Category Archives: Figure inspiration

Royal Doulton’s ever popular miniature Polly Peachum figures.

Polly Peachum and her counterparts hold a special place in the hearts of many figure collectors due to her prominent appearance in the HN Collection from 1921 until WWII. Polly is central to Royal Doulton’s first series of figures, designed by Leslie Harradine, and each is based on the Lovett Fraser costumes for the 1920 revival of the opera at the Lyric in Hammersmith, London.

A display of miniature Polly Peachums in an appropriately sized display!

Originally produced in a typical larger size as two models – one standing HN463 (with 6 other colourways) and one curtsying (again with 4 more colourways), the latter is often referred to as Polly Curtsey in early publicity for the Beggars Opera series.

A 1925 calendar with Polly dated 1925.

It is the latter model (316) or second version of Polly that has inspired this post, for as a miniature figure she can be found in more recorded and unrecorded colourways than any other Royal Doulton figure.

Polly mounted on a bell push.

Today she can still be found mounted in all manner of useful objects from calendars to bell pushes, and a host of other objects in between! Whilst more easily found versions of her such as M21 in pink are relatively inexpensive, other more unusual versions can easily reach four figure sums, which considering her diminutive size (6cm) is quite astonishing!

One of a number of colourways that Polly can be found in!

Interestingly the first versions of this miniature Polly appeared in 1925 as part of the HN, thus pre-dating the M series and it is from this period that most unrecorded variations appear. There were 8 original HN colourways of her and the most popular were incorporated into the M series upon its launch in 1932.

Another variation of our heroine!

Questions around the markings on the bases of some of these early versions remain unanswered including why some carry early HN numbers such as HN8. My explanation is that these seemingly erroneous references actually refer to the colour of early full size HN figures such as the Crinoline and Picardy Peasant which have been given to Polly as well.

Polly labelled HN1265 to her base, referencing her colourway based on Lady Fayre HN1265.

The inspiration behind Royal Doulton’s Easter Day.

Collectors of Royal Doulton’s world famous figurines are aware of the many sources that inspired figures from stars of the theatre, to calendar and card designs published by the likes of Raphael Tuck & sons.

However, one particular star of Royal Doulton’s HN range was inspired by the great actress Vivien Leigh in her role in the legendary film Gone with the Wind in which she played Scarlett O’Hare.

Here you can see a press cutting along with an early dated version of Easter Day from 1943; incidentally two years after she was originally modelled. Also in the picture is a very similar looking prototype from 1942 that I display along side the large size figure.

Royal Doulton’s Figure Darling – where it all began!

Or rather where the then new figure range began in 1913 – is perhaps how that heading should read.

Darling in his original size with HN 1 at the fore, the HN 1371 and of course the more frequently found HN 1319.

In reality Darling was not the first figure in the HN collection but due to Queen Mary’s famous christening of him with her statement “Isn’t he a darling” – he was given the prestigious number 1 in the new number sequence.

Typical early base, this time belonging to HN 1. Note the actual number of figures painted on the inside ‘349’!

Designed by Charles Vyse who would later inspire Doulton’s famous balloon sellers, Darling was produced in his original size of 19cm in four colourways – HN 1 in a pale blue grey nightshirt, HN 1319 in a white nightshirt with black base and then HN 1371 and 1372 in green and pink nightshirts respectively and both with black bases. Of all these originally size models it is HN 1371 and 1372 which are the particularly rare examples.

In the post WWII period Darling was remodelled in the now smaller and most familiar size of 13cm as HN 1945 and remained in production as such until 1997. A lovely additional version of him HN 3613 for Peter Jones the China specialist was introduced to mirror the original HN 1 colouring in 1993.

Only one further model of this charming young boy has been produced and that was for Royal Doulton’s 200th Anniversary Icons series as HN 5648 in a smaller size again of 10cm!

The now mid size Darling HN 3613 with his smaller Icons series counterpart HN 5648, pictured against the first figure booklet from 1913. Note the reference to Queen Mary and ‘Now at Buckingham Palace’! 

All in all Darling proved to be the first of one of Royal Doulton’s most popular collecting themes when it comes to figures – children! 

‘Spook-tacular’ Royal Doulton!

Nothing could be more appropriately named than Royal Doulton’s figures ‘A Spook’ and ‘Spooks’; the latter an adaptation of the first. 


Two modern Royal Doulton tobies reflecting the ongoing influence early figures have on today’s design studio.

A Spook, designed by Harry Tittensor, was introduced in 1916 and was available to order until 1936, with a total of 8 official colourways to choose from. The last HN1218 was introduced in 1926, exactly 10 years after his original introduction. 


A Titanian Spook by H. Tittensor.


An example of a true base to A Spook.

Interestingly a miniature version, without HN or M number has also been discovered, although when it comes to fake Royal Doulton, it is this miniature figure which crops up most! No doubt due to the ease of producing him in this small scale. 


The rare miniature Spook.

Things got a bit spookier in 1918 for the HN Collection, when Doulton’s great art director Charles Noke adapted the original single figure to bring collectors his ‘Spooks’ or ‘Double Spook’ HN88 (1918-36). Just like their individual counterpart, Spooks was also available to order until 1936 and also available in alternate colourways; in their case just three. 


Spooks HN89.

A Spook and Spooks can be found in unusual glazes including Titanian, to which they lend themselves perfectly. 


The wonderfully detailed HN372 photographed by J. Lukins and which appears in the figure ‘bible’! 

Royal Doulton’s tribute to Florence Nightingale. 

We are all familiar with the story of the “Lady with the lamp” who visited the wounded soldiers in Scutari during the Crimean War – a celebrity created by the press during the Crimean war when the public needed a heroine to divert from current realities.

Florence Nightingale HN 3144 and her inspiration.

Florence came to prominence while serving as a nurse and manager during the Crimean War, where she organised the tending to of wounded soldiers. Her tremendous efforts during the Crimean War brought nursing a favourable reputation and she herself became an icon of Victorian culture, as the lady of the lamp.
The Young Miss Nightingale HN 2010 by Peggy Davies from her Period Figures in English History range. This piece reminds us that Florence was also a a young lady of rank and wealth, who spent much time on the continent.

As is typical, posthumously there has been much debate about the legacy Florence has left but in terms of nursing alone her legacy is still great with the Nightingale pledge taken by nurses and also a medal named after her.

Royal Doulton’s Philippa of Hainault HN 2008

This interpretation of the Queen of Edward III belongs to a wonderful series of Ladies from English History that were among the first of Peggy Davies’ models produced by Rpyal Doulton after WWII.

She ruled at a time when chivalry and pageantry filled the English court. Her husband and son, the Black Prince were men of war. Their captives the Kings of France and of Scotland were treated according to their rank, valour and misfortune – something that was attributed to her influence! 

That she is remembered for her gentleness and clemency is illustrated by the tale of her pleading for the lives of six citizens of Calais when the town fell. 

The Royal Doulton series of Period Figures in English History was made up of six personalities and was available for a short period (1948-53) and are all considered rare today! 

Royal Doulton’s Masquerade pair.

The sheer variety of early figures in Royal Doulton’s HN collection illustrates the lengths that were gone to, to appeal to early collectors as the company tried to discover a popular house style.


Title page of an early figure catalogue.

Of course by the time the Masquerade pair appeared in 1924, the great Leslie Harradine had already been supplying models to the Burslem art studios for a few years. 


A burnished gold HN636 Masquerade.

During the early 20thC there was huge interest in masked and costume balls and the latter must have inspired this pairing and other Chelsea inspired figures from a bygone age in English china manufacturing. 


Masquerade (female) HN 600.


‘Kissing’ Masqueraders HN 600 in china and HN 683 in earthenware.

Interestingly the two Doulton models’ bases fit so that the couple can kiss if the owner so wishes. They appear in this 1920’s figure catalogue titled Personalities and Porcelain along with a group of other early figures. Also of interest to note is that HN683 and HN 637 the last versions of each were actually made in earthenware rather than china like the other versions.


Masquerade HN 599 & 636.

Typical of Doulton’s studios they also experimented with this pair and a handful of other figures, producing examples in burnished gold with ivory face and hand details, imitating gold/bronze and Ivory figurative sculptures from the art nouveau era.