Skip to main content
Select Source:

Royal Doulton plc

Royal Doulton plc

Minton House, London Road
Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire ST4 7QD
United Kingdom
Telephone: (01782) 292292
Fax: (01782) 292099
Web site: http://www.royal-doulton.com

Public Company
Incorporated:
1854 as Doulton & Co.
Employees: 6,000
Sales: £190.3 million (US$307.6 million) (1999)
Stock Exchanges: London
Ticker Symbol: RDN
NAIC: 327112 Vitreous China, Fine Earthenware, and Other Pottery Product Manufacturing; 327212 Other Pressed and Blown Glass and Glassware Manufacturing; 421220 Home Furnishing Wholesalers; 442299 All Other Home Furnishings Stores

Royal Doulton plc is one of the worlds best-known fine china companies, designing and producing highquality tableware and giftware under the popular brand names of Royal Doulton, Minton, Royal Albert, Caithness Glass, and Holland Studio Craft. The company operates five ceramic factories, four of which are in England and the other in Indonesia, and two glass factories in Scotland. Its products are marketed in more than 80 countries, with non-U.K. sales accounting for more than half the total and sales in the United States amounting to nearly 30 percent. In addition to its commercial product lines available in higher-end specialty shops and department storesincluding the companys own retail outlets, which include some 360 stores and concessions within department storesRoyal Doulton also has accepted commissions to produce unique china service for royalty, wealthy individuals, embassies, luxury hotels, and Englands House of Lords.

19th-century Origins

The history of Royal Doulton may be traced to the early 19th century, when John Doulton began an apprenticeship at Londons Fulham Pottery, one of the most important of the early commercial potteries in England. Becoming an accomplished potter known for his hard work and innovation, Doulton found employment in Lambeth, along the south bank of the Thames River, at a small pottery business owned by Martha Jones, who had inherited it from her late husband. In 1815, Jones asked Doulton and another employee, John Watts, to enter into a partnership with her, and the three founded a business called Jones, Watts and Doulton.

Producing utilitarian salt glaze and stoneware ceramics, stone jars, bottles, and flasks in its early years, the company eventually expanded its line to include mugs and jugs modeled in the likenesses of Napoleon and the Duke of Wellington, bottles for beer, gallipots (ointment pots), and blacking bottles. As a laboring child, Charles Dickens was said to have pasted labels on thousands of Doulton blacking bottles. Among product lines that became central to the history of Royal Doulton was the Toby jug, or beverage mug, first produced in the early 18th century. This jug was designed to represent a seated male figure, stout and smiling, with the spouts at either side of the mugs rim serving as points on the characters tricorn hat. Figurines were another important product line, and Doulton became known for the quality and attention to detail of its figurines. The earliest recorded figurative work produced by the company is attributed to John Doulton, who made a flask depicting Queen Caroline around 1820.

Five of John Doultons sons joined him in the family business, but the second son, Henry, took his fathers place in the pottery. Henry had become a master potter, learning all aspects of the business from the production stages through management, and he played an important role in product development and in improving working conditions at the Lambeth pottery. In the 1840s Henry Doulton established the worlds first factory for making stoneware drainpipes, a significant development that helped England achieve improvements in healthcare by providing more sanitary conditions through the provision of piped water. As the pipe business continued to thrive, Henry opened an art studio in the early 1870s where he encouraged and employed talented artists. Meantime, the company was incorporated in 1854 as Doulton &Co.

Henry also became known for his interest in the welfare of workers, a rare concern at a time when industrialists capitalized on cheap labor. Potteries generally were hazardous places during this time, as arsenic was used in painting and lead in glazing. Workers often succumbed to a debilitating lung disease then known as potters rot. In addition, laborers had to carry an enormous amount of weight, lifting several tons of materials from depths of eight to ten feet. To help workers with this burden, Henry Doulton obtained a mechanical hydraulic lifting device to help eliminate some of the manual labor. He also encouraged scientific research to determine more modern and safe methods of production.

In 1877 Henry Doulton bought a factory at Burslem in Stoke-on-Trent, a city known as The Potteries and home of English bone china. Other famous potters located here included Wedgwood, Minton, Beswick, and Royal Adderly. Indeed, the area became the center for potters, given its wealth of raw materials including clay for earthenware, coal to heat the kilns, as well as lead and salt for glazing. The established potters in this area initially were annoyed when Doulton moved in on their territory, and they predicted doom for the newcomer. Henry Doulton summed their attitude up thus: In their view we Southerners know little about God and nothing at all about potting.

Through persistence and careful investment in staff and plant, Henry Doulton did succeed. The companys early success came from earthenware, decorated in the limited colors available from lead glaze at that time. This expansion into tableware design and decoration began in 1877, when Henry Doulton entered into a partnership with and later bought out Pinder & Bourne Company, a medium-sized producer of earthenware tableware. Later, Doultons art director John Slater and manager John C. Bailey encouraged Henry to pursue the idea of using bone china in production, a material that could be painted with more and brighter colors. By 1884, Henry Doulton had given his consent to the new medium, and the success of the results attracted to Doulton an outstanding team of modelers, decorators, and painters.

By the late 1880s, the company and its products had become internationally famous. In 1885 Henry was honored for his achievements, receiving the Albert Medal of the Society of Arts for his encouragement in the production of artistic pottery. Only one Albert Medal was awarded each year, and previous recipients had included the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Sir Rowland Hill, honored for his creation of the penny postage system. Henrys greatest honor, perhaps, came in 1887, when Queen Victoria awarded him knighthood; he was the first potter ever to be distinguished in this fashion. When Sir Henry Doulton died in 1897, he left behind a company that had diversified and established itself as one of the leaders in its field.

Becoming Royal Doulton in the 20th Century

Sir Henry Doultons son, Henry Lewis Doulton, who had been made a partner in the firm in 1881, became a leader at the company. In 1901, four years after his fathers death, he received on behalf of the company the Royal Warrant of King Edward VII and was granted permission to add the word Royal to the Doulton namea great and rare honor. As chairman and managing director, Henry Lewis Doulton guided the company through a difficult recession and period of war between 1900 and 1920.

Regarding product development, Henry Lewis Doulton was particularly interested in experimental glaze processes that produced unique, rare color effects. One such glaze, Rouge Flambe, a dramatic red and black glaze, remained unique to Royal Doulton, with a secret formula known only to three or four people in the company into the 1990s. The company also introduced new lines of character jugs, figurines, and decorative and utility china on earthenware and bone china bodies, and their popularity continued to grow. The character jugs represented a continuation of the beverage mugs of the 19th century and gained popularity in the 1930s when they were produced to represent famous characters from English songs, literature, and history.

In America, Royal Doulton became known as the finest English china. Indeed, Royal Doultons presence in the American market was an important part of the companys growth and success. In 1945, a subsidiary, Royal Doulton USA Inc., was formed to help in the sales and marketing of the products in the United States.

Family leadership in the company continued. Ronald Duneau Doulton, a cousin of Henry Lewis Doulton, became one of the first directors of the business when it changed to a limited company, known as Doulton & Co. Limited, in January 1899. Lewis John Eric Hooper, son of Henry Lewiss sister, joined Royal Doulton in 1902. Under Erics guidance much scientific research into the physical and chemical behavior of ceramic materials was carried out and new technology was developed and installed. His nephew, Orrok Sherwood Doulton, joined the company in 1935 and became director. Under his leadership, Royal Doulton captured the Queens Awards for Industry, Technological Innovation, and Outstanding Export Performance.

In 1960, Doulton & Co. introduced English Translucent China, a medium it pioneered and from which the costly ingredient of calcined bone had been eliminated. Through this new product, which became known as Royal Doulton Fine China, the company was able to offer the qualities associated with fine bone china at a modest cost to consumers.

Company Perspectives:

The Royal Doulton group owns an internationally recognised stable of brands, with a large number of outstanding products. It is continuing to build on the clear brand positioning that has already been established.

Acquisitions and the Pearson Interregnum: 1968-93

The year 1968 saw the first series of acquisitions by Doulton & Co. It first purchased the world-renowned Minton China, a company founded by Thomas Minton in 1793. Minton dominated the industry during the middle of the 19th century and the companys innovations included the acid gold decorating process, the majolica-type body, the pate-sur-pate relief decoration technique, encaustic tiles, and Parian statuary. In the same year, Doulton acquired Dunn Bennett, a company founded in 1876 when Thomas Wood-Bennett joined his father-in-law William Dunn to begin potting, concentrating on hotelware. In 1969, Webb Corbett and Beswick became part of the Royal Doulton group. Webb Corbett was founded in 1897 to make English fulllead crystal; Beswick traced its history to 1890, when James Wright Beswick and his son began producing both table and ornamental ware. The hand-cut crystal of Webb Corbett later would be rebranded under the Royal Doulton name.

Orrok Sherwood Doultons sons, Mark and Michael, both joined the company. Michael Doulton joined the company in 1970, working under a fictitious name while learning the different aspects of pottery production. Starting in 1976 he began acting as traveling ambassador for the company and with the formation of the Royal Doulton International Collectors Club, a group dedicated to the collection and preservation of Royal Doulton products, he served as honorary president beginning in 1980. Although the Doulton family remained an important and integral part to running the business, leadership extended outside the family in later years.

The greatest merger in the history of ceramics came in 1972, when Pearson PLC purchased Doulton & Co. Pearson had a controlling interest in Allied English Potteries and combined the two tableware groups under the Royal Doulton Tableware name. Pearsons emergence in the pottery industry came about almost by accident. Originally, the Pearson empire was concerned mainly with construction engineering and the development of oil fields. But after investing money into a struggling business called Booths pottery during the 1920s, Pearson eventually became the controlling shareholder. Then, 20 years later, Pearson began increasing their pottery interests. In 1944, the company bought Colcloughs of Longton, a business founded in 1893 that made moderately priced bone china teaware. Pearson combined its Booth pottery with that of Colcloughs, forming a new entity called Booth and Colclough. In 1952, Pearson acquired the Lawley Group, a company controlling a national chain of specialist china and glass retailers and pottery manufacturers, including Ridgway and Adderly. Seven years later they purchased Swinnertons and Alcock, Lindley and Bloor, manufacturers of redware pots. Other names joining the group were Royal Crown Derby, Royal Albert, and Paragon. Royal Crown Derby, a luxury brand, traced its roots back to 1750 and founder William Duesbury; it was the oldest surviving maker of English porcelain. Founded in 1896, Royal Albert was a tableware maker whose Old Country Roses, introduced in 1962, was one of the best-selling bone china patterns of all time.

In 1974, Royal Doulton revived the concept of its original Lambethware, creating a casual tableware with a country charm and practicality, being oven and freezer proof and unaffected by detergent or the dishwasher. Royal Doulton Tableware Limited grew to represent approximately one-third of the entire British tableware industry.

Also during the period of ownership by Pearson, Royal Doulton management focused on achieving a greater degree of efficiency at its facilities. From 1987 to 1990, the company spent £10 million (approximately US$16.4 million) annually to automate and mechanize its factories, resulting in even finer quality and manufacturing flexibility. The company maintained a dozen factories producing all types and grades of product at that time.

Independent But Struggling: Mid-1990s and Beyond

Pearson began focusing more on its media interests in the 1990s and divested many of its other holdings. Royal Doulton plc was thus spun off from Pearson in December 1993 and was listed on the London stock exchange; according to analysts, the company had a market value of between £150 million and £200 million at the time.

Key Dates:

1750:
Royal Crown Derby, maker of fine porcelain products, is established.
1793:
Minton China is founded.
1815:
Jones, Watts and Doulton is founded in London.
1854:
Company is incorporated as Doulton & Co.
1877:
Doulton purchases a factory in Stoke-on-Trent.
1884:
Doulton begins using bone china in its production.
1890:
Beswick is established as maker of table and ornamental ware.
1896:
Tablewear maker Royal Albert is founded.
1897:
Webb Corbett is formed to make English fulllead crystal.
1899:
Firm changes to a limited company, under the name Doulton & Co. Limited.
1901:
Company is granted permission to add Royal to the Doulton brand name.
1961:
Caithness Glass is founded in Scotland.
1968:
Doulton acquires Minton China.
1969:
Doulton makes two further acquisitions: Webb Corbett and Beswick; Caithness Glass begins making paperweights.
1972:
Pearson PLC purchases Doulton & Co., merging Doulton with its other pottery brands, including Royal Crown Derby and Royal Albert.
1986:
Holland Studio Craft is founded as a producer of collectible cold-cast resin sculptures.
1993:
Pearson spins off Royal Doulton plc as publicly traded company.
1996:
Royal Doulton acquires Holland Studio and Caithness Glass.
1998:
Major restructuring is launched.
1999:
Waterford Wedgwood plc acquires a 15 percent stake in the company.
2000:
Royal Crown Derby is sold to a management-led group.

Under the leadership of Stuart Lyons, Royal Doulton returned to a strategy of acquisition in its initial years as a newly independent company. During 1996 the firm acquired Holland Studio Craft and Caithness Glass, the latter for £5.5 million. Holland Studio had been founded in 1986 as a producer of collectible cold-cast resin sculptures. Among the subjects of these sculptures were dragons, wizards, frogs, bears, and pigs. Established in Scotland in 1961 as a maker of art glass, Caithness Glass expanded into paperweights in 1969 and soon gained a world-class reputation for the production of highquality abstract paperweights. Another development in 1996 was the start-up of production at a new manufacturing plant in Indonesia. With sales of fine china stagnant, this new facility was key to the companys strategy of expanding production of casual tableware for two of the companys core export markets, the United States and Japan. The new facility also was designed to counter the effects of high U.K. labor costs. Overall sales were flat in 1996, increasing just four percent to £251.8 million.

The situation at the company soon worsened. Lyons resigned suddenly in May 1997, after 12 years at the helm, following a failed acquisition of a large U.S. fine china company whose identity was not revealed. The botched takeover cost Royal Doulton £1.6 million in advisers fees. Further acquisitions were put on hold as the new chief executive, Patrick Wenger, a 37-year company veteran, concentrated on turning around the companys core business. A restructuring was launched that included a workforce reduction of 330 because of the closure of its St. Marys factory in Stoke-on-Trent as well as a restructuring of the group into six product divisionstableware, giftware and collectibles, crystal and glass, hotel and airlines, prestige products, and licensingeach headed by its own managing director. Saddled with too much inventory, Royal Doulton drastically reduced its range of products, cutting the number of tableware patterns from 320 to 120 during 1997. Extraordinary charges totaled £11.6 million in 1997, leading to a net loss of £1.8 million for the year. Turnover, meantime, barely increased, resting at £252.2 million.

Continued inventory overstocking, production overcapacity, and high debt levels combined with the economic turmoil in Asia to further batter Royal Doulton in 1998. In the midst of a year in which sales declined 5.3 percent to £238.8 million (US$396.1 million), Hamish Grossart was appointed nonexecutive chairman in May. Grossart was an accountant by training who had gained a reputation as a corporate turnaround artist. Within months of his appointment, he was serving as acting chief executive following the involvement of Wenger in a serious automobile accident in Australia in November that left him unable to return to his management duties. In December, Royal Doulton announced a fundamental restructuring program involving the cutting of a further 1,200 jobs (or nearly one-fifth of the remaining workforce), the consolidation of three warehouses into one, a temporary closure of most of the companys U.K. factories, a further writedown of inventory, and the closure of some underperforming retail outlets. Overall, the company was aiming to reduce the number of product lines it produced from 48,000 to fewer than 20,000 over the four years that Grossart estimated it would take to complete a turnaround. Needing to modernize its product styles, it also was working to speed up the development of new concepts, attempting to reduce the time from design to market from two years to six months. Charges related to the restructuring added up to £47.7 million, resulting in a net loss for 1998 of £45 million.

In August 1999 a secondary stock offering raised £31.3 million. This fresh infusion of cash helped Royal Doulton reduce its net indebtedness from £43.6 million to £17.8 million over the course of 1999. The company was far from a turnaround, however, as sales declined a further 20 percent, to £190.3 million (US$307.6 million). About £11 million of the reduction represented sales that were lost because of interruptions in deliveries caused by the bungled implementation of new warehouse software being installed to meet Y2K compliance. Other reasons for the sales decline were the continued economic problems in Asia and the closure of an additional 61 underperforming retail outlets, including both stores and concessions within department stores. A further threat emerged in November 1999 when arch-rival Waterford Wedgwood plc acquired a 15 percent stake in Royal Doulton on the open market for £11.1 million. Waterford termed the transaction a strategic investment and not a prelude to an outright bid, but nevertheless declined to rule out a future bid if a rival takeover company emerged. For 1999, Royal Doulton posted a net loss of £34.6 million (US$55.6 million), including a restructuring charge of £9.1 million.

At the beginning of 2000, Wayne Nutbeen was promoted to chief operating officer, taking over day-to-day management duties from Grossart, who remained chairman. Nutbeen had worked for Waterford Wedgwood from 1988 to 1996, when he was hired away by Royal Doulton to head up the companys Australian subsidiary (Nutbeen, in fact, had been in the accident in Australia that ended the career of Wenger). Nutbeen then became head of Royal Doultons North American operations at the beginning of 1999. Disposals marked the first six months of 2000. The head office in Stoke-on-Trent was sold. In addition, the venerable Royal Crown Derby porcelain subsidiary was sold to a management-led group for £16.5 million as the company continued to scale back its exposure to the higher ends of the market (Royal Doulton would, however, continue to distribute the brand). These moves helped cut pretax losses for the six months to June 30 from the £14.4 million figure of the previous year to £1.3 million. Sales were down 3 percent, a vast improvement over the year-earlier result. Although it was too early to declare the consummation of a turnaround, and a takeover by Waterford or some other firm was still a distinct possibility, Royal Doulton clearly had made much progress on its road to recovery.

Principal Subsidiaries

Royal Doulton (UK) Limited; PT Doulton Multifortuna (Indonesia; 70%); Caithness Glass Limited; China Millers Limited (50%); Royal Doulton Australia Pty. Limited; NV Royal Doulton (Europe) SA (Belgium); Royal Doulton Canada Limited; Royal Doulton Hong Kong Limited; Royal Doulton Japan KK; Royal Doulton Benelux B.V. (Netherlands); Royal Doulton USA Limited.

Principal Competitors

Corning Incorporated; Dansk, Inc.; Department 56, Inc.; Fitz and Floyd, Silvestri Corporation Inc.; Lenox, Incorporated; Mikasa, Inc.; Noritake Co., Limited; Oneida Ltd.; Spode Limited; Tiffany & Co.; Villeroy & Boch AG; Waterford Wedgwood plc.

Further Reading

Doulton, Michael, Discovering Royal Doulton, Shrewsbury: Swan-Hill Press, 1993.

Eyles, Desmond, Royal Doulton, 1815-1965, London: Hutchinson, 1965.

Fallon, James, Parent to Spin Off Royal Doulton, HFDThe Weekly Home Furnishings Newspaper, August 9, 1993, p. 44.

Gosse, Edmund, Sir Henry Doulton: The Man of Business As a Man of Imagination, London: Hutchinson, 1970.

Litchfield, Michael, Crown Derby in Sale Shock, Staffordshire Sentinel June 7, 2000.

, Nutbeen to Take Over at Royal Doulton, Staffordshire Sentinel, November 29, 1999.

Neiss, Doug, Royal Doulton Expands with Efficiency, HFD The Weekly Home Furnishings Newspaper, April 30, 1990, p. 94.

Pretzlik, Charles, Doulton to Cut 1,200 Jobs As Sales Slip, Financial Times, December 11, 1998, p. 21.

Shenker, Israel, From the Villages of Stoke-on-Trent: A River of China, Smithsonian, March 1989, pp. 131-38.

Spicer, Lome, Hard Times Send Ceramics Maker Royal Doulton to Auction House, Financial Mail (London), November 22, 1999.

Stanistreet, Andrew, Action Plan Heralds New Era at Doulton, Staffordshire Sentinel, July 27, 1999.

Turpin, Andrew, Royals Roving Rescuer, Director, October 1999, p. 118.

Wolffe, Richard, Royal Doulton Chief to Stand Down, Financial Times, May 29, 1997, p. 27.

, Royal Doulton to Lose 330 Jobs, Financial Times, August 1, 1997, p. 11.

Beth Watson Highman

updated by David E. Salamie

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Royal Doulton plc." International Directory of Company Histories. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Royal Doulton plc." International Directory of Company Histories. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/books/politics-and-business-magazines/royal-doulton-plc

"Royal Doulton plc." International Directory of Company Histories. . Retrieved August 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/books/politics-and-business-magazines/royal-doulton-plc

Royal Doulton Plc

Royal Doulton Plc

Minton House, London Road
Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire ST4 7QD
England
01782 292292
Fax: 01782 292499

Public Company
Incorporated: 1854 as Doulton & Co.
Employees: 6,500
Sales: $339.94 million
SICs: 3262 Vitreous China Table & Kitchenware; 5023 Home
Furnishings; 3220 Glass & GlasswarePressed or Blown

Royal Doulton Plc is the holding company of Royal Doulton Ltd., one of the worlds best-known fine china companies, which designs and produces high-quality tableware and gift-ware under the popular brand names of Royal Doulton, Royal Crown Derby, Minton, and Royal Albeit. In the mid-1990s, Royal Doulton claimed about ten percent of the world market for china and produced more than 40,000 different items. In addition to its commercial product lines available in higher-end specialty shops and department stores, the company has also accepted commissions to produce unique china service for royalty, wealthy individuals, embassies, luxury hotels, and Englands House of Lords.

The history of Royal Doulton may be traced to the early 19th century, when John Doulton began an apprenticeship at Londons Fulham Pottery, one of the most important of the early commercial potteries in England. Becoming an accomplished potter known for his hard work and innovation, Doulton found employment in Lambeth, along the south bank of the Thames River, at a small pottery business owned by Martha Jones, who had inherited it from her late husband. In 1815, Jones asked Doulton and another employee, John Watts, to enter into a partnership with her, and the three founded a business called Jones, Watts and Doulton. Producing utilitarian salt glaze and stoneware ceramics, stone jars, bottles, and flasks in its early years, the company eventually expanded its line to include mugs and jugs modeled in the likenesses of Napoleon and the Duke of Wellington, bottles for beer, gallipots (ointment pots), and blacking bottles. Allegedly, as a laboring child, Charles Dickens was said to have pasted labels on thousands of Doulton blacking bottles. Five of John Doultons sons joined him in the family business, but the second son, Henry, took his fathers place in the pottery. Henry had become a master potter, learning all aspects of the business from the production stages through management, and he played an important role in product development and in improving working conditions at the Lambeth pottery. In the 1840s Henry Doulton established the worlds first factory for making stoneware drainpipes, a significant development that helped England achieve improvements in health care by providing more sanitary conditions through the provision of piped water. As the pipe business continued to thrive, Henry opened an art studio in the early 1870s where he encouraged and employed talented artists.

Henry also became known for his interest in the welfare of workers, a rare concern at a time when industrialists capitalized on cheap labor. Potteries were generally hazardous places during this time, as arsenic was used in painting and lead in glazing. Workers often succumbed to a debilitating lung disease then known as potters rot. In addition, laborers had to carry an enormous amount of weight, lifting several tons of materials from depths of eight to ten feet. To help workers with this burden, Henry Doulton obtained a mechanical hydraulic lifting device to help eliminate some of the manual labor. He also believed encouraged scientific research to determine more modern and safe methods of production.

In 1877 Henry Doulton bought a factory at Burslem in Stoke-on-Trent, a city known as The Potteries and home of English bone china. Other famous potters located here included Wedgwood, Minton, Beswick, and Royal Adderly. Indeed, the area became the center for potters, given its wealth of raw materials including clay for earthenware, coal to heat the kilns, as well as lead and salt for glazing. The established potters in this area were initially annoyed, when Doulton moved in on their territory, and they predicted doom for the newcomer. Henry Doulton summed their attitude up thus: In their view we Southerners know little about God and nothing at all about potting.

Through persistence and careful investment in staff and plant, Henry Doulton did succeed. The companys early success came from earthenware, decorated in the limited colors available from lead glaze at that time. Then, Doultons art director John Slater and manager John ? Bailey encouraged Henry to pursue the idea of using bone china in production, a material that could be painted with more and brighter colors. By 1884, Henry Doulton had given his consent to the new medium, and the success of the results attracted to Doulton an outstanding team of modelers, decorators, and painters.

By the late 1880s, the company and its products had become internationally famous. In 1885 Henry was honored for his achievements, receiving the Albert Medal of the Society of Arts for his encouragement in the production of artistic pottery. Only one Albert Medal was awarded each year, and previous recipients had included the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Sir Rowland Hill, honored for his creation of the penny postage system. Henrys greatest honor, perhaps, came in 1887, when Queen Victoria awarded him knighthood; he was the first potter to ever be distinguished in this fashion. When Sir Henry Doulton died in 1897, he left behind a company that had diversified and established itself as one of the leaders in its field.

Sir Henry Doultons son, Henry Lewis Doulton, who had been made a partner in the firm in 1881, became a leader at the company. In 1901, four years after his fathers death, he received on behalf of the company the Royal Warrant of King Edward VII and was granted permission to add the word Royal to the Doulton namea great and rare honor. As chairman and managing director, Henry Lewis Doulton guided the company through a difficult recession and period of war between 1900 and 1920.

Regarding product development, Henry Lewis Doulton was particularly interested in experimental glaze processes that produced unique, rare color effects. One such glaze, Rouge Flambé, a dramatic red and black glaze, remained unique to Royal Doulton, with a secret formula known only to three or four people in the company into the 1990s. The company also introduced new lines of character jugs, figurines, and decorative and utility china on earthenware and bone china bodies, and their popularity continued to grow.

In America, Royal Doulton became known as the finest English china. Indeed, Royal Doultons presence in the American market was an important part of the companys growth and success, and remained Royal Doultons most important overseas market in the mid-1990s. In 1945, a subsidiary, Royal Doulton USA Inc., was formed to help in the sales and marketing of the products in the United States.

Family leadership in the company continued. Ronald Duneau Doulton, a cousin of Henry Lewis Doulton, became one of the first directors of the business when it changed to a limited company, known as Doulton & Co. Limited, in January 1899. Lewis John Eric Hooper, son of Henry Lewiss sister, joined Royal Doulton in 1902. Under Erics guidance much scientific research into the physical and chemical behavior of ceramic materials was carried out and new technology was developed and installed. His nephew, Orrok Sherwood Doulton, joined the company in 1935 and became director. Under his leadership, Royal Doulton captured the Queens Awards for Industry, Technological Innovation, and Outstanding Export Performance.

Orrok Sherwood Doultons sons, Mark and Michael, both joined the company. Michael Doulton joined the company in 1970, working under a fictitious name while learning the different aspects of pottery production. Since 1976 he acted as traveling ambassador for the company and with the formation of the Royal Doulton International Collectors Club, a group dedicated to the collection and preservation of Royal Doulton products, he served as honorary president since 1980. Although the Doulton family still remained an important and integral part to running the business, leadership extended outside the family in later years.

1968 saw the first series of acquisitions by Doulton and Co. Limited. It first purchased the world-renowned Minton China, a company founded by Thomas Minton in 1793. Minton dominated the industry during the middle of the 19th century and the companys innovations included the acid gold decorating process, the majolica-type body, the pâte-sur-pâte relief decoration technique, encaustic tiles, and parían statuary. In the same year, Doulton acquired Dunn Bennett, a company founded in 1876 when Thomas Wood-Bennett joined his father-in-law William Dunn to begin potting, concentrating on hotelware. In 1969, Webb Corbett and Beswick became part of the Royal Doulton group. Webb Corbett was founded in 1897 to make English full-lead crystal; Beswick traced its history to 1890, when James Wright Beswick and his son began producing both table and ornamental ware.

The greatest merger in the history of ceramics came in 1972, when Pearson PLC purchased Doulton and Co. Pearson had a controlling interest in Allied English Potteries and combined the two tableware groups under the Royal Doulton Tableware name. Pearsons emergence in the pottery industry came about almost by accident. Originally, the Pearson empire was mainly concerned with constructional engineering and the development of oil fields. But after investing money into a struggling business called Booths pottery during the 1920s, Pearson eventually became the controlling shareholder. Then, 20 years later, Pearson began increasing their pottery interests. In 1944, the company bought Colcloughs of Longton, a business founded in 1893 that made moderately priced bone china teaware. Pearson combined its Booth pottery with that of Colcloughs, forming a new entity called Booth and Colclough. In 1952, Pearson acquired the Lawley Group, a company controlling a national chain of specialist china and glass retailers and pottery manufacturers, including Ridgway and Adderly. Seven years later they purchased Swinnertons and Alcock, Lindley and ? loor, manufacturers of redware pots. Other names joining the group were Royal Crown Derby, Royal Albert, and Paragon. Following its string of pottery acquisitions, Pearson eventually changed their focus in the 1990s and divested many of its holdings. Royal Doulton plc was thus formed in December 1993 and was listed on the London stock exchange; according to analysts, the company had a market value of between £150 million and £200 million at the time.

The development of Royal Doultons product lines are also integral to the companys history. In fact, some products developed in the companys early years remained popular in modern times. The Toby jug was one such example. First produced in the early 18th century, the Toby jug, or beverage mug, was designed to represent a seated male figure, stout and smiling, with the spouts at either side of the mugs rim serving as points on the characters tricorn hat. Royal Doulton produced the jugs at their Lambeth factory during the 19th and 20th centuries, and they reclaimed popularity in the 1930s when they were produced to represent famous characters from English songs, literature, and history. Since that time, Royal Doulton introduced updated versions of the mugs, featuring only the head of the character rather than its full body. Characters have included figures from American history as well as popular culture.

Figurines were also an important product line of Royal Doulton, and the company became known for the quality and attention to detail of its figurines. The earliest recorded figurative work produced by Royal Doulton is attributed to John Doulton, who made a flask depicting Queen Caroline around 1820. The tradition of producing figurines of people and animals continued throughout the years, and lines were constantly updated. Ideas for subjects came from a variety of sources, such as historic figures, popular nursery tales, or celebrated events. For example, figurines of the Royal family gained popularity in the 1980s, and a special edition was created in 1992 commemorating the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbuss setting sail to discover the New World.

Tableware design and decoration began at the company in 1877, when Henry Doulton entered into a partnership with and later bought out Pinder & Bourne Company, a medium-sized producer of earthenware tableware. From earthenware the company moved into the area of fine china. As new decorative and manufacturing techniques emerged, fine china became available at more affordable prices. In 1960, the company introduced English Translucent China, a medium it pioneered and from which the costly ingredient of calcined bone had been eliminated. Through this new product, which became known as Royal Doulton Fine China, the company was able to offer the qualities associated with fine bone china at a modest cost to consumers. In 1974, the company revived the concept of its original Lambethware, creating a casual tableware with a country charm and practicality, being oven and freezer proof and unaffected by detergent or the dishwasher. Royal Doulton Tableware Limited grew to represent approximately one-third of the entire British tableware industry. Finally, by the 1990s, Royal Doulton was producing a wide variety of ceramic products for use in the chemical, textile, aircraft, engineering and atomic industries.

In the mid-1990s Royal Doulton management was focusing on achieving a greater degree of efficiency at its facilities. From 1987 to 1990, the company spent £10 million annually (approximately $16.4 million) to automate and mechanize their factories, resulting in even finer quality and manufacturing flexibility. The company maintained a dozen factories producing all types and grades of product at that time. Royal Doultons superb products, excellent management, and outstanding reputation positioned the company among the top echelon of the industry. Their efforts to appeal to lower-priced markets, while maintaining their reputation for producing high-quality, traditional china, was likely to ensure their position as one of the leaders for many more years to come.

Principal Subsidiaries

Royal Doulton USA Inc.

Further Reading

Doulton, Michael, Discovering Royal Doulton, Shrewsbury: Swan-Hill Press, 1993, 144 p.

Eyles, Desmond, Royal Doulton: 1815-1965, London: Hutchinson & Co., 1965.

Fallon, James, Parent to Spin Off Royal Doulton, HFD-The Weekly Home Furnishings Newspaper, August 9, 1993, p. 44.

Neiss, Doug, Royal Doulton Expands with Efficiency, HFD-The Weekly Home Furnishings Newspaper, April 30, 1990, p. 94.

Shenker, Israel, From the Villages of Stoke-on-Trent: A River of China, Smithsonian, March 1989, pp. 131-138.

Beth Watson Highman

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Royal Doulton Plc." International Directory of Company Histories. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Royal Doulton Plc." International Directory of Company Histories. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/books/politics-and-business-magazines/royal-doulton-plc-0

"Royal Doulton Plc." International Directory of Company Histories. . Retrieved August 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/books/politics-and-business-magazines/royal-doulton-plc-0