Royal Doulton dates back to 1815 when John Doulton became involved in a pottery in Lambeth, London. John’s son Henry joined the firm in 1835 and the business expanded rapidly producing chemical and industrial ceramics. The success of their sanitary ware business enabled Henry Doulton to attempt more artistic interests. In 1867 he employed George Tinworth to establish an art pottery in Lambeth. Tinworth’s work achieved great public attention and the firm grew substantially to employ 300 men by the 1880s.
Doulton exhibited a range of china figurines made by Charles Noke in Chicago in 1893 but very few of these were ever made. It was not until 1913 that figurines became an important part of Doulton’s output. The first models were made by Charles Noke, Charles Vyse and Phoebe Stabler. They were given identifying numbers beginning with HN1, after Harry Nixon who was in charge of figure painting. The first figurine (HN1) was named “Darling” after Queen Mary exclaimed “Isn’t he darling>” when she saw it. HN numbers are still in use.
The first Bunnykins figurines, released in 1939, were also modelled by Charles Noke. There were no more Bunnykins figures released until 1972 when Doulton relaunched the range with 12 figures all modelled by Albert Hallam. A few Bunnykins were released in 1973 and 1974, and then every year since 1981 more have been produced.
The John Beswick Pottery was established in 1894 at Loughton, Stoke-on-Trent. Initially producing tableware and ornaments, and only later in the 1930s turning to animal modelling notably for famous racehorses and champion dogs. The studio became renowned as the finest for animal figures. The studio also produced a range of whimsical figures of animals with human expressions and in human poses and, after the War, flying bird wall plaques.
In 1948 the company began producing characters from the Beatrix Potter story books. The initial range produced in 1948 consisted of 10 figures. The first piece created by chief modeller Arthur Gredington was Jemima Puddle-Duck, which was released along with 9 other characters, including the ever popular Peter Rabbit. Production of Beatrix Potter figures was then moved to the Royal Albert pottery but returned to Beswick in 1998.
These were an immediate success, and realising that animated characters could make excellent figures produced Zimmy the Lion. In 1952, Beswick began its Disney range with Mickey Mouse, and later in 1968 produced a series of Winnie the Pooh figures. These figures are extremely sort after today.
The Royal Doulton Group bought Beswick in 1969. Since then, the factory has been used for the production of Royal Doulton character jugs and the Bunnykins and Brambly Hedge series as well as animal figures.
Royal Albert also forms part of the Royal Doulton group of potteries. The Royal Albert backstamp was created at the Albert Works in Longton, Stoke-on-Trent, England in 1896 and was named after Prince Albert. They produce a number of ranges including collectable flowers and plates, but of most interest are their collectable Beatrix Potter figures.