Hi Everybody,

I have always admired Doulton Pottery for the variety of work that they produce. (See also our previous blog on the History of the Ceramic Toilet.) Doulton’s work includes decorative ceramics, practical ceramics and even architectural works, but the Pottery was also a major contributor to the development of individual studio ceramics. In this slightly lengthy blog I’ll explain why this is. So, sit back, enjoy and read about the wonderful Doulton story.

In 1815, aged just 20 years, John Doulton invested his life savings of £100 in a small riverside pottery in Lambeth, South London. John Doulton himself was a good thrower and by 1826 the company was trading as Doulton & Watts. It was producing utilitarian stoneware and became one of the more important potteries in the area. What really made the pottery thrive, was when Doulton’s son Henry joined the company and encouraged the production of ceramic sanitation ware, just at the time, when there was a sanitary revolution taking place in London and the new industrial cities.

The name was changed to The Lambeth Pottery and they began the large scale production of drainpipes and other sanitary ware. It’s a fitting tribute to the quality of Doulton products that many of the sewer and water pipes beneath the streets of London are still in use today. The production of sanitary ware, the drains, urinals and water pipes, although unromantic, gave the Doulton Pottery the finances to experiment and develop other more arty wares. Around the 1850s, the first British art schools were established and Doulton developed a tentative relationship with them, which allowed a small group of students to experiment in the pottery. The experiment was a great success and by the 1880s the pottery was employing over 200 men and women from the art schools – a co-operation between art and industry that has never occurred since.

In 1878, Sir Henry Cole, Director of the South Kensington Museum, wrote in his diary that he visited the Lambeth Pottery and found it very large and noticed that much of the artistic work was done by female students, who appeared to just do what that liked! He wrote that the work went through three stages, with one student modeling the clay, another scratching the ornament and a third painting it with glaze. So, basically, they were producing individual pieces. This was the real significance of the studio and the effect it had on the ceramics industry as a whole, was that it encouraged potters great and small, throughout Britain, to start art departments and develop their own studio pottery!

 See you next week,