The History, Manufacture and Artists of Royal Worcester porcelain
Royal Worcester porcelain – The first production of porcelain in Worcester took place in 1751. An eminent surgeon, Dr John Wall, perfected the secret recipe for the production of soft paste porcelain and a factory was founded on the banks of the river Severn. The river was essential for transporting both production materials and wares.
Having gained a reputation for producing quality tableware, Worcester flourished under the guideance of a series of owners. The companies were Chamberlains, Flight Barr, Lockie and Grainger, and Binns Kerr. All made improvements to the manufacture of porcelain, adding new glazes, shapes and designs.
The Worcester factory was able to engage the services of excellent artists and some of the finest porcelain was produced there. Royal patronage was added, firstly by king George III in 1789 and has been continually reviewed and renewed with each change of monarch.
James Hadley 19th century figures Countries of the world
In 1862 The Royal Worcester porcelain company was formed. The factory continued producing mainly tableware during the nineteenth century and a few figurines were introduced, mostly by James Hadley. By the start of the twentieth century sales were in decline and in 1930 the factory went into receivership.
CW Dyson Perrins bought the factory in 1930 and, under the guidence of J Grimson, set about reforming production there. It was during this period that new modellers were brought in, many of them freelance artists, and from then on Worcester porcelain saw a revival to it’s heydays of the eighteenth century.
Over the next five decades it’s most successful artists were the Doughty sisters, Dorothy and Freda, Doris Linder, Gwendolen Parnell, and Eva Soper.
Tableware was revolutionised by ovenproof porcelain in 1931 and for the first time decorative porcelain cookware was produced which was hugely successful.
Production at the Royal Worcester works on the Severn ceased in 2006 and the factory finally closed in 2009. There is a world famous museum on the original site which has a truly wonderful and vast collection of Worcester porcelain.
The methods and materials used in the manufacture of Porcelain at Royal Worcester have basically remained the same for the last 250 years. The differences in the ceramic bodies are determined by the proportions of the ingredients used and the temperatures they are fired at.
- Soapstone: Mined in Cornwall and used as a substitute for China Clay
- China Clay: White clay also mined in Cornwall
- Feldspar: Very translucent glass like material that fuses the other materials together on firing
- Quartz: Translucent, helps to prevent distortion on firing
- Bone ash: Calcite cattle bone, gives bone china its strength, translucency and whiteness.
The raw materials are mixed with water to form a liquid clay or slip. Impurities are removed using electromagnets and most of the water is extracted to produce a solid clay body for hand or machine forming. Originally some items were thrown on a potter’s wheel or pressed onto moulds to ensure uniformity. Although manufacturing methods have changed very little since the eighteenth century, semi automation for most of these processes has taken over.
Slip casting: Objects such as teapots, vases, jugs and figures are made by pouring slip into plaster of paris moulds. The resultant casts are removed from the moulds assembled using more liquid slip and the rough edges smoothed away. Several moulds can be used to make up a complicated piece.
Biscuit firing: After assembly the object has its first firing.
Glazing: Following the biscuit firing the object is ready to glaze, either by dipping or spraying with liquid glaze. The glaze becomes clear and bright on firing.
i) Hand Painting; painters worked in two sections, the senior department where all the free hand painting of scenes and fruit take place and the ornament department where the painting of figures to the original modellers standard.
ii) Printing; early designs were engraved on a copper plate and transferred onto tissue paper which was positioned on the object and then fired. During the 1920’s and 30’s print and enamel patterns were popular. Here painters added enamel colours by hand to printed patterns.
iii) Lithographic printing; this is a full colour photographic process which is added to the object via a plastic film which burns away on firing leaving the printed patern.
iv) Gilding and Burnishing; this is the final process in ceramic manufacture. Hand gilding, gold is applied by brush, then fired and burnished.
Impressed marks are pushed into the raw clay with a die.
Incised marks are scratched into the clay before it is fired.
Moulded marks are raised pads applied above the base.
Printed marks were put on after the glaze.
Backstamps and Dating
The basic marking system for Royal Worcester originated in 1862, the crowned crest of four linked Ws. In 1891 the words Royal Worcester England were added around the crest. Puce coloured crests were used from 1900 until 1940 when the black ink mark took over. Green crest marks were used for the Boer and First World War soldiers, and blue marks were printed on a limited number of figurines.
1892 and every subsequent year a dot was added near the crown.
In 1916 a puce coloured star replaced all the dots and a dot is then added for each subsequent year.
1928 small square
1930 three horizontal lines
1931 two circles
1932 three circles
1933 to 1939 three circles and a dot is added for each subsequent year.
1940 – 1942 Black mark three circles and dots
1943-1944 no circles or dots BONE CHINA
1945-1948 bone china in small letters
1949 letter V is added
1950 letter W
1951-1963 a black dot was added
1964 onwards a shape system was introduced, firstly a circle and later a diamond
TWENTIETH CENTURY MODELLERS
In 1930 a new group of freelance, mostly female modellers were employed by the factory. Apart from Freda Doughty who made more traditional models, the other artists were more modern and made untraditional designs which did not sell very well. Some of these today are incredibly rare having only sold a handful in their time.
Freda Doughty 1895 – 1972
Born in Italy and educated at the Eastbourne school of art, Freda designed over 100 models for Royal Worcester most of which were very popular. Her figures were modelled from children who used to play in the garden of her home in Kent which she shared with her elder sister Dorothy. In later years the two sisters moved to a cottage near Falmouth. She was the only modeller who consistently produced what the general public seemed to want. Her charming children figures have continued in their popularity today.
Doris Linder 1896 – 1979
Born in North Wales she studied sculpture at St. Martins, Rome and Calderon’s animal school. Her first models for Royal Worcester were of dogs and other small animals. In 1935, her horse group models were started, followed by a successful series of real life studies of horses and bulls. The Limited Editions designed and modelled by Miss Lindner reached the height of popularity in the1960’s. Based in the Cotswolds, she worked untiringly until she was over 80 years old.
Gwendolen Parnell 1876 – 1957
Related to the Irish Parnells, her grandmother was lady in waiting to Queen Victoria, she had been producing figurines from her studio in Chelsea for several years before being commissioned by Royal Worcester to model for them.
Anne Acheson CBE 1882 – 1962
An Irish sculptor, she was educated in Belfast and the Royal College of art in London. Living in County Antrim and London, she produced several native figures such as the Dublin flower girl.
Frederick Gertner 1886 – 1960
Born and educated in Worcester and Royal College of art London. He started working for the factory in 1915 and produced a number of figures including the popular historical series.
Ruth Van Ruyckvelt 1931 –
Born in Surrey and educated at Wimbledon school of art where she met and married Ronald. Both husband and wife made several successful models for the factory, Victorian Ladies being Ruths most sought after.