Series Ware pieces, introduced in 1900 Charles Noke, that reflect coaching scenes, early motorists, Dickens characters, golfing and Isaac Walton. Commemorative pieces from the time of Queen Victoria through current royalty are available and appealing particularly to history buffs. The stoneware pieces that emerged from the Lambeth Art Studio also deserve consideration for those with deep pockets that allow access to such pieces.
Both tobies and character jugs are an important part of the Doulton line. The toby is a full seated or standing figure while a character jug features only the head and shoulders and is frequently seen with a symbolic handle.

Once again, it was the insight of Charles Noke that prompted the widespread production of character jugs in 1934 with his "John Barleycorn" jug. Assisted in modeling by Harry Fenton and Leslie Harradine in the 1930's and 40's a number of jugs, in six different sizes, were introduced, produced and withdrawn. Some had production runs for a limited number of years while others were available for many decades. There are many themes including literature, military, nautical, historical, London, Christmas, royalty and celebrities.

In recent years Doulton has been producing jugs on a limited edition basis thus favorably influencing the supply end of the value equation. Character jugs are traditionally made of earthenware but Royal Doulton did make some jugs from English Porcelain from 1968 to 1971. Their value on today's secondary market is a function of supply and demand. An interesting addendum to jug collecting is the collection of derivatives of jugs in the form of ash pots, ash trays, toothpick holders, musical jugs, napkin rings, wall pockets and sugar bowls.

Photos: Part of the collection owned by John & Joan Spital of Sarasota, FL.

There are a number of other Royal Doulton product lines that may also be of interest to the collector. The Kingsware pieces produced from 1899 through 1946 represent a wonderful potential collection. A labor intensive process produced many flasks of a dark brown highly glazed appearance with green, yellow and reddish brown characters depicted. Many were actually Dewar's whiskey flasks that were originally seen only as functional rather than collectible.

Happy is the collector who started collecting in the 1960's, but value can still be found today. The limited number of items produced also allows the collector to eventually find all that is out there.

In developing a Doulton collection, be sure to do some homework on the subject so that you can be an informed collector. Don't be afraid to ask questions of dealers. Most love it when you show enthusiasm for what they are offering.

About the author:

Roger and Sally Hoffman, specialize in Royal Doulton collectibles and elegant beaded purses. They do many antique and collectible shows here in Florida and are routinely available at the monthly West Palm Beach Show and the Pinellas Park Expo shows. They can be reached at (941) 358 6641 or

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