Thursday, August 18, 2011

BBC bargain hunt tips - What is Royal Crown derby?

Derby ceramics are often a profit maker on episodes of the TV show “Bargain hunt” on BBC TV. The Crown derby pieces are always popular in the show and are still sought after by collectors.

The Royal crown Derby name on a piece of porcelain can make a winning item for the Bargain Hunt teams (or at least wipe its face!)

One of the important things to be aware of with these ceramics is the continued history of the company from its small beginnings to its failures and successes.

In 1745 André Planché, a Huguenot immigrant from Saxony, settled in Derby, where he met and formed a business partnership with William Duesbury, a porcelain painter formerly at the Chelsea porcelain factory, and the banker John Heath.

This was the foundation of the Derby Company, although Planché disappeared from the scene almost at once, and the business was developed by Duesbury and Heath.

A talented entrepreneur, Duesbury developed a new paste which contained glass frit, soap rock and calcined bone. This enabled the factory to begin producing high-quality tableware. He quickly established Derby as a leading manufacturer of dinner services and figurines by employing the best talents available for modelling and painting.

In 1770, Duesbury added to the high reputation of Derby by his acquisition of the famous Chelsea porcelain factory in London. He continued the factory and products of this period are known as "Chelsea-Derby."

In 1784 he demolished the buildings and transferred the assets, including the stock, patterns and moulds, and many of the workmen, to Derby.

In 1773, Duesbury’s hard work was rewarded by King George III, who after visiting the Derby works granted him permission to incorporate the royal crown into the Derby back stamp, after which the company was known as Crown Derby.

In 1786, William Duesbury died, leaving the company to his son, William Duesbury II, also a talented director, who besides keeping the reputation of the company at its height developed a number of new glazes and body types.

However William Duesbury II died in 1797 at the age of 34 and the company was taken over by his business partner, an Irishman named Michael Kean, who later married Duesbury's widow.

Michael Kean was not such a good director and many of the highly skilled workforce, and many eminent artists left. Although others produced good work under his management, including Moses Webster, a flower painter who replaced Billingsley, Richard Dodson (who specialised in birds), George Robertson (land - and seascapes) and Cuthbert Lawton (hunting scenes).

The best-known artist of this time was William Pegg, a Quaker, famed for his striking and idiosyncratic flower painting. He started in 1797 but his religious beliefs led him to the conclusion that painting was sinful and he left in 1800. He returned in 1813, but left again in 1820.

Despite much good work, the Kean period was disruptive and the company suffered financially.

William Duesbury III, took over the factory when he came of age in 1791, and Kean having sold his interest to his father-in-law, William Duesbury's grandfather, named Sheffield, the concern continued under the name of Duesbury & Sheffield.

In 1815, the factory was leased to the firm's salesman and clerk, Robert Bloor, and the Duesburys left all control to him. Bloor borrowed heavily to be able to make the payments demanded but proved himself to be a highly able businessman in his ways of recouping losses and putting the business back on a sound financial footing.

Under Bloor the company produced works that were richly coloured and elegantly styled, including brightly coloured Japanese Imari patterns, generally featuring intricate geometric patterns layered with various floral designs. These designs proved extremely and lastingly popular, and Derby continued to thrive.

In 1845, however, Bloor died, and after three years under Thomas Clarke, the Cockpit Works were sold and the factory closed in 1848.

A group of former employees set up a factory in King Street in Derby, and continued to use the moulds, patterns and trademarks of the former business, although not the name, so keeping alive the Derby traditions of fine craftsmanship. No mechanical processes were used, and no two pieces produced were exactly the same.

In 1877, an impressive new factory was built by new owners of the Crown Derby name in Osmaston Road, Derby, thus beginning the modern period of Derby porcelain. Crown Derby’s patterns became immensely popular during the late Victorian era, as their romantic and lavish designs exactly met the popular taste of the period.

In 1890, Queen Victoria appointed Crown Derby to be “Manufacturers of porcelain to Her Majesty” and by Royal Warrant granted them the title "The Royal Crown Derby Porcelain Company".

In 1935 Royal Crown Derby acquired the King Street factory, thus reuniting the two strands of the business.

In 1964, the company was acquired by S. Pearson and Son and became part of the Allied English Potteries Group, later to be joined by Royal Doulton.