Royal Worcester

The Royal Worcester story started when Dr John Wall, a physician, and William Davis, an apothecary, developed a unique method for producing porcelain and, in 1751, persuaded a group of 13 businessmen to invest in a new factory at Warmstry House, Worcester. Dr John Wall retired in 1774, however his partners continued to manufacture until their London agent, Thomas Flight, took over.

In 1788 George III, following a visit to the company, granted it a royal warrant, and it became known as the "Royal Porcelain Works"

The following years the factory fall into disrepair. Production was limited to low-end patterns of mostly Blue and White porcelains after Chinese porcelain designs of the period. It was also pressured by competition from inexpensive Chinese export porcelains, and from Thomas Turner’s Caughley Factory.

Martin Barr joined the firm as a partner in 1792; porcelains of this period are often identified by an incised capital "B" and, later, by more elaborate printed and impressed marks.

When John Flight died the company changed to Flight & Barr (1792-1804) — then Barr, Flight & Barr (1804-1813) and Flight, Barr & Barr (1813-1840).Then to Chamberlain & Co (1840-1850) when Flight, Barr and their arch rival Chamberlain joined forces.

In 1852 Irishmen, Richard William Binns and William Henry Kerr took over the management of the Chamberlain & Co. porcelain works in Severn Street, Worcester. The factory had been ravaged by fire and an extensive building programme took place in the 1850’s. Modern machinery was purchased and installed and new working methods improved the quality of the product.

 

In 1862 Kerr left and under the leadership of Richard Binns, new bodies & improved glazes and with properly trained staff the Worcester factory quality increased substantially

 

By the 1920’s there was a downturn in the world economy and Royal Worcester narrowly escaped closure and was rescued by Charles Dyson Perrins who bought the company outright in the early 1930’s. All forms of earthenware and glazed Parian were discontinued in 1931 and in the same year under the Royal Worcester launched a new range of bone china figures.

 

In 1933 an American publisher encouraged Royal Worcester to make Limited Edition bird models for the American market. Post World War II Royal Worcester produced a number small decorative figures by artists such as Eva Soper, Agnes Pinder Dabis and Doris Lindner. The popularity of these designs led to many more series in the 1960s and beyond. Royal Worcester's most popular pattern has been "Evesham Gold", first offered in 1961, depicting the autumnal fruits of the Vale of Evesham with fine gold banding on an "oven to table" body. This was created by Robert Baker, Professor of Ceramics at the Royal college of Art, and two of his pupils in 1961.

The most well known painters were:
Charles Baldwyn (working 1874 – 1909) Swans in flight & birds
Henry Chair (1872 -1911) thistles, poppies, orchids & festoons of roses
Harry Davis (1898-1970) fish, sheep, landscapes, architecture
George Evans (1914-1955) landscapes
William Hawkins (1874 – 1928) portraits, interiors & still life
George Johnson (1875-1914) game birds, flying swans & farmyard scenes
Ernest Phillips (1890-1932) neat flower groups & still life
William Powell  (1900-1950) small British birds
Frank Roberts (1872-1920) flowers & fruit
Frank R. Rushton (1900-1953) landscapes, cottages & gardens
Edwin Salter (1876-1902) landscapes & fish

In 1976 Royal Worcester made an offer for Spode which cumulated in them taking a 55% share with Carborundum holding the remaining 45%. When Carborundum was itself taken over by Kennecott in 1978 Royal Worcester aquired the balance of the shares taking full control of the company. In 1983 the Crystalate Manufacturing Company Ltd. better known for making gramaphone records, achieved a hostile take-over of Royal Worcester Spode and the following year sold the business on to the London Rubber Company, who subsequently made an unsuccessful hostile takeover bid for Wedgwood.

After the merger with Spode, and due to heavy competiion from overseas, the production was switched to factories in Stoke and abroad. 100 staff were made redundant in 2003 and another 100 went in 2005. Fifteen porcelain painters left the Severn Street factory in 2006, together with 100 other workers. The last trading date for Royal Worcester was 14 June 2009.

The company went into administration on 6 November 2008 and on 23 April 2009 the brand name and intellectual property were acquired by Portmeirion Pottery Group. As Portmeirion Group has a factory in Stoke-on-Trent, the purchase did not include Royal Worcester and Spode manufacturing facility