Category Archives: Character Jugs

Doulton Artist Profile – Max Henk.

Henk joined Royal Doulton in 1949 working under the direction of Cecil Jack Noke at first working on tableware patterns. Henk was to continue to develop the Character Jug range after Harry Fenton and his first jug was Long John Silver, with which he appeared in a promotional film about pottery in the 1950’s, that was shot in a studio set up at the Lambeth factory. Henk’s ancestors were from Germany and his great, great Grandfather came to the UK to work at Mintons. Henk was fond of literary characters and his character jugs reflect this interest and in fact it was he who first made a feature of the character jug handle.

Collecting Royal Doulton’s Williamsburg characters! 

In 1960 Doulton introduced their popular Williamsburg personalities into the HN collection and they were soon followed by seven character jugs representing characters from colonial Williamsburg. The set of seven jugs remained in production for some 20 years and there was to be a further character, the Cabinet Maker, added in 1981 but the collection was discontinued before he was able to join them!


 The set of seven jugs were modelled by either Max Henk or David Biggs and available in large, small or mini sizes during their 20 year production. The seven characters to collect are: the Bootmaker, the Goaler, the Gunsmith, the Guardsman, the Night Watchman, the Apothecary and the Blacksmith. Fortunately the Cabinet Maker would make an appearance as D7010 rather than the original D6659 in 1995 at the RDICC Williamsburg Convention in a limited edition of 1,500 pieces and so did eventually complete this popular set!  


Williamsburg is an ambitious restoration of an 18th Century US town and the capital of Virginia, it began falling into neglect once the seat of government moved in 1780 and the town lost its importance. Williamsburg’s restoration began in 1926 and today it is populated with hundreds of staff who carry on 18th Century life – from their clothing to their traditional trades resp resented by these character jugs! 

Doulton’s translucent china Character Jugs. 

The Apothecary of Williamsburg in earthenware and translucent china.

In 1968 a new ceramic translucent china body began to be used for Character jugs, something that continued until 1973 when there was a return to the traditional earthenware body. The new ceramic body necessitated some existing jugs to be re-modelled to ensure that the level of detail remained. Earthenware is decorated underglaze thus more depth is achieved upon the much finer-detailed, cast piece, whereas the detail is somewhat subdued once the glaze is applied for on-glaze painting. In general the new body produced jugs that were 1″ smaller overall with 19% shrinkage as opposed to just 12.6% with earthenware. Collectors search out these now rare editions of their favourite jugs as the overall effect creates a higher quality product in their eyes.

Collecting Doulton’s mid-size character jugs.

When what we know as Character jugs today, were launched back in 1934 it was very much a time of trial and error in respect of what to introduce and the sizes that appealed most to collectors. What we know as Large jugs today were the first introductions, then with Sairey Gamp in 1935 we saw a small size jug introduced as well as the standard large size. In this same vein Doulton introduced a medium size jug in 1938 with six characters from Dickens’ works. These were all withdrawn by 1948. 

The six characters were:

Buzz Fuzz D5838

Mr Pickwick D5839

Fat Boy D5840

Sam Weller D5841

Cap’n Cuttle D5842

Mr Micawber D5843

To complicate matters these numbers also refer to the small sizes of each of these jugs too and when available as a table lighter, again the same D number applies. 

To illustrate the sizes of jugs here are a handful of Dickens’ characters forever immortalised by Doulton! 

l-r: large, mid-size, small, mini and tiny.

Collecting Doulton’s first set of Character Jugs – All for one and one for all! 

Athos D6439.

1956 saw the first set of Doulton Character Jugs introduced, quite some time after the original Doulton ‘face jugs’ or as they quickly became known character jugs were introduced in 1934. 

Porthos D6440.

Today we can hardly imagine a time when sets of jugs weren’t produced given the many themes from Royalty to Dickens that litter Doulton’s Character Jug Collection.


Aramis D6441.

Still Aramis, Porthos and Athos, the three heroes of Alexandre Dumas’ French adventure The Three Musketeers  were the original set. 

Original publicity photo for the original characters.

Whilst the original 3 were the creations of the legendary Max Henk, it was Stan Taylor who would eventually add their youthful friend D’Artagnan to the set in 1982 as a large jug and then the small and tiny in 1987. All characters and sizes save the table lighter remained in production until 1991, meaning that the set can be readily assembled by new collectors today and is a perfect example of how Doulton captured the publics imagination with these characters from legend! 

My thanks to Seaway China for the use of their photo library. C.E. 

Royal Doulton’s fantastic musical character jugs


Two views of the Tony weller musical jug.

In the immediate years before the outbreak of WWII, Royal Doulton were avidly addidng to their many successful series of figures, seriesware and of course character jugs. Items from this period are amongst the most sought after of the Doulton wares, simply because the outbreak of war interrupted or halted production completely of many of these lines.

This small group of five musical character jugs, fall into this category. Production of these musical jugs was interrupted by the outbreak of the war and musical jugs were probably not made long after its commencement, given their scarcity in today’s market place. This is borne out particularly by the scarcity of the Old King Cole jug.

Each of these jugs is fitted with a ‘Thorens’ Swiss movement and the title of the melody it plays is printed around the base of the jug.


Detail to the base of the Tony Weller jug.

The details of these five jugs are as follows:

D5858     Old Charley     1937-42

‘Here’s a Health unto His Majesty’

D5887     Paddy                   1938-42

‘An Irish Jig’

D5888     Tony Weller      1938-42

‘Come, Landlord Fill the Flowing Bowl’

D5889     Auld Mac            1938-42

‘The Campbells are Coming’

D6014     Old King Cole   1939-42

‘Old King Cole’

(a yellow version of this last title exists)


Two versions of Auld Mac. On the left is an ‘A’ mark version ca. 1950’s and on the Right is a musical version.


The musical Auld Mac.



Auld Mac’s base.

Derivatives form an exciting sub-theme for collecting and other derivatives including bookends, busts, teapots, milk jugs and sugar bowls exist.

Happy collecting!


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The rare Toby Gillette Character Jug…Doulton does television

Back in the early 1980’s Doulton was contacted by the producers of the once popular ‘Jim’ll fix it’ show, as they in turn had received a letter from a young boy asking to have a character jug made in his likeness. The move proved a popular one for Doulton and eventually three jugs were made. One was retained by Doulton for their museum, the other given to the young Toby Gillette and the third eventually sold in London and the proceeds (over £15,000) given to charity.

One of our facebook friends, Peter Leese, was involved in the jugs’ production and here is a picture I am sure will thrill you Character Jug collectors of Peter and Toby filling the original mould with slip. Here are the two of them…


The whereabouts of the three jugs are unknown but very likely they will be in collections in the USA as I am sure examples I remember seeing were bought by American Doulton dealers.

Here is the finished product (as seen in Michael Doulton’s Collecting Royal Doulton book).


Thanks for sharing this story Peter!

Dickens Doultonised


Some early Doulton advertising booklets for Dickensware ca. 1912 – the Centenary of Dickens’ birth, together with  2 seriesware trays a calendar with a Dickens figure and an early Tony Weller

When it comes to the works of Dickens, Charles Noke, Doulton’s art director at Burslem was blatantly a fan if not obsessed by all things Dickens.


A facsimile of a letter from Dickens’ son to Doulton & Co. expressing his pleasure at their Dickens range

From the early 20th century and throughout his time as art director and even after, Doulton have produced a wide variety of wares to commemorate Dickens’ works.


Three of Leslie Harradine’s original models for the miniature Doulton Dickens figures

The lengthy of time these many wares were produced mean that there is something for every collector, old and new and something for every pocket size too!


Another of Harradine’s Prototypes, this time the full size Dickens figures, together with an early Mr Pickwick HN556
Here is a glimpse at the sheer variety of wares produced by Doulton, the majority under the direction of Noke himself!


Two sterling silver trays mounted with Dickens miniatures.


Three sizes of character jugs (L, M & S) and a derivative ash bowl


Three Doulton Dickens tinies including Charles Dickens himself

This is but the tip of the so-called iceberg and there are many collectors throughout the world who share Noke’s enthusiasm for all things Dickens. I have been lucky enough to see two huge collections outside the UK, but why not share any unusual finds to our facebooks page? Search for:

Doulton Collectors Club

See you there!


Princess Elizabeth visiting Royal Doulton in 1949 – another video clip

I thought you might all like to see this extra montage of the Queen’s visit to Royal Doulton at Burslem in 1949, when still Princess Elizabeth. Of particular interest is some Seriesware inspired by Brangwyn ware and also the decorating of figures from this period and a comprehensive display of them! Well worth a look!