Royal Doulton

The Royal Doulton Company was an English company producing tableware and collectables, dating from 1815. Operating originally in London, its reputation grew in The Potteries, where it was a latecomer compared to Royal Crown Derby, Royal Worcester, Wedgwood, Spode and Mintons. Its products include dinnerware, giftware, cookware, porcelain, glassware, collectables, jewellery, linens, curtains and lighting.

Three of its brands were Royal Doulton, Royal Albert and Mintons.

The Royal Doulton company takes its name from John Doulton. John Doulton, born in Fulham in 1793, learned his trade at the Fulham Manufacturing Company, well known as one of the first English commercial producers of stoneware, founded by master potter John Dwight in 1688. John Doulton completed his apprenticeship, earning a reputation as one of the best pot throwers in London.

Doulton was founded in Lambeth, London in the early 19th Century eventually relocating to Burslem, Staffordshire in 1879. Expansion of the Nile Street factory commenced in 1884-85 with the building of a bone china factory. In 1887 an adjoining works in Sylvester St was acquired, and in 1889 and 1907 the works were further expanded to cope with demand. They received Royal recognition by King Edward VII  allowing them to change their name to Royal Doulton.

 In 1956 Doulton reorganised its operations into four subsidiaries, manufacturing sanitary ware, industrial porcelain (electrical insulators, laboratory porcelain etc), drainage pipes, and earthenware and fine china. The latter, the non-industrial ceramics business, became the responsibility of a new subsidiary company 'Doulton Fine China Ltd' the main products of the company were tableware, figurines and character jugs marketed under the Royal Doulton name.

During the 1960’s they competed with Wedgwood in consolidating the North Staffordshire ceramic industry with the acquisition  of Mintons Ltd and Dunn Bennett & Co. Ltd in 1968, and Webb Corbett Ltd (glassware) and John Beswick Ltd in 1969.

 In November 1971 S. Pearson & Son Ltd, a member of the Pearson Group, who already owned Allied English Potteries Ltd, acquired Doulton & Co. Ltd, merging the two groups under the Doulton name. Allied English Potteries Ltd was renamed Royal Doulton Tableware Ltd and became a subsidiary of Doulton & Co. Ltd responsible for the tableware and giftware businesses of both groups.

The brand names of the combined Group included Royal Doulton, Minton, Beswick, Dunn Bennett, Booths, Colclough, Royal Albert, Royal Crown Derby, Paragon, Ridgway, Queen Anne, Royal Adderley.The Group also owned the 50 Lawleys china and glass retail stores inherited from Allied English Potteries.

The tableware manufacturing interests of Pearson plc trading under the Royal Doulton name were floated on the London Stock Exchange in December 1993 as part of a rationalisation of the Pearson Group's industrial interests. The new, independent company was named ‘Royal Doulton plc’ but still under the leadership of Stuart Lyons.

Lyons resigned suddenly in May 1997, after 12 years in charge, following a failed acquisition of a large U.S. fine china company whose identity was not revealed. The botched takeover cost Royal Doulton £1.6 million in advisers' fees. The new chief executive, Patrick Wenger, with a record of 37 years with the company, concentrated on turning around the company's core business. He restructured the group into six product divisions--tableware, giftware and collectibles, crystal and glass, hotel and airlines, prestige products, and licensing--each headed by its own managing director. 1,200 jobs were cut (or nearly one-fifth of the remaining workforce), the consolidation of three warehouses into one, a further writedown of inventory, and the closure of some underperforming retail outlets. Overall, the company was aiming to reduce the number of product lines it produced from 48,000 to fewer than 20,000.

 Tragically Patrick Wenger had to retire in 1999 following serious and permanent injuries suffered in a car accident in Australia, to be replaced by Wayne Nutbeem, who had headed their Australian division and had previously been Managing Director of Wedgwood Australia. Later in 1999 a stock offering raised £31.3 million. This fresh infusion of cash helped Royal Doulton reduce its net indebtedness from £43.6 million to £17.8. However sales continued to decline, to £190.3 million. It was at this time, November 1999, that Waterford Wedgwood plc acquired a 15 percent stake in Royal Doulton on the open market for £11.1 million. Waterford termed the transaction a "strategic investment" and not a prelude to an outright bid, but nevertheless declined to rule out a future bid if a rival takeover company emerged. For 1999, Royal Doulton posted a net loss of £34.6 million (US$55.6 million), including a restructuring charge of £9.1 million.

 Beswick, so prized by collectors, had its ranges reduced, Gold Street factory closed and limited production continued at Nile Street, now under the Royal Doulton backstamp. The loss of the skilled modellers and creative figurine designers took its toll on the product ranges.

Royal Albert, whose claim to fame was their ‘Old County Roses’ design most popular in the Japanese market, was initially transferred to Nile Street and then production exported to Doulton’s Indonesian factory. This did not go down well with their Japanese customers who prized the now missing ‘Made in England’ backstamp.