Puttin on the ritz (Part 2) – The Burslem Art Department

The Burslem Art Deptartment


A view of Royal Doulton’s Nile Street preimises Buslem, England

Charles Noke continued to experiment with glazes long after the departure of Cuthbert Bailey with whom he had perfected the Flambé glaze in the early 1900’s. And so in 1920 Sung was introduced, whereby painted decoration, colour and gilt are fused with the a flambé glaze. I am sure you will agree that from this publicity photograph the pieces are magnificent. However, it is in the flesh that these pieces must be enjoyed to full effect as in this slide. Vases, large and small were decorated with exotic birds, pixies in woodlands, fish in seascapes along with many other subjects. These pieces were painted principally by Harry Nixon, Arthur Eaton and Fred Moore. Sung glazes can be found on Buddhas, as seen here in this advert from the 1920’s, a handful of suitable early figures from the HN range such as A Spook, as well as animals, in particular elephants, a favourite of Charles Noke.


Orignial Sung advert ca. 1920

Another magnificent addition to the Burslem range in 1920 was the Chinese Jade glaze, imitating the ancient Chinese glazes of centuries before, by using a thick white glaze streaked with green. Pieces of Chinese Jade are exceptionally rare, due to the costliness of production, together with the high proportion of rejects due to the inherent difficulties in achieving this technique.


Chinese Jade lidded bowl with ‘Despair’ HN596 as the finial (the name of this figure is only a name given when the original figure book was published in 1978 as there is no record of its actual name).

A variation of this ware exists whereby the green streaks are replaced by blue ones, and this extraordinarily rare glaze is aptly named Lapisware.


A very rare Lapisware lamp base

A final glaze worthy of inclusion here is perhaps the most magnificent of all. Chang ware was introduced in 1925 and involved a thick body upon which multi-coloured thick glazes were allowed to run and crackle – contrary to all usual pottery rules.


Original Chang catalogue cover

The results you can see from this slide are breathtaking. Nothing like this glaze had been sen before even in ancient times, and it was greeted by worldwide acclaim. Chang pieces are usually found with the monogram for Harry Nixon on their bases together with Noke, for either Charles or Jack Noke, who succeeded his father as art director in the late 1930’s. The addition of Noke’s name signified the quality such work achieved.


Chang ginger jar and cover

I have already mentioned Doulton Seriesware briefly, with Dickensware as it is now known, and whilst the majority of patterns pre-date the 1920’s new patterns which reflected current tastes and interests were all the while being introduced.


Sample of Dickensware

However older designs such as Dickensware pictured above continued to be big sellers around the world. Here below, we can see examples of the Gnomes series introduced in 1920’s.


Gnomes catalogue page ca. 1924

This is often labelled as Doulton’s version of Wedgewood’s famous fairyland lustre ware by Daisy Makeig Jones. A number of further patters, and one which I feel is much more reflective of the mood of the 1920’s, is this pattern ‘Surfing’ introduced in 1926.


Surfing catalogue page ca. 1924

Once again we can see the popular image of bathers which we have already met when discussing figures, and again in particular women in bathing costume, perfectly illustrates to us today the popularity of the Lido or outside pool and also the beginnings of world-travel beyond the very wealthy. Other patterns introduced during the 1920’s reflect the continued interest in sports such as hunting, seen here with ‘The Quorn Hunt’, which today claims to be one of the world’s oldest hunting packs and in the UK to be our most famous hunt, although fox hunting is now illegal.


The Quorn Hunt catalogue page ca. 1924

Also from the 1920’s we have ‘Kensington Gardens’, which feature silhouettes in this most famous of London’s parks.


Kensington Gardens catalogue page ca. 1924

One final seriesware pattern I would like to mention is Aldin’s Dogs, of course taken from illustrations and drawings by the popular British artist Cecil Aldin. Aldin was not just famous for his animal pictures but also his works of rural life and sport. Doulton were to introduce in the following decade a series of so-called Dogs of Character based on Aldin’s work. However, here you can see from this catalogue page how his work was effectively used as a seriesware pattern, and to explain the popularity of this pattern today, remember we British are reputedly more keen on our dogs than our countrymen!


Aldin’s Dogs catalogue page ca. 1924

There we finish with the Burslem Art Department of the 1920’s and 1930’s. Yet, as you have seen many of what we term our most prized possessions today hail from this period.

Next we will look at the introduction of Character Jugs in the 1930’s!

Puttin’ on the ritz – Royal Doulton in the 1920’s and 30’s (Part 1 – Figures)

 Puttin’ on the ritz – Part 1 – Royal Doulton Figures from the deco period


When one thinks of Doulton one automatically pictures Doulton figures in one’s mind’s eye, and that is where I will begin today. Amongst the most popular figures ever produced at Burslem are the creations of Arthur Leslie Harradine (shown here relaxing at home with his wife. Behind her you can see a cabinet of white figures sent to him for approval).


Apprenticed to Doulton at the beginning of the 20th Century, he began working for them once again on a freelance basis after WWI. His first creations for the HN range coincide with the dawn of the 1920’s and also the beginnings of the commercial success of Charles Noke’s revival of the long neglected production of Staffordshire china figures.

Charles Noke, Art Director at Doulton’s Burslem factory, had for the previous decade been determined to revive the production of china figures, and had approached many leading sculptors of the time such as Phoebe Stabler and Ernest Light, but ironically it was with the home-grown talent of Harradine that Noke’s range was to be acclaimed as the pinnacle of china figure production in England and around the world.

Harradine’s first figure introduced to the HN range is this rather stylish lady titled ‘The Princess’ from 1920.


Here at once we have a glimpse into Harradine’s ability to interpret trends of the time,  you can see it closely resembles this illustration by Leon Bakst for a costume for Diaghilev’s Ballet Russe. This tremendous ability to interpret images into pottery also brings us a typical 1920’s Harradine figure, The Bather, taken from this Cyclax advert from the time.

endpapers cyclax advert

This latter figure really illustrates what Harradine brought to the HN range that differed from his predecessors: a smaller size of figure, with a less sculptural feel and decorated with an array of dazzling colours. Three things that were to shape the future of the HN range up until today. As you can see from these instantly recognisable figures, Harradine achieved what others had failed to do, and so we have here a selection of what we can term typical Harradine figures all introduced during the 1920’s.


The 20’s saw re-newed freedom for women and this too is reflected in the HN range. Consider Miss 1926 with her Eton crop or nude figures of the time, Carnival and Circe (HN1249 below).


However, it was not so much the social changes that defined the era but the emergence of a new phenomena, the so-called Flapper, a term for girls who were shortening their skirts, bobbing their hair, wearing makeup, smoking and drinking and going out with young men without chaperones. Another such ‘it’  girl to be introduced was Dulcinea shown here in her fantastic fringed dress and her bolero hat.


Fashions of the time played a hugely important role in inspiring Harradine’s figures. Here you can see the Hunts Lady in her stylish hunting garb and a contemporary advert for the same.


Consider too the figures Gloria and Clothilde , which come straight out of 20’s fashion magazines. A further slide I would like to share here is this one of the inspiration behind Harradine’s figure Carmen.


Clearly Harradine had many sources from which to draw and here we also have a glimpse of a figure taken from a contemporary greetings card designed by Jennie Harbour. The use of greetings card illustrations became the norm in the 1930’s.

New past times too played a part in influencing the range – take for example Sunshine Girl illustrated here who was doubtless inspired by a contemporary advert for the Dunes Beaches in Chicago. Here are the two original Sunshine Girl colourways.


Doulton’s group of 1920’s figures really did set them apart from their competitors, such a Worcester, who continued to draw inspiration from traditional subjects for figures such as Water carriers and other Grecian style figures, whilst the Doulton range forged a new path in figure production, creating a bevy of 20’s flappers and ‘It’ girls of the day.

One only has to take a cursory glance at the HN collection from the 1920’s to see from where these draw their inspiration. The theatre clearly played an important role as ‘the’ pastime of the era. Figures with a theatrical background include  Harlequinade, Pierette and Columbine.


All three take their names from the Comedia dell’ Arte where the traditional Pierot character is portrayed as a sad figure pining for the love of Columbine who runs away with Harlequin. Whilst the origins of the names of these figures hark back to an earlier time, nothing about them can be said to do the same. Their costumes reflect the renewed interest in the 1920’s in Masquerade Balls and here is another example!


Male characters too were represented in the  art deco HN range, consider this Yeoman of the Guard seen here, who was made as a pair to A Chelsea Pensioner, both introduced in the mid-20’s. Neith of these can be said to be ‘modern’ yet both are clearly modelled on their namesakes!


Whilst the Yeoman above may simply be represented as a warder of the Tower of London, his appearance may also be explained by the ongoing popularity of the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas from the late 19th Century.

Leslie Harradine was also responsible for the first set of figures to be introduced, The Beggar’s Opera Series, again inspired by the theatre. Harradine’s figures all closely resemble the costume designs of Claude Lovatt Fraser the designer for the revival of this piece at Hammersmith, London in 1920. Once made up the costumes were thrown to the studio floor and walked on, had paint thrown on them, and where necessary as with the Beggar’s costume, were then slashed and dirtied. Lovat Fraser reasoned that the characters from the play were from 18th Century London low life and spent much of their time in jail.


Above is the original Captain  Macheath figure compared with the original theatre poster and Lovat Fraser’s design and here is  Polly Peachum in two versions both by Harradine, shown against Lovat Fraser’s original Design.

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This first series of figures set the tone for future sets by teaming a popular English theme with an emerging Doulton house style. The series proved a huge success and in Doulton’s first official publicity catalogue after WWII, they themselves lament the withdrawal of this popular set! The main female character is also immortalised in a miniature version, and incidentally more colour variations of this one miniature figure exist than any other! Here you can see three miniatures I have come across.


The Beggar’s Opera series was closely followed by six characters from the ever popular work of Charles Dickens . Noke had already introduced the popular Dickens seriesware pattern based upon these same characters and others, which had gained praise from even Dickens’ son Alfred Tennyson Dickens back in 1911. This letter from Dickens’ son was often used in Doulton publicity of the time.


(Interestingly he was named after his godfathers, one of whom was the great Alfred, Lord Tennyson, who was Poet Laureate to England’s Queen Victoria for most of her reign.) Below you can see a slide showing Harradines original stoneware models for the miniature Dickens range that was introduced.

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The 1920’s marked the introduction of what we can term the first advertising figures too. Here we have the Sketch Girl pictured against the magazine she is advertising.


The figure Miss Sketch appeared on the cover of that popular magazine, a pedlar figure carrying on her tray mini figures representing the varied topics covered by the magazine, a ballerina for the theatre; a jockey for sport; a cupid for love stories; a soldier for current affairs; and the devil well I will leave you to decide upon…..

In addition we have The Perfect Pair, a figure that is not widely recognized as an advertising figure, but which in fact represents the union of two great British magazines, Eve and The Tatler in one publishing house. Interestingly this advert was designed by Mabel Lucie Atwell in 1923.


All walks of life were catered for and below you can see a particularly unusual little chap, known to us as Steve. He was created in the likeness of one of the yard men, for Wettern, Beadle and Bristowe Road Builders. Occasionally he does turn up without the added lettering around his base.


Advertising figures for the perfumiers Grossmiths were also produced. Here you can see The Old English Lavender Figure  , together with a Yardley’s advert.


A final advertising figure I would like to draw to your attention is one of my absolute personal favorites,  Tsang Ihang, and an advert for the perfume she is promoting.


The ‘inspirational’ advert for the figure remained elusive until very recently and I was thrilled to discover it just a few years ago. As with all things we search for assiduously when you find one, another promptly turns up as happened in this instance to me!

Tsang Ihang Advert

One final figure which must be mentioned here as a child of the 1920’s is this, perhaps the most iconic of all Doulton figures The Old Balloon Seller HN1315 introduced in 1929.


Whilst not the first Street Seller in the HN range her enduring popularity, even now over a decade out of production has ensured her status as possibly the most immediately recognisable of all Doulton figures. Yet she, and her predecessors such as The Flower Seller all owe some thanks to another great sculptor of the time, Charles Vyse. Vyse was of course the creator of this  delightful figure, Darling HN1, and I am sure Harradine took inspiration for his street seller figures from Vyse.

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You can see immediately how Vyse’s Balloon Lady morphed into Doulton’s own interpretation by Harradine. And again  with Vyse’s Wild Flowers and Harradine’s Sweet Lavender. A further example illustrated below is this Vyse figure and Harradine’s Bridget.


Vyse in turn took inspiration from the many street sellers that were still to be seen in London street life in the early 20th Century, like the lady in the illustration below. The Old Balloon Seller was succeeded by many other street sellers in the 1930’s and another personal favourite of mine is this,  Primroses which closely resembles this Margaret Tarrant illustration.

Picture1 FIG-Primroses-HN1617

And so we come to the end of this section exporing Doulton’s deco  figure delights.

Next time we will look at Doulton’s deco Burslem wares!

Complimentary Colourways – displaying your Doulton

As soon as the term colourway is used, many suddenly think of the unique and unusual. Doulton, however, seem to have had a much wider view of the term. Certainly during the inter-war years of the 1920’s and 1930’s many figures were available in colourways to compliment existing figures in the range. Take for example the selection of two-tone green figure: Barbara (HN1461), Paisley Shawl (HN1460), Patricia (HN1462), Miss Demure (HN1463), Sweet Anne (HN1453) and Victorian Lady (HN1452).


Clearly this set was produced to compliment one another. Other such sets include Sweet Anne(HN1496), Dorcas (HN1558) and Priscilla (HN1559);


Another group is Veronica (HN1650), Sweet and Twenty (HN1649), Janet (HN1652) and Camille (HN1648) (not illustrated); and below you can see Pantalettes (HN1362), Victorian Lady (HN1345) and Sweet Anne (HN1318);


As can be seen from the illustrations here, even the ‘M’ range figures reflect this trend. Child figures too can be group together in complimentary colouring such as Monica (HN1467) and Marie (HN1635) below.



A clear favourite colourway amongst  collectors has of course always been the ‘red’ figures and this began in the 1920’s when figures such as Spanish Lady (HN1294) and then later Marguerite (HN1948) and Christmas Morn (HN1992) began to appear. A paricular favourite of mine has always been Pantalettes (HN1709) seen below.


Whatever your reasons for collecting, once you have a sizable group of figures you are sure to find a theme or group that will help create your perfect display and of course that is part of the fun of collecting – how to display your collection to its best advantage.

If you have any particular groupings that you have put together please write in with a picture for us to all share!


When is a figure a finished product?

Figure adaptations by Christopher Evans

As all figure collectors know, during the design process prototypes followed by pilot figures are produced and these models can change in their modelling quite simplistically or quite dramatically at this early stage.

Here is a prototype I once saw and then a few months later saw a version with her holding a mask rather than the mirror you see below.


However, once a figure has gone into production that does not mean that further adaptation and transformation is not possible nor can this be ruled out!

At no other time and to no other group of figures does this more aptly apply than to those of the 1920’s and 1930’s. With production dates for this period being so sketchy one can only attempt to draw conclusions as to the precise dates of withdrawal and sometimes even introduction.


Sweet Maid (above) became Millicent (below)


This is of particular relevance to a group of figures which are clear adaptations of existing figures. Take for example Harradine’s Sweet Maid HN1504 (1932 LH) which became Millicent HN1714 (1935 LH) or his Helen HN1509 (1932 LH) which became June HN1690 (1935 LH).


The Windmills Lady (above) who became Old Lavender Seller (below)


The scarcity of the former in both cases suggests that the latter may have replaced these earlier models. Then again, we have The Windmill Lady HN1400 (1930 LH) and The Old Lavender Seller HN 1492 (1932 LH). Clearly the old lady is the same in both figures with minor adaptation. Both figures were produced simultaneously, as were the Rustic Swain HN 1745 (1935 LH) and Midsummer Noon HN1899 (1939 LH). It was not just Harrading who adapted their own earlier models.


The Rustic Swain (above) which became the solitary Midsummer Noon (below)


However this tendancy to adapt existing figures can be traced back to even the earliest times of Doulton figure production in the early 20th Century and then the introduction of the HN figure range. Consider Noke’s reintroduction of the many Jesters he had produced earlier in Vellum and then Tittensor’s Pretty Lady HN69 (1916 HT) and The Parson’s Daughter HN 337 (1919 HT) which both have clear similarities in the modelling of their skirts.

Existing models were not only adapted but also changed size and renamed, such as Biddy HN1445 (1931 LH) and Rita HN1448 (1931 LH), or Doris Keane HN90 (1918 CJN) and Rosamund HN1497 (1932 LH).


Here we have a hard paste porcelain version of Doris Keane by John Broad made at Doulton’s Lambeth factory in the early 20th Century, together with her miniature self M32 made at their Burslem factory in the 1930’s

It is worth noting a little something about the production dates given to figures and that in my experience the date of ‘by 1949’ is rarely the case, indeed ‘by 1944’ would be much more accurate, with the exception of a handful of the most popular figures of the time such as Paisley Shawl HN1392, Autumn Breezes HN1934, Top o’ the Hill HN1849, The Orange Lady HN 1759 and Biddy Penny Farthing HN1843, whose production continued into 1944 and was resumed soon after the end of WWII principally , if not solely for the export market; more precisely for the USA and Canada.

Floral fancies from Burslem

Floral pools and fancies


A catalog page ca. 1933

China flower arrangements are currently out of fashion and seem to belong to an era in which our Grandmothers filled their shelves with such fancies. Certainly the older ladies one imagines to have collected such things, themselves seem like a distant memory. No doubt the skill and ability to hand craft such fancies is alas all but extinguished now too. However, such flower bowls were produced for a much longer period than most collectors would expect.


A group of rocks with floral decoration. All are dated

to the 1930’s.

The 1920’s with all their jazz and style appear to be when Doulton first began production, as the catalogue page from 1933 pictured, testifies. Indeed we can also see each creation from this time is given a ‘FB’ number (presumably flower bowl?). Also illustrated are, a selection of weird and wonderful bowls of the 1930’s, together with some napkin rings of the same time. As with almost all Doulton wares, we can presume that production of these flower bowls ceased with the outbreak of World War II, whilst the napkin rings popularity continued into the immediate post war period.


Boxed napkin rings dated 1934


Tree Stump vase dated 1933


Typical flower bowls from the range and illustrated

on the catalogue page above

As with so many things produced at this time, you can never predict quite what you will come across next, indeed I recently found a lidded bowl with flowers mounted on it dated 1936. Happy hunting!

A place to share enthusiasm for all things Royal Doulton! All original content ©Christopher Evans 2014 unless otherwise credited. No unauthorised reproduction permitted.