Royal Crown Derby Pottery Guide

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Royal Crown Derby has one of the most distinguished histories of all the British porcelain factories. The establishment of the first Derby factory by Andre Planche heralded the beginning of 250 years of high-quality porcelain production, and although the company has been through several changes of identity and ownership over the years, that tradition continues today.

1750 saw the establishement of the Nottingham Road factory, opposite St Marys Bridge in Derby. The first decade of production was focused almost exclusively on decorative wares - the soft paste imitation porcelain in use at that time was unsuitable for tableware as it could not withstand boiling water. It was well-suited to figure-modelling, however, and resulted in some fine figures being produced, usually in continental or Chinoiserie styles.

Royal Crown Derby Mikado Cup and Saucer

The first major developments in the Nottingham Road factory's history came when Planche entered into a partnership with William Duesbury, an acclaimed enameller, and John Heath, a Derby banker. Duesbury had understood that in the future factories would no longer sell undecorated wares to be decorated by third parties such as himself, but would decorate the wares themselves before selling them directly. Duesbury's leadership resulted in a dramatically increased range of tablewares, including dinner, tea and coffee services that were extremely successful. Often styled with a nod to Meissen, Duesbury took pride in the fine continental styling of his pieces and admitted his goal was to create a "second Dresden".

The factory continued successfully in this manner for some years, until the death of Duesbury brought about a change of ownership and a rapid decline in the factory's fortunes, as many key staff left.

One man who had worked loyally for the Duesburys for many years was a clerk, Robert Bloor. In 1811, he borrowed £5000 and purchased the factory. Under heavy pressure to begin repaying this sizeable debt, and lacking the management and creative experience of his predecessors, initial progress was difficult. His first task was to generate enough cash flow to begin repaying the £5000 loan. He achieved this by decorating and selling large volumes of the imperfect stock that had been accumulated and stored over the many years when the factory was under Duesbury's management and only perfect pieces were permitted to be sold.

Hard work and persistence gradually paid off for Bloor, and over the years the factory continued to serve the needs of the luxury market, taking in its stride the transition from the earlier porcelain to bone china, and introducing the still-popular Imari pattern in 1770, capitalising on the fashion for Japanese designs (Imari was the name of the Japanese port through which the popular Arita pottery passed through when exported).

Bloor's tenure came to an end in 1838, when poor health forced him to hand over control of the factory to an uncle, James Thomason. The factory soon fell into decline, and following Bloor's death in 1846, closed in 1848.

The Bloor period was followed by the establishment of a new factory in King Street, a short distance from the Nottingham Road factory. Much of the equipment from the old factory was sold to the owner of the new factory, a Samuel Boyle of Fenton, Staffordshire. The King Street factory operated from 1848 to 1935, and wares from this period are marked with a variety of backstamps, and indeed the name of the factory was changed several times as investors changed. Perhaps the most distinguished creative name associated with this period was Sampson Hancock, a painter, whose firm belief that this factory was a continuation of the old china works epitomised the output of the King Street factory - very many of the old moulds from the Bloor factory continued to be used, and although the quality of the work was high, it perhaps was not as remarkable as its predecessors.

Royal Crown Derby Rocky Mountain Bear Paperweight

The final part of the Royal Crown Derby story began with the establishment of the Osmaston Road factory in 1877.

In 1875, the then joint managing director of Royal Worcester, Edward Phillips, resigned from Worcester and went into partnership with William Litherland and John McInnes with a view to setting up a modern china factory in Derby. The Osmaston Road factory was a modern and comfortable building, and the new company styled itself Derby Crown Procelain Company Ltd. The royal warrant was granted by Queen Victoria in 1890 and in 1935, the King Street factory was acquired and closed down by the now Royal Crown Derby Porcelain company. Derby continued to innovate and produce fine work for the luxury market, but were also able to broaden their appeal by finally introducing the use of transfer printing on some ranges. This enabled vastly increased production and reduced costs, expanding Royal Crown Derby's market greatly and forming the basis of many successful ranges.

Today, Royal Crown Derby are a part of the Royal Doulton Group, and continue to produce high-quality china tablewares and decorative wares. More information on their current ranges can be found on their website, click here.

Royal Crown Derby Collectors Club Puppy Paperweight

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