Histories of UK potters and pottery manufacturers

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© Michael Perry 2011. Contact

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Last updated: 1st August 2011

DERBY - PEOPLE

William Duesbury (1725 - 1786)

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

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 until 1883.

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 beautiful porcelain.

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.

Hugh Gibson

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.

 

© Mike Perry 2011