The Great British Bargain Hunt



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In 1751 an event of historic significance occurred on the banks of the River Severn in Worcester, England.  Here, under the brilliant guidance of Dr. John Wall, a group of local businessmen established a porcelain manufactory.  From the beginning, great emphasis was placed on superb craftsmanship.

From this formation it took the Worcester Porcelain manufactory just thirty years to satisfy the inaugural prescription of its celebrated founder, Dr John Wall, to 'create wares of a form so precise as to be easily distinguishable' and so establish an unmatched quality for Worcester Porcelain.

The earliest Worcester Porcelain was painted in blue under the glaze and this proved to be the most popular ware throughout the first ten years of the factory's life.   The art of painting on the glaze in enamel colours was also mastered and, although a smaller part of the early production, the examples that have survived are of an unusually high quality.

Worcester at this time showed an unusual responsiveness to new ideas and the factory was the first to produce porcelain decorated with transfer prints on a large scale.  A 'Survey of the City of Worcester' published in 1764 refers to the process, saying   'The curious and valuable art of transferring prints on porcelain is, in this factory, arrived at and carried on in the greatest perfection.  The work is the employ and subsistence of a great number of people'.

The actual origin of the process is controversial and there are several contenders for the honour of having discovered it, but the man who first applied it to the decoration of porcelain was the engraver Robert Hancock.  By 1756 Hancock had arrived at Worcester and the process was soon mastered.   These very pleasant wares, so characteristic of early Worcester production, are today eagerly sought by collectors and exist in considerable variety.

One of the first Royal services made towards the end of this period at Worcester was for the Duke of Gloucester around 1770.  Each piece of the sumptuous service was painted with different groups of fruit of a very distinctive style.

Following the retirement of Dr John Wall in 1774, his partners continued the manufacture until its London agent, Thomas Flight, purchased the factory.  The famous Flight and Barr periods in their various forms firmly established the factory as one of the leading porcelain manufacturers in Europe.

By 1789 the quality of their work at Worcester was held in such high esteem that, following a visit to the factory, King George III granted the company the prestigious 'Royal Warrant' as Manufacturers to their Majesties.   Thus the word 'Royal' was added to the name.   Indeed, while its rivals of the period at Bow and Chelsea have long since disappeared, the Worcester Royal Porcelain Manufactory became world famous and is now one of the largest manufacturers of Fine Bone China and Porcelain in England.  This record is a tribute to the quality of the ware produced at Worcester for two hundred and fifty years, a quality which has remained consistent throughout the many changes of fashion and technology.  For even today, as one historian has said,  'Worcester is one of the few enterprises where the traditional craftsmanship of the eighteenth century survives'.

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During the reign of Queen Victoria, the company achieved great success.  Manufacture was consolidated on the current factory site in 1840 and following a programme of major modernisation in 1862, the 'Worcester Royal Porcelain Company Limited' was formed.  The Managing Director, Richard William Binns, was to lead the company until the end of the century and under his control the number of employees was increased from 80 to 800.

During the second half of the nineteenth century, Royal Worcester produced a new material, Parian, which was to revolutionise figure making.  Dramatic steps were also taken to develop new decorative skills and techniques.   Apprenticed at fourteen years old, boys were instructed in Anatomy and Botany and were encouraged to study old master paintings.   They were taught skill such as gilding, groundlaying, printing and painting before specialising in one area, many traditions being passed down from father to son.

New decorative styles introduced included Painted Fruit, Blush Ivory ware and the perforated porcelain of George Owen with thousands of tiny holes cut out by hand, epitomising a dedication to excellence.

Many rich and extensive dinner services were also made during this period for the British Royal Family and the European Aristocracy including Queen Victoria and the Prince and Princess of Wales.

Royal Worcester was successfully displayed at major exhibitions of Art and Manufacture throughout the world, and in the tradition of Dr John Wall, every effort was made to surpass all technical and aesthetic thresholds.   Unique exhibition pieces were created, such as the Norman Conquest Vases, the Potters' Vases and the giant Chicago Vase now on show at the Museum of Worcester Porcelain.

During the early years of the 20th century Royal Worcester took a traditional approach to shapes and decoration.  Artists such as the Stinton family, Harry Davis and Frank Roberts produced meticulously painted Landscapes, Flowers and Fruit on richly gilded vases and decorative services.   Superb table services continue to be made, many of which are special orders individually designed with crests or monograms, as in the past.

The policy of Dr Wall for artistic and technological innovation continues to the present day and has led to the production of a Fine Porcelain ideal for oven cooking.   These newer products have been met by an increasing demand, resulting in a new, modern factory on the banks of the River Severn to satisfy the needs of customers today.

A profound technological revolution has taken place since the company first started its activity so many years ago.  However, sensitivity to changes in taste has made Royal Worcester products throughout the years some of the most sought after by important collectors and museums all over the world.

In 2001 the factory celebrated its 250th anniversary and continuance of the glorious tradition of blending Art and rigorous craftsmanship to create the most exquisite range of products.


Ian c Fyvie

RIYAN Productions