John Doulton painted in 1872 Henry Doulton. Image Source

Doulton John Dwight, sometimes called the father of English pottery, took out patents in 1671 for stoneware of the type previously imported from Cologne (Cologne ware). He set up a pottery in Fulham which was just a small village near London. John Doulton was born in Fulham in 1793 and completed his apprenticeship at the pottery founded by Dwight. Here he learnt his craft making toby jugs, kitchen crocks, jars and bottles. He soon earned the reputation of being one the best throwers' in London.

In 1815 John Daulton left the Fulham pottery and invested his life savings of �100 in a small pottery in Vauxhall Walk. In 1820 he and John Watts took over ownership of the Vauxhall Walk pottery. They made utilitarian salt glazed stoneware similar to that made at Fulham. Doulton knew the business inside out, not only throwing pots, visiting customers, broke the clay with hammers, mixed constituents, and fired the pots. They partners bought and set up a clay mill on a small plot of land adjoining the works.

By 1826 the company now trading as Doulton & Watts moved to larger premises in Lambeth Walk which had potential for expansion which was quickly needed. The company was adaptable and started making acid resistant pots and plant for the growing chemical industry. This proved to be a good move and the partners expanded by buying additional property and building new kilns to compete with Bristol potters.

In 1835 Henry Doulton, the second son of John, joined the business at the age of 15. He was a quick learner and had a great aptitude for all aspects of pottery making. For example by the age of 17 he was throwing 20 gallon (90 litre) chemical vessels. These early beginnings set him up for great success in his later life. Henry applied technical advances in other fields to his business e.g. he installed steam power to drive the potters wheel some ten years before other potteries.

Awareness of public health increased in the 1830s and 1840s and the demand for glazed pipes, to replace the porous brick lined sewers, grow at a dramatic rate. Doulton saw the opportunity and in 1846 built a pipe factory on what was to become the Albert Embankment. The demand for Doultons' pipes and other sanitaryware was tremendous and within three years Doulton founded factories in Dudley and St Helens to meet the need.

Doulton Drainpipe Wharf. Image Source Lambeth Archives
Loading Drain Pipes at Doultons. Image Source Lambeth Archives
Over Door Detail at the Entrance to Doultons Head Office.

During this time the demand for electrical insulators could only be met by the Lambeth Works which had great technical skill. Doulton was soon providing products to the Railways, the Post Office Telegraphic service. These technical skills enabled Doulton to make statues of all sorts and terracotta vases.

The company of Doulton & Watts soon traded as The Lambeth Pottery till John Watts retired in 1854 when the company changed its name to Doulton and Co. John Doulton died in 1873 and Henry in 1897 when Henry's son Henry Lewis Doulton took over control of the company. Henry Jnr. decided to form a limited company on 1st January 1899 called Doulton & Co Limited. In 1901 Edward VII granted a Royal Warrant and additionally the right to add the word Royal to the companies name so forming Royal Doulton.

Doulton had broadly left decorative wares to other pottery companies till 1867 when he exhibited his existing lines, together with a range of simply decorated vases, at the Paris Exhibition. During the next four years the new product line was extended to about 70 items. The new line was made quite an impression and Queen Victoria ordered some for Windsor. She was obviously taken with the new product line, which became known as Douton ware, as she visited several exhibitions of the Lambeth pottery. The Prince of Wales also visited the pottery on several occasions.

Doulton worked closely with the renowned Lambeth School of Art and several well known artists worked for him including George Tinworth, the Barlow sisters, Arthur B Barlow, Mark Marshall, Frank A Butler, John Broad, and W Rowe. He gave them great freedom to express their talents which benefited all parties. In 1877 Henry decided to extend his decorated range to include earthenware and bone china products by buying an established pottery in Burslem in Staffordshire.

Doulton and Company Works from St Mary's Churchyard c1920-1929

Sir Henry Doulton died in 1897 and his son Henry Lewis Doulton took charge of the company. A Limited company was formed on 1st January 1899 called Doulton & Co. Ltd. The company was not only granted the Royal Warrant in 1901 but the right to use the word 'Royal' in its title.

The company's investment in research and development paid good dividends, with increasing demands from the emerging chemical, electrical, medical and building industries. New pipe works were established at Erith in Kent in 1925 when production of pipes moved from the Lambeth site. Manufacture of electrical insulators and specialist chemical resistant ware was moved to a newly acquired pottery near Tamworth in 1935. Sanitary work slowly moved to Whieldon near Stoke on Trent in 1937. In 1956 the Lambeth works, which played a major part in Doulton's history, were finally closed.

Image Source : The Builder 9th December 1876 entitled: Messrs. Doulton's premises, High Street, Lambeth. Introducing Terra-Cotta and Stoneware. Messrs. Tarring, Son, & Wilkinson, Architects.
Image Source : The Builder 9th December 1876 entitled:
Messrs. Doulton's premises, High Street, Lambeth.
Introducing Terra-Cotta and Stoneware.
Messrs. Tarring, Son, & Wilkinson, Architects.

Gilbert Bayes Frieze
This article appeared in the Vauxhall Society's Newsletter - October 1988.

Pottery through the Ages, frieze, designed by Gilbert Bayes. (Victoria and Albert Museum.)

Society members will, I am sure, be interested to learn that the Doulton House Frieze, which was rescued at the last moment when the former headquarters of the Royal Doulton Potteries on the Albert Embankment was demolished at the end of 1978, has now returned to London and can be seen in its new resting place at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Doulton House, designed by the architect T.P. Bennett and recognised as one of the finest Art Deco buildings in London, was completed in 1939. Incorporated in the design were two low relief polychrome stoneware panels by Gilbert Bayes, the smaller, on the side of the building, representing the arrival of Dutch potters in London and the larger, a fifty-foot frieze, depicting the history of pottery through the ages and comprising more than three hundred individual stoneware blocks, each one modelled by Bayes.

The building was sold by the Doulton Group in 1971 and remained empty for seven years, but when demolition began suddenly in 1978, Doulton received numerous telephone calls from members of the public concerned at the imminent destruction of the Frieze. Eventually, with backing from the Company, Paul Atterbury, Royal Doulton's historian, arranged for a team of volunteers from the Ironbridge Gorge Museum to undertake a last minute rescue attempt. Despite the wintry conditions and the short time allowed by the demolition contractors, the Frieze was success- fully removed by the end of January 1979 and transported to lronbridge for restoration. Royal Doulton have also funded the return of the Frieze to London and its re-erection at the V&A

Other works by Gilbert Bayes include the Selfridges' Clock in Oxford Street, the Savile Theatre Frieze in Shaftesbury Avenue, and locally, panels on the London Fire Brigade Headquarters on the Albert Embankment.