There aren’t many other figurines as sought after and collectible as the delicate and varied china figurines of Royal Doulton (RD).
2015 marks 200 years since the RD story began with a partnership between John Doulton, Martha Jones and her foreman John Watts who were already potters on the banks of the River Thames. They were joined twenty years later by John’s son Henry who brought his expertise in pioneering the ‘sanitary revolution’ through stoneware drain pipes and water filters to improve living conditions.
Henry Doulton encouraged the association with the Lambeth School of Art in 1866 making a considerable change in how RD was perceived and heightening the brand’s collectability and increasing sales.
One notable fan was Queen Victoria who knighted Henry Doulton in 1887 for his service to art and ceramics and this lead to Edward VII to grant the company add ‘Royal’ to their name after Henry’s death in 1901.
Modeller C. J. Noke popularised the figurines after his appointment around 1913. Harry Nixon joined RD around 1900 as a general artist later becoming head of the painting department. He is the namesake for the HN series numbers on the figurines beginning with HN 1 ‘Darling’ in 1913. When Queen Mary was touring the Burslem Pottery in 1913, she singled out the figurine and exclaimed ‘Isn’t he a darling’ which brought about its name and primary place on the HN list.
There have since been over 4000 models of the figurines made and manufactured for collectors. Since production started in the 1890’s, there have been many variations on style, colour and subject matter which often reflects the style of the time and which affect the value of each. There are even slightly different variations in colour and HN numbers which can attract different values.
The newer figures which are not made in England don’t hold their value the same way that the originals have endured. The colours vary slightly with subtler hues, even for the same mould and shape. Faces in these newer pieces also tend to be different and aren’t as finely painted.