Little is known of William Duesbury except that he worked as a china painter in London
in the early 1750s, and that at the time of the partnership with John Heath and Andrew
Planche, he was described as ‘of Longton … an Enamellor’.
He was clearly the driving force behind the initial success of the Nottingham Road
factory, consolidating there the resources of the Chelsea and Bow factories which
he purchased in 1770 and 1776. When he died in October 1786, the Derby factory was
one of the largest porcelain factories in Europe and producing ware of the highest
quality. As Duesbury himself is reputed to have remarked ‘a second Dresden’ in the
city of Derby.
Duesbury was succeeded by his son William Duesbury (II), under whom the factory’s
reputation grew even further.
Robert Bloor ( - 1846)
Robert Bloor had been a clerk at Nottingham Road under William Duesbury and in 1811
he purchased the business, including the premises, stock and intellectual property.
Bloor apparently could not meet the full purchase price and so entered into a agreement,
a ‘mortgage’ for the balance.
In 1828 Bloor succumbed to a mental illness that necessitated his retirement from
management of the enterprise. The factory continued under a manager, James Thomason,
until 1844 when Thomas Clarke, a relative by marriage (to Bloor’s only granddaughter),
had Bloor declared insane and took control of the business. The unfortunate Robert
Bloor died in March 1846.
Sampson Hancock (1817-1898)
Sampson Hancock, born in 1817 was the grandson of John Hancock who had been apprenticed
to William Duesbury during the early years of the Nottingham Street porcelain factory.
He worked as a decorator at the Nottingham St factory in in late 1840s and was one
of the six founder members, in 1848, of the King Street factory. Sampson Hancock
assumed control of the King St business in 1866 and remained as the proprietor until
his death in 1898. On his death, the business passed to his grandson James J. Robinson.
Sampson Hancock was an accomplished flower painter and signed pieces are much sought
by collectors. His son Henry (Harry) Sampson Hancock was also a noted painter at
the King Street factory.
Edward Phillips ( -1881)
Edward Phillips was been one of the founding shareholders in the formation of the
Worcester Royal Porcelain Co. in 1862 and acted as joint Managing Director of the
business with Richard William Binns. In 1875 the pair were in disagreement over the
direction of the business and Phillips was eventually dismissed by the Worcester
Board of Directors.
Edward Phillips held 15 of the 80 (160?) shared in the limited liability company
and (with Litherland and Bemrose) was one of three founding Directors of the Derby
Crown Porcelain Co. Ltd. Phillips died in 1881 only five years after the formation
of the company.
William Litherland was a businessman, and a china retailer through a chain of shops
in Liverpool. Like Edward Phillips he had interests in the Worcester Royal Porcelain
Co. Ltd, and with Phillips left Worcester to found the new company in Derby. Henry
Litherland, a nephew, and also owner of a china retail business, was also a shareholder
and was to become joint Managing Director with John McInnes on the death of Edward
Phillips in 1881.
William Litherland was the inaugural Chairman of the company, a position he held
Desire Leroy (1840-1908)
Desire Leroy came to the United Kingdom in 1878 to take up an appointment as an artist
at Mintons. In 1890 he moved to the Omaston Rd factory of the Royal Crown Derby Porcelain
Co. where he remained until his death in 1908.
Born in France, Leroy was apprenticed at the Sevres factor in 1851 and in just a
few years his talent for painting on porcelain gained him recognition as one of the
world’s leading artists. He was in his 50th year when he joined the Omaston Rd factory,
confident in the knowledge of his talent, and at the height of his skill, he apparently
travelled to the factory in a cab dressed in a silk hat and carrying a cane – a far
cry from the average decorator. Leroy died in May 1908. The combination of Derby’s
extravagant shapes and Leroy’s luscious decoration created some of the world’s most
Harold Taylor Robinson (1878-1953)
Potteries entrepreneur Harold Taylor Robinson, the effective owner of Cauldon Potteries
Ltd and many other Staffordshire potteries acquired a majority shareholding in Royal
Crown Derby in 1927 and held the position of Chairman from 1927 to 1932. His bankruptcy,
a consequence of the Great Depression and the failure of his Cauldon Potteries empire,
caused him to forfeit the position of Chairman in 1932. Robinson family control of
Royal Crown Derby continued despite Robinson’s financial woes, and in 1936 he returned
as Chairman of the company, a position he held until his death in March 1953 aged
75. Harold Robinson was awarded a CBE for services to the pottery industry in 1951.
Philip I Robinson
Philip Robinson was the son of Harold Taylor Robinson, the Chairman of Royal Crown
Derby Porcelain Co. Ltd. He attended the Burslem School of Art and in 1938-39 held
the position of Professor of Fine Art at the Worcester College of Art. He joining
Royal Crown Derby as Art Director, also Managing Director, in 1940 before succeeding
his father as Chairman on the latter’s death in 1953. Philip Robinson resigned as
Chairman in 1961 to join his wife in the management of the newly founded Abbeydale
New Bone China Co. Ltd.
The Hon Hugh M. T. Gibson DL is the current (2011) Chairman of the Royal Crown Derby
Porcelain Co. Ltd. A member of the Pearson family, the Hon Hugh Gibson was a director
of the Pearson-owned Royal Doulton Tableware Ltd from 1983 to 1993, and of the public-listed
Royal Doulton plc from 1993 to 1998. He was appointed the Chief Executive of Royal
Crown Derby in 1985, and was also the Managing Director of Minton Ltd from 1987 to
1999. Both companies were subsidiaries of Doulton.
Royal Crown Derby Porcelain Co. Ltd had been purchased by the Pearson Group in 1964
and was operated as a subsidiary of Doulton. In 2000, Hugh Gibson led a management
buyout of the company and Royal Crown Derby returned to private ownership. He has
been Chairman of the company since 2007.