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.
Harry Davis ( 1885 – 1970 )
Harry started work for Royal Worcester aged 13 years old. Along with all the young boys he began doing very menial tasks and was formally apprenticed for seven years under the talented landscape artist, Ted Salter.
A keen fisherman, Harry perfected the difficult art of painting fish with amazing accuracy, possible only to someone with a deep understanding of fish and their behaviour. Harry was an active member of the Royal Worcester Fishing Club and later in life painted two wonderful trophies for the club to present to competition winners each year.
Harry quickly proved that he had tremendous natural ability and striking individuality. He was always versatile and painted a large range of subjects with ease. Landscapes with sheep, cattle, pigs, fish, snow scenes, London Scenes, polar bears, palaces and gardens, but he was never a ‘Jack of all trades’ he would accept nothing less than perfection in everything he did.
Throughout the First World War there was still demand for Harrys work, but in 1916 he volunteered and joined the wireless section of the Royal Engineers. In 1919 all Royal Worcester employees who served for their country, including Harry Davis, were presented with an urn with their name, department and dates of service inscribed in gold.
Harry succeeded William Hawkins as foreman of the ‘Men Painters’ department in 1928. He was responsible for training many young apprentices and in the early 1930s to help with his teaching, Harry produced several sets of etchings for decorative plates, 12 castles, 12 cottages and 12 cathedrals. The scenes were expertly etched onto copper plates and then printed as an outline onto the china. Many artists in the department ‘filled in’ the colours over the printed designs adding their signature to the finished work. Sometimes Harry himself did some of the filling in, signing himself H SIVAD, Davis backwards! Later Harry also etched some wonderful coaching subjects and some of his favourite fish.
Over the years Harry completed some very prestigious commissions for special customers. In 1928 he collaborated with his friend Harry Stinton to complete an important order for Mr Kellogg the American Cornflake King. Harry Stinton painted a dinner service of 25 service plates with magical snow scenes, with rich raised gilding on a ruby ground, and Harry Davis painted a matching dessert service of 25 smaller plates and 25 coffee cups and saucers with delicate landscapes.
In 1950 Harry teamed up with his friend Ivor Williams, the Master Gilder, to produce a jardinière to present to Sir Winston Churchill.
Harry talents did not end there. He was also responsible for the design of a number of very successful tableware patterns. The most luxurious ‘Imperial’ with it’s hand tipped raised gold, was produced for an incredible 76 years, between 1917 and 1993 in five different colours. The popular blackberry garland design, ‘Lavinia’ was made from 1940 to 1986, gold and silver ‘Chantilly’ made from 1958 and 1990 and the ‘Worcester Hop’ pattern, adapted by Harry in 1965 from a Flight & Barr original remained in production for 20 years.
Princess Elizabeth personally asked to see Harry when she visited Royal Worcester for the bicentenary celebrations in 1951 and in the very first honours list of the Queens reign in 1952, he was awarded the British Empire Medal for his contribution to British craftsmanship and design of new lines that helped the company develop its export business.
Finally retiring with failing health in 1969, aged 83 Harry Davis always stated that during his whole time at the factory he had been extremely happy. He was always astonished that anyone should want to collect his work, but Harry’s signature guaranteed the very best quality and today Harry’s name on any piece of porcelain guarantees a high price.