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Doulton & Watts (1815-1854)

The Royal Doulton company began as a partnership between John Doulton, Martha Jones, and John Watts, with a factory at Vauxhall Walk, Lambeth, London trading as Jones, Watts & Doulton in 1815. After Martha Jones left the partnership in 1820, the trade name was changed to Doulton & Watts. The business specialised in making stoneware articles, including decorative bottles and salt glaze sewer pipes. The company took the name Doulton & Co. in 1853 after the retirement of John Watts.

By 1871, Henry Doulton, John's son, launched a studio at the Lambeth pottery, and offered work to designers and artists from the nearby Lambeth School of Art. The first to be engaged was George Tinworth followed by artists such as the Barlow family (Florence, Hannah, and Arthur), Frank Butler, Mark Marshall and Eliza Simmance. In 1882, Doulton purchased the small factory of Pinder, Bourne & Co, at Nile Street in Burslem, Staffordshire, which placed Doulton in the region known as The Potteries.

Doulton was popular for stoneware and ceramics, under the artistic direction of John Slater, who worked with figurines, vases, character jugs, and decorative pieces designed by the prolific Leslie Harradine. Doulton products came to the attention of the Royal family. In 1901 King Edward VII sold the Burslem factory the Royal Warrant, allowing the business to adopt new markings and a new name, Royal Doulton. The company added products during the first half of the 20th century while manufacturing fashionable and high-quality bone china.

The headquarters building and factory of the Royal Doulton ceramics firm were in Lambeth, on the south bank of the Thames. This Art Deco building was designed by T.P.Bennett. In 1939 Gilbert Bayes created the friezes that showed the history of pottery through the ages. The Lambeth factory closed in 1956 due to clean air regulations preventing urban production of salt glaze. Following closure, work was transferred to The Potteries. The factory building was demolished in 1978 and the friezes transferred to the Victoria & Albert Museum. The office building in Black Prince Road survives, complete with a frieze of potters and Sir Henry Doulton over the original main entrance, executed by Tinworth.

In 1971, S. Pearson & Son Ltd, a subsidiary of the Pearson industrial conglomerate acquired Doulton & Co. Pearson & Son owned Allied English Potteries and merged operations into Doulton & Co. All brands from Allied English Potteries and Doulton & Co. Ltd. including Royal Doulton, Minton, Beswick, Dunn Bennett, Booths, Colclough, Royal Albert, Royal Crown Derby, Paragon, Ridgway, Queen Anne, Royal Adderley and Royal Adderley Floral were moved under the umbrella of Royal Doulton Tableware LTD. Royal Doulton Tableware Ltd was a subsidiary of Doulton & Co. Ltd, itself a subsidiary of the Pearson Group Doulton & Co. became Royal Doulton plc in 1993. Waterford Wedgwood completed a takeover of Royal Doulton in 2005, acquiring all assets and brands.

On 30 September 2005, the Nile Street factory closed. Royal Doulton Ltd., along with other Waterford Wedgwood companies, went into administration on 5 January 2009. Royal Doulton is now part of WWRD Holdings Ltd. Some items are now made in the parent company, WWRD Holdings Ltd in Barlaston, south of the Potteries Conurbation. Further production is carried out in Indonesia.

Doulton & Co. Burslem

In 1877 or 1878, Henry and James Doulton purchased an interest in Pinder, Bourne & Co., manufacturers of domestic earthenware, sanitary fittings and electrical insulators at Nile St, Burslem. Doulton had bought sanitary ware from the Burslem firm and the investment, of £12,000, followed an approach from Shadford Pinder, the principle of the business. Speculatively, Pinder was probably concerned to improve the quality of his domestic earthenware, while the business’ sanitary and industrial ware would have been of interest to the Doultons. The investment established Henry Doulton as an earthenware manufacturer in the North Staffordshire potteries.

Shadforth Pinder continued as the principal of the business, however, the partnership was not a success and in 1882 Pinder accepted a settlement and retired. The business was then reconstituted under the name Doulton & Co., Burslem with Henry and James Doulton as the joint owners (Henry Lewis Doulton was to join his father and uncle as a partner in 1884).

Although Pinder had departed he left able employees. Henry Doulton confirmed the appointment of John Slater as the art director, and made John Cuthbert Bailey the manager of the Nile St factory. Bailey, only 23 at the time, was an inspired appointment and was to work for the company for the whole of his long working life.

Under the management of Bailey and Slater, the Nile St factory grew to match and even exceed the achievements of Lambeth. Bone china manufacture was commenced in 1884 and under the direction of Slater a team of talented artists was to produce the Doulton Burslem vases and ornamental porcelains that rival the products of Worcester, Minton and Derby. Charles J. Noke, trained at Worcester under the artist Charles Binns, was employed as a modeller and decorator at Burslem in 1889, eventually to succeed John Slater as art director in 1914.

Expansion of the Nile St factory commenced in 1884-85 with the building of a bone china factory, in 1887 an adjoining works in Sylvester St was acquired, and in 1889 and 1907 the works were further expanded to cope with demand. Whieldon Sanitary Potteries Ltd, formerly F. Winkle & Co. Ltd, was acquired in 1937 allowing sanitary and industrial ceramic manufacture to be transferred from Nile St allowing the expansion of fine earthenware and bone china production. Nile St continued in full production (for export) throughout the Second World War, and further expansion of the factory took place following the end of the war.

In 1956, the Doulton & Co. Burslem operations became the core of the new company Doulton Fine China Ltd.

See also: The Doulton family for more information on the role of Sir Henry Doulton’s descendants in the management of the business including a list of family Partnerships/Directors, and a family tree.

Doulton Fine China Ltd (1956–1973)

In January 1956 Doulton reorganised its operations into four subsidiaries, manufacturing sanitary ware, industrial porcelain (electrical insulators, laboratory porcelain etc), drainage pipes, and earthenware and fine china. The latter, the non-industrial ceramics business, became the responsibility of a new subsidiary company 'Doulton Fine China Ltd' registered in October 1955. The main products of the company were tableware, figurines and character jugs marketed under the Royal Doulton name.

Doulton was at the forefront of the consolidation of the UK ceramics industry during the 1960s taking over the businesses of Mintons Ltd and Dunn Bennett & Co. Ltd in 1968, and Webb Corbett Ltd (glass) and John Beswick Ltd in 1969. In November 1971 S. Pearson & Son Ltd, a member of the Pearson Group, and already owner of Allied English Potteries Ltd, acquired Doulton & Co. Ltd, merging the two groups under the Doulton name. Allied English Potteries Ltd was renamed Royal Doulton Tableware Ltd and became a subsidiary of Doulton & Co. Ltd responsible for the tableware and giftware businesses of both groups. Doulton & Co. Ltd continued to operate as the holding company for Pearson's ceramics interests until the float of Royal Doulton plc in 1993.

Following the merger with Allied English Potteries Ltd in November 1971 the Doulton Fine China Ltd business became part of Royal Doulton Tableware Ltd. Use of the Doulton Fine China Ltd name continued, however, until circa 1973.

Royal Doulton Tableware Ltd (1973–1993)

S. Pearson & Son Ltd, a subsidiary of the Pearson industrial conglomerate led by Lord Cowdray, acquired Doulton & Co. Ltd (Royal Doulton) in November 1971. Pearson was already the owner of Allied English Potteries Ltd and the two groups merged their operations from July 1972. A note in Tableware International in August 1972 (Vol 2, page 66) states that:

‘Allied English Potteries will become a subsidiary of Doulton and its name will be changed to Royal Doulton Tableware Ltd’.

From January 1973 Royal Doulton Tableware Ltd became custodian of the tableware and giftware assets of the two groups including the Royal Doulton, Minton, Beswick, Dunn Bennett, Booths, Colclough, Royal Albert, Royal Crown Derby, Paragon, Ridgway, Queen Anne, Royal Adderley and Royal Adderley Floral names, and their vast manufacturing operations. The company also held the 50 Lawleys china and glass retail stores inherited from Allied English Potteries. Royal Doulton Tableware Ltd was a subsidiary of Doulton & Co. Ltd, itself a subsidiary of the Pearson Group. The name was in use until at least 1983 and probably until the float of Royal Doulton plc in 1993. See the entries for the individual companies for further details.

Royal Doulton plc (1993-2005)

The tableware manufacturing interests of Pearson plc (S. Pearson & Son Ltd pre-1984) trading under the Royal Doulton name were floated on the London Stock Exchange in December 1993 as part of a rationalisation of the Pearson Group's industrial interests. The new, independent company was named ‘Royal Doulton plc’.

The new public company, Royal Doulton plc acquired Holland Studio Craft, a maker of resin sculptures, and art glass maker Caithness Glass in 1996. However, despite these acquisitions, Royal Doulton made substantial losses in 1997, 1998 and 1999 leading to the sale of Royal Crown Derby Ltd to a management-led group in early 2000, and the sale of Caithness Glass to Royal Worcester Spode Ltd in 2001. Despite substantial rationalisation, losses continued and in March 2002 Doulton announced the closure of its historic Baddeley Green factory and the transfer of production of ‘Royal Albert’ to Indonesia. The closure of the Beswick Gold St Works in Longton was announced in September 2002 and both the Baddeley Green and Gold St factories ceased production in December 2002. In March 2004 the company announced that its only remaining UK factory, the famous Nile St premises in Burslem, would also close.

Waterford Wedgwood who had purchased 15% of Doulton's shares in 1999 increased its stake to 21% in 2002 and completed a £39.9 million takeover of Royal Doulton plc in February 2005. On the 15th April 2005 production at the historic Nile Street site ceased and production of the Royal Doulton, Minton and Royal Albert brands was transferred to factories of the Waterford Wedgwood group.

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