Doulton at War (1939-45) – A brief account of the damage at both the Burslem and Lambeth factories

Much is documented about the wares produced by Doulton during this period as much of what was produced is so very rare that only one or two examples of items exist to this day.

However, very little has been documented about what actually happened at the Burslem and Lambeth factories at this time. Naturally there was a shortage of raw materials that had a major impact on production, but also the calling up of employees from both factories must have almost halted production of most wares, save utilitarian items needed for the war effort.

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Damage to the Burslem warehouse October 1940

The war came early to the Burslem factory, when in October 1940 a three-storey warehouse housing finished goods and also the Art Director’s studios were bombed. Here you can see a couple of pictures of the debris it left behind. Try as I might the only things I can pin point are a Limited Edition Jug and what is probably some Flambé ware.

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A further view of the damage cause to the warehouse at Burslem in 1940

At Lambeth too, the factory sustained damage as did many of their employees’ homes. In May 1941 the Lambeth showrooms took a direct hit and were destroyed but fortunately there was no loss of life at that point. In typical Doulton form for the company at this time, financial assistance was provided to employees suffering from war damage to their homes.

Whilst the above is merely a snap-shot of events during the war-years, it allows us to share these unique pictures from the time.

Doulton artist profile – Reginald (Reg) Brown

Reg Brown was destined to play a pivotal role in the field of Doulton’s figure production. Born in 1909, he died at the early age of 53. He spent most of his life living locally to the Burslem factory in Wolstanton. Doulton typically became something of a family affair for the Browns, with his daughter-in-law working in the Character Jug department and his youngest son in the Doulton laboratory.

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Reg Brown ca. 1950’s Head of Doulton’s on-glaze Figure Painting Department

Reg was originally a pupil of Herbert Betteley at Doultons and of the same school as Tom Parton, Charles Hart , Bernard Green, Harry Stevenson, Roland Holdcroft, Jack Pierpoint and others. He studied at the Burslem College of Art and from an early stage showed versatitily in painting landscapes and castles amongst many other subjects with prowess. However, he was destined to join Harry Allen, Norman Woodings, Charles Nixon and a handful of other men who formed the nucleus of the original figure painting department.

A founder of the Doulton Art Society, a member of the Doulton Sports Club and the Doulton choir, Reg would eventually become head of the On-glaze figure painting department, a position he would hold until his untimely death.

Collectors I know specifically look for Reg’s figures as they have exquisite faces and are superbly painted. I am fortunate to posess a few colourways also painted by Reg from the 1940’s, no doubt from his time as the head of department and the colourings are just wonderful in real life. One of my favourite figures painted by him is this colourway of Christmas Morn from 1942.

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Once again, why not see how many of your pieces are painted by Reg – and what a great theme for collecting figures!

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Doulton’s Child studies by Leslie Harradine

Child studies have always been popular with Royal Doulton collectors, and from the launch of the HN range child studies have played a key role in the range. We all know of course the famous story behind Darling HN1 modeled by Charles Vyse, but collectors are sometimes surprised to see that Leslie Harradine, perhaps the most collected of all Royal Doulton modellers, also created many charming portraits of children. With six children of his own he certainly had much in real life to base his models on. Unfortunately we do not know if any of the figures he supplied to Royal Doulton were based on any of his own children, but we do know a few of the sources he used.

If you look at my book ‘Reflections’ you will see a section dedicated to Molly Benatar and Harradine based his Miss Muffet HN1937 clearly on one of Benatar’s designs for Raphael Tuck, the greetings card specialist. Even the coloring of this figure is copied from the original.

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Miss Muffet HN1937 and Molly Benatar’s ‘When hearts are young’ illustration

A recent discovery of mine is also that Nana HN1766 is based on another of Benatar’s pictures. The skirt, the hair and the hat worn identify Nana.

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Molly Benatar illustration and Nana HN1766

Another of Harradine’s most popular child studies is Sweeting and she , dressed in her party frock, was inspired by an advert for the once eminent London department store Marshall and Snellgrove.

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Sweeting HN1938

Other child figures by Harradine simply reflect childhood at its most innocent, consider Pyjamas HN1942 or To bed HN1805, either of whom could have been anyone of us in our early years. Harradine was able to capture a certain charm in his child studies, just as his did so perfectly with the bevy of ladies in so many varying guises, that he now is famed for.

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Pyjamas HN1942

One particularly popular child figure is Marie HN1417 introduced in 1930. A purple version of this figure was made up until 1988. Originally made as a pair to Rose HN1368, they can both be found in complimentary as well as contrasting colorways, and more unusually you can find them mounted on bookends and other objects. The enduring popularity of Rose meant that a new colorway HN2123 was introduced in 1983.

As with most Harradine figures, his child studies were also issued in several colourings. Particular favourites of mine are Lily HN1789, Ruby HN1724 and Diana HN1716. All three young girls display perfectly with their taller counterparts. Harradine understood precisely Royal Doulton’s requirements and when a popular theme was established he sought to develop it further. The world-famous Royal Doulton street sellers is one such case where a child study, namely Linda HN2106 was introduced to expand that series.

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Diana HN1716

A final figure I would like to bring to your attention is The Rocking Horse HN2072. This particular figure I am sure you will agree is simply charming. The only reason I can summise for its short production (1951-53) is that the figure was too costly to produce. The inspiration for the piece is no doubt the film The Rocking Horse Winner from 1949, where the young hero discovers he can predict race winners by rocking his horse.

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The Rocking Horse HN2072

Doulton artist profile – Eric Webster

It is indeed an arduous task to try and re-assemble something long after the event, but for many years I have been trying to find out as much as possible about the early figure painting department at Burslem. The changes these early artists must have witnessed and the speed at which they occurred must have been mind blowing.

One artist whose monogram appears time and again on the bases of figures from the 1920-40’s is Eric Webster, born in 1896. Eric retired from Doultons in December 1962 and the last remaining link to what was known as the ‘Noke’ school of artists was lost. Originally engaged by John Slater, the first Art Director at Burslem, Eric served most of his years under the guidance of Charles J. Noke who succeeded John Slater as Art Director.

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Eric at work 14th October 1953

Eric was born and bred in the potteries and attended the Tunstall School of Art. When he arrived at Doultons he was engaged with painting plates and vases, and although a versatile artist – landscapes were a preferred theme. As the Doulton archive itself describes, around the time of the First World War, C. J. Noke began introducing ‘small pieces of sculpture in the shape of Victorian type figures and small animal models.’ This was of course the launch of the now famous HN collection and Eric together with Harry and Charles Nixon were the first three to be engaged in the decoration of the figures and animals. Eric being principally involved in the latter’s decoration. Incidentally the HN numbers we all know originated from the initials for Harry Nixon, just mentioned. However, Eric must have been prolific painter as his monogram is readily found on figures too from the 1930’s.

There were many high points to his long career with Doulton. Notably the painting of the first Championship Dog model ‘Lucky Star of Ware’ and later the model of the present Queen’s horse Monaveen, that was produced for her visit to the Doulton premises in Burslem, when still a princess in 1949 (see the video link already posted for actual footage of this famous visit). Eric reportedly visited the stables to take sketches in colour so as to ensure accuracy in the actual painting.

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A publicity shot of Monaveen, not available to purchase

Animal painting was clearly a forté of his and it was no surprise in ca. 1925 that he was entrusted to take charge of a newly created department responsible for animal painting.

In his later career, Eric was responsible for painting prestige pieces, which were made to order. Here he is seen collecting a cheque and gifts from his friends at Doulton, including a naturalistic fox painted by himself!

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Eric at his retirement presentation, holding the large fox model

If you look at the bases of your figures and early animals check for an ‘EW’ or ‘EAW’ and that is our man!

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