Histories of UK potters and pottery manufacturers

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© Michael Perry 2011. Contact

Image courtesy of Lema Publishing Ltd, publishers of ‘Tableware International’ www.tablewareinternational.com

Last updated: 1st August 2011

‘Japan’ patterns

‘Japan’ or ‘Imari’ patterns were produced at Nottingham Road from at least as early as 1776. The brightly coloured ware with its characteristic patterns and motifs reached Europe in the early 1700s and was soon copied by Miessen and other European porcelain makers. In the United Kingdom both Bow and the Chelsea factory copied Japanese originals and it may be that Duesbury’s purchase of the Chelsea factory in 1770 stimulated production of similar patterns at Derby. The Nottingham Road ‘Japan’ patterns names include ‘Witches, ‘Rose’, ‘Garden’ and ‘Old Japan’

King Street

The connection, even continuity of the Nottingham Road and King Street factories was important to Sampson Hancock if for no other reason that orders for replacements and additions of Nottingham Road services and patterns were an important source of business. It is not surprising, therefore, that the ware produced at King Street was very similar in style and decoration to its predecessor.

Ware produced at King Street included tableware (tea, dinner and dessert services) and finely decorated ornamental ware. Derby figurines and flower encrusted ornamental ware made up much of the output. Skilled painters, including Sampson Hancock himself, and his son Henry Sampson Hancock, decorated the services and ornamental ware with flower paintings and landscapes of the highest quality. ‘Japan’ patterns were an important product and King Street again copied the various patterns (Witches, Rose, Garden, Old Japan etc) made popular by the Nottingham Road decorators.

Although the factory operated for over 70 years, the product mix changed very little.

Omaston Road

Like its smaller King Street rival, the Omaston Road business drew heavily on the heritage of Nottingham Road for its shapes and decoration. The modern factory produced good quality tableware, figurines and animal models, but is best known and renowned for its ornamental wares. Vases, plates and other ornamental ware were manufactured in intricate shapes and decorated with sumptuous grounds, rich gilding and paintings by some of the best porcelain painters of the age.

To quote from Lewellyn Jewett’s Ceramic Art of Great Britain (1883 edition) –

‘Present company formed by Mr. Phillips … Productions are:- China, Parian and vitrified stoneware. In china all the usual services – Dinner, Tea, Breakfast, Toilet, Dejeuner and a variety of other useful articles are made, as are vases of every conceivable design … In Parian:- Busts, Statuettes, and Groups are produced in considerable variety. Specialities are vases, principally of Persian and Indianesque character … with a profusion of raised gilt ornament … the eggshell china cups and saucers thus decorated being far beyond those of other houses.’

Ornamental ware

The hand-painted vases, plates and other ornamental items, and the hand-painted services produced for heads of state and the rich and famous represent the height of artistic achievement for Omaston Road. Not only was the painting of the highest standard, but the shapes, grounds and rich gilding complemented the painters art. Amongst the prominent painters who signed their work during the Derby Crown Porcelain period were James Platt (figures), W. N. Statham (landscapes), H. H. Deakin (fish), John Wale (landscapes, birds and flowers), James Rouse (flowers), G. Landgraf (figures), Thomas Bradley (seascapes), John Brownsword (flowers) and Edwin Trowell (landscapes).

Artist and designer Desire Leroy joined Royal Crown Derby in 1890 adding his own unique talent to the existing Derby style of elaborate enamelling and gilding by now synonymous with Royal Crown Derby. His special skill was in the use of colour and special subject the painting of flowers, but also birds, fruit and musical subjects. Leroy is also remembered for flower painting in white enamel on deeply coloured grounds.

Other skilled artists employed at Omaston Road in the 1890s, and later, were Donald Birbeck (bird, fish and animals), John Wale (landscapes, birds, fish), William Dean (seascapes, marine subjects), Albert Gregory (flowers), Cuthbert Gresley (flowers, landscapes), and many more.







Nottingham Road

The ware manufactured at Nottingham Road included the usual tableware, but also large quantities if figurines and highly decorated ornamental ware. Jewett (1883) lists the contents of four boxes dispatched from the factory to London in 1763 – included were flower jars, ink stands, Huzzars, pigeons, rabbits, bucks on pedestals, Jupiters, Junos, Ledas, Europa, Mars and Minerva, sets of the Four Elements, likewise the Four Seasons, Spanish shepherds, the Muses etc [all of these are classical figurines]; plus more utilitarian ware as open-work baskets, strawberry pots, sauce boats, coffee cups, coffee pots, teapots, jars, beakers and so on.

The Duesbury period ware is of uniformly high quality and the factory reached its peak under the management of William Duesbury, the son of the founder. The porcelain body contained a proportion of calcined bone, although not qualifying as a true bone china and the ware was covered in a warm, soft glassy glaze. Particularly notable are the ‘Derby’ figurines, such as the figure of Neptune illustrated opposite, and to be copied by the succeeding factories.

Derby (Robert Bloor)

A scalloped dish decorated with fruit, a polychrome leaf border and extensive gilding. The painting is in the style of George Complin.

Derby (Bloor period) circa 1820.

Image courtesy of Paul Vandekar

Pattern 2451 'Traditional Imari'

Royal Crown Derby pattern 2451

Pattern 2451 named ‘Traditional Imari’ was introduced in 1887 and is based on the earlier pattern number 877 from the year 1880.

Pattern 2451 is one of the ‘B Group’ of patterns with a distinctive border around the design (seen around the rim of the cup). This cup and saucer dates from 1906.

Image:© Michael Perry 2011


Paperweights modelled by Robert Jefferson and decorated in traditional Derby colours were introduced in 1981 and have become an important company product. Listed in the Crown Derby section of the 2005 Royal Doulton catalogue are new paperweights (priced at £199 and £299), a general range of animal models, Collectors Guild exclusive animal models, ‘Treasures of Childhood’ series ware, miniature bears and additions to the ‘Japan’ (Old Imari–pattern 1128) gold banded giftware. Traditional Imari teaware is still produced on antique shapes and in the time-honoured patterns. The new, independent Royal Crown Derby has retained and expanded the product range and there is an active Collectors Guild. The Royal Crown Derby mark is the famous monogram surmounted by a crown. Year cyphers were used from 1882 to 1958 and can be used to date items. From 1959 on, most wares carry a printed date.


From the mid-1960s as part of Allied English Potteries and then Royal Doulton, the company diversified into giftware and series ware for the collectors’ market, in many cases maintaining the link to its past through the use of the Imari colour palette and extensive gilding.

‘Japan’ patterns

‘Japan’ ware, characterised by ‘all over’ patterns executed in cobalt blue and iron red with extensive gilding originated at the Nottingham Road factory and were a staple ware of the King Street decorators. The patterns were also appropriated and refined by the Omaston Road business to the extent that this ‘Imari’ ware is now almost exclusively associated with Royal Crown Derby – although they were neither the originators or the sole producers of the ware.

The ‘Japan’ patterns appear predominantly on tableware, but in the modern period have also been used extensively on giftware and ornaments. The most well known ‘Japan’ patterns are numbers 383 ‘Old Japan’, 1128 ‘Old Imari’, and 2451 ‘Traditional Imari’.

© Mike Perry 2011