Royal Worcester was established in 1751 and is believed to be the oldest or second oldest remaining English porcelain brand still in existence today (this is disputed by Royal Crown Derby, which claims 1750 as its year of establishment). Part of the Portmeirion Group since 2009, Royal Worcester remains in the luxury tableware and giftware market, although production in Worcester itself has ended.
Technically, the Worcester Royal Porcelain Co. Ltd. (known as Royal Worcester) was formed in 1862, and wares produced before that time are known as Worcester porcelain, although the company had a royal warrant from 1788. The enterprise has followed the pattern of other leading English porcelain brands, with increasing success during the 18th and 19th centuries, then a gradual decline during the 20th century, especially the latter half.
In the 20th century, Royal Worcester’s most popular pattern has been “Evesham Gold”, first offered in 1961, depicting the autumnal fruits of the Vale of Evesham with fine gold banding on an “oven to table” body.
James Hadley ( 1837 – 1903 )
In the 1850s Hadley was apprenticed to Kerr and Binns of Worcester, proprietors of the Royal Worcester porcelain factory, where he worked in the modelling department. By 1870 he had become principal modeller there. In 1875, he left the company and set up his own modelling studio in Worcester High Street. Although no longer directly employed by Royal Worcester he sold almost his complete output of models for ornamental vases and figures to them.
He has been described by John Sandon as “probably the finest English modeller of all time” Able to work in any form or style required, he is best known for his decorative figures, made in the 1870s and 1880s, when taste was shifting towards coloured models from the previous fashion for plain white.
Hadley’s contract to supply models to Royal Worcester was ended in November 1895 due to a decline in the luxury end of the market. For a while he rented some factory space at Shrub Hill, Worcester from Edward Locke, with whom he had worked at Royal Worcester . Then, in 1897, with the support of business partner Frank Littledale, Hadley set up a factory at Diglis Road in the city on land owned by his family. In 1900 Hadley & Sons became a limited company with the shares owned by Hadley and his four sons, and by Frank Littledale.
Hadley died in 1903. In June 1905 Royal Worcester purchased his factory. Production of his wares was transferred to their main site in Severn Street, Worcester, the next year.