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Royal Doulton Designer & Modeller: Charles J Noke

Debbie Porter

Charles J Noke

Charles John Noke was born in 1858 in Worcester a short distance from the Royal Worcester works. Charles was the son of a well-respected antique dealer, who had one of the largest collections of old china in the country. 

Charles Noke was fascinated with porcelain figurines and he spent time at the Royal Worcester factory watching the artists at work.  R Binns was the art director and a very good friend of Charles’s father, James Hadley was a modeller and both Binns and Hadley encouraged Charles to spend time at the factory and to do some modelling.  Hadley allowed Charles to take some modelling clay home and Charles began with small elephants and a Jester figure. These subjects inspired Charles throughout his career.

At the age of 15, Charles Noke started work as an apprentice modeller at the Worcester factory, under Hadley & Binns and he also began studying at the local school of design.

Charles served his apprenticeship and remained at the Royal Worcester factory for 16 years, taking over much of the design work that had been done by Hadley.

In 1889, John Slater, the art director at the Doulton studio noticed Noke’s work and he invited Noke to join the Burslem Studio as chief designer.  In his early years at Doulton, Noke modelled prestige vases and table centres with figurative details and some of the finest examples were shown at the Chicago International Exhibition of 1893.  The enormous ‘Columbus’ vase, which was almost 6 feet tall as well as some of his first figures were exhibited, these included the double-sided Jester, entitled Mirth and Melancholy, a seated Jester, Jack Point and a Lady Jester.  These early figures were modelled in the Worcester style and became known as Vellum figures because of their ivory parchment coloured body.

Noke added his favourite actors Henry Irving as Cardinal Wolsey and Ellen Terry as Queen Catherine to his Vellum figures.  Artists from Robert Allen’s prestige decorating studio tinted the ivory porcelain body with soft sheens of pink and green. Gold highlights were often added and flowers and other motifs were used to enhance some figures.

Ellen Terry as Queen Catharine (pictured left above), and Henry Irving as Cardinal Wolsey (pictured right above)

Charles Noke, together with Bernard Moore, were the inventors of the famous Doulton Flambe glazes which first appeared in 1904.  Fred Moore and Noke developed the Sung and Chang ware and Chinese Jade that is very popular with collectors.

In 1909 Noke became absorbed with figure making and after discussions with Henry Doulton (the son of Henry and grandson of John Doulton) he assembled a small team of talented designers and sculptors, to develop a new range of figure models. The figures were three years in design before he felt they were ready to go into production.

The first production run coincided with a visit to the factory by King George and Queen Mary in 1912 and they were the first to see the new series of figures.

Queen Mary fell in love with one of them and she referred to the figurine as a ‘little darling’ and ordered several copies to be sent to the palace. This particular model was originally made by Charles Vyse (Darling HN1) and the royal patronage lifted the whole series and made them much easier to sell.

In 1913 Charles Noke was responsible for launching Royal Doulton’s famous HN collection of figurines.  The Jester is one of his best-known figurines and this was produced in many different colorways.

An early Burslem Royal Doulton figure, The Jester’ in a rare colourway of orange and yellow tunic with ivory coloured highlights.

The ‘HN’ is named after Harry Nixon (1886 to 1955). Harry Nixon joined Doulton in 1900 and was the head of the Royal Doulton painting department.  

HN 1 – Darling

Noke went on to produce a wide variety of both human and animal figures over the next few years, the most notable among them being a study of King Charles.  Sales of these were steady rather than spectacular but the launch of this series of figures was poorly timed in relation to world events.

World War One and the economic climate obviously led to a great drop in interest for the arts and many of the work force were involved in the conflict. They were not produced in large numbers and this makes them even more desirable to today’s collectors.

Noke was constantly experimenting with new glaze effects and he developed a rich brown body called Kingsware which was used to make whisky flasks, particularly for Dewar’s distillery.

Another innovation in 1930, by Noke was the introduction of Royal Doulton limited editions, prestige Loving Cups and Jugs, these were modelled with scenes from literature, history and royal occasions.


The Dickens Jug

In 1934 Noke launched the range of Character Jugs and Toby Jugs which are still collectible today.

The first two characters jugs that he modelled were John Barleycorn and Old Charley, he also modelled the striking double-faced jug of Mephistopheles.  Noke’s last model was a portrait jug of his war-time hero, Winston Churchill, which he completed just before his death in 1941, at the age of 83. 

The Royal Doulton Winston Churchill Loving Cup. Modelled by Charles Noke and issued in 1940 as a tribute to the Prime Minister.  The piece was withdrawn as it was not considered a good likeness of the Prime Minister who was very popular at the time.

Charles Noke’s son, Cecil Jack Noke joined Doulton in 1920 after doing army service in World War I.  Cecil studied at the Stoke and Burslem Schools of Art and trained at Nile Street under Leonard Bentley and Robert Allen.  Cecil was a talented designer and had an interest in etching and engraving and was responsible for many of the tableware designs from the 1930s.  Cecil worked with his father and Harry Nixon in producing flambe, Sung and Chang wares and his signature is also found on many of the flambe items sold at auction. He succeeded his father as Royal Doulton’s Art Director in 1936 and died rather unexpectedly in 1954.  Cecil was a much-loved leader and the team of Burslem designers and artists were inspired by him.  His sudden death shocked his colleagues and friends worldwide.

Charles J Noke has been proclaimed as ‘one of the greatest of English pottery artists’ and his legacy remains as collectors continue to look for his iconic pieces.

Results for sales of Charles J Noke Pottery from Potteries Auctions over the years

27th October 2013

Lot 322: Royal Doulton Flambe Vase decorated with Country cottage scene signed Noke, height 21cm.  Sale Price: £85.00

26th January 2014 

Lot 196: Early Doulton Flambe Bowl with Landscape design – Signed Noke.  Sale Price: £75.00

27th April 2014

Lot 203: Royal Doulton flambe bowl decorated with country cottage scenes signed Noke, diameter 25cm.  Sale Price: £40.00

01st June 2014


Lot 282: Royal Doulton flambe model of a Peruvian penguin on base, signed Noke, height 14cm.  Sale Price: £220.00

15th November 2014

Lot 442: Royal Doulton loving cup The Pied Piper designed by H Fenton & C Noke, limited edition of 600, height 26cm.  Sale Price: £250.00

25th April 2015

Lot 910: Rare Doulton Burslem Early figure Moorish Minstrel modelled by Charles Noke and decorated in the Robert Allen studio with floral enamelled decoration in brown, blue red and gilded hat, banjo and base, height 36.5cm condition report, excellent overall condition, slight slither chip to underneath corner of base & pin head loss to gilded base.  Sale Price: £2,600.00

25th April 2015

Lot 993: Royal Doulton Flambe Elephant with trunk in salute signed Noke, height 16.5cm.  Sale Price: £120.00

30th May 2015

Lot 468: Royal Doulton Loving Cup Lord Nelson, limited edition of 600 by Noke & Fenton, (no number and small crack to inside).  Sale Price: £150.00

26th September 2015

Lot 407: Royal Doulton early figure Doris Keane as Cavallini HN90, impressed date 1918 and signed C J Noke.  Sale Price: £380.00

Lot 559: Royal Doulton flambe small model of a pair of Monkeys with arms around each other, signed Noke, height 8cm.  Sale Price: £100.00

Lot 560: Royal Doulton flambe small model of seated fox and creeping fox, both signed Noke, seated fox height 11cm (2)  Sale Price: £75.00

Lot 584: Royal Doulton Polar Bear and Cub HN4178 from the Charles Noke Tribute Collection, boxed with certificate.  Sale Price: £230.00

Lot 1182: Royal Doulton rare two handled character jug Winston Spencer Churchill, stamped to the base ”This loving cup was Made during the Battle of Britain as a tribute to a great leader” modelled by Noke.  Sale Price: £2,300.00

27th February 2016

Lot 12: Royal Doulton large embossed jug The Dickens Jug by C J Noke, height 27cm.  Sale Price: £130.00

Lot 113: Royal Doulton flambe sung vase decorated with a landscape design initialled by Fred Moore and Noke, height 27cm.  Sale Price: £580.00

30th July 2016

Lot 553: Royal Doulton flambe large lying hare signed Noke.  Sale Price: £120.00

24th September 2016


Lot 330: Royal Doulton Kings ware jug with hall marked silver rim ”Would you know the value of money? Try borrowing some.” by Charles Noke, height 18.5cm.  Sale Price: £45.00

Lot 336: Royal Doulton Queens ware jug decorated with Bardolph by Charles Noke, height 22cm.  Sale Price: £50.00


Lot 342: Royal Doulton rare lamp base ”The Chang Potter”, decorated with sung and Chang glazes, signed to base by Noke & Nixon, height 31cm (restored).  Sale Price: £4,100.00

Lot 345: Royal Doulton Flambe footed bowl decorated with country cottage and landscape scene signed Noke, diameter 21cm.  Sale Price: £38.00

Lot 353: Royal Doulton rare early Flambe model of comical duckling model no 3157 (neck re stuck), Flambe seated cat signed Noke and Flambe chick with mouth open (piece re-stuck to beak) (3).  Sale Price: £92.00

29th October 2016

Lot 715: Royal Doulton Flambe large lying hare signed Noke (small chip to ear) and small Flambe seated fox (2).  Sale Price: £50.00

08th April 2017

Lot 755: A mixed collection of Royal Doulton series ware to include welsh ladies handled vase (signed Noke to base), cup and saucer, together with Fagin series ware jug (Beckett shape) (4).  Sale Price: £32.00

13th May 2017

Lot 723: Royal Doulton Flambe Elephant with trunk in salute signed Noke, (damaged trunk), height 16.5cm.  Sale Price: £45.00

 10th June 2017


Lot 109: Royal Doulton figure A Japanese Lady HN634, impressed date for 1923 & signed Charles Noke.  Sale Price: £1,100.00

Lot 105B: Royal Doulton early vellum pair figures Ellen Terry as Queen Catherine (neck and wrist re-glued) and Henry Irving as Cardinal Wolsey (small chip to base of robe and small hairline crack), both by Charles Noke Burslem c. 1890, tallest 33cm (2).  Sale Price: £200.00

Lot 159: Royal Doulton Flambe model of a seated cat and small lying hare, both signed Noke (2).  Sale Price: £60.00

Lot 164: Royal Doulton Flambe scarce Hare Crouching style HN119 signed by Noke.  Sale Price: £70.00

Lot 166: Royal Doulton flambe model of a seated fox, signed Noke, height 24cm.  Sale Price: £130.00

Lot 189: Royal Doulton flambe model of a penguin and chick, signed Noke, height 15cm.  Sale Price: £90.00


Lot 40: Royal Doulton Sung vase signed Noke and F. Allen (tiny chip and small hairline to neck) (height 18cm).  Sale Price: £80.00

08th July 2017


Lot 711: Royal Doulton flambe dish signed Noke with landscape scene decoration (some scratches to glaze), length 23cm.  Sale Price: £25.00

11th November 2017

Lot 106: Royal Doulton Sung Flambe vase decorated all around with mottled blue colours, signed Fred Moore & Noke, height 29cm.  Sale Price: £90.00

Lot 116: Royal Doulton large two handled loving cup Pied Piper, limited edition of 600 with certificate signed by Noke, height 26cm.  Sale Price: £180.00

14th July 2018


Lot 346: Four Royal Doulton pieces – three Isaac Walton series ware fishing plates by Noke – oval dish D2704 with hairline crack 28cm, a 16cm plate – chip to back and crazing, plus another similar plate in good condition, along with another fishing plate with a fishing scene marked D2420 and JEDO.  Sale Price: £32.00



Royal Doulton figure A Piper Minstrel HN301, handwritten ”Potted by Doulton & Co” by Charles Noke (slight ware to back of column base).

Royal Doulton figure A Moorish Minstrel HN34, handwritten ”Potted by Doulton & Co” by Charles Noke (good restoration to base and hand).

Royal Doulton Flambe Sung Vase signed Noke & F Moore, height 15cm.

Royal Doulton early figure The Jester HN55 in black and lavender, signed by C J Noke.

Royal Doulton Flambe Elephant signed Noke, height 14cm (tiny nip to back leg)

Royal Doulton Isaac Walton ware plate with inscription ”My hand alone my work can do, so I can fish and study too.” signed Noke.

Selling at Auction

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