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The Royal Doulton Story

The most prolific and popular of all character jug makers

The Doulton Pottery was established in 1815 in the Lambeth area of London. At first, founder John Doulton, made useful wares in salt-glaze stoneware, a resilient, practical material suitable for bottles, jars and jugs- as well as drain pipes.  Joined in the 1820s by John’s son, Henry Doulton, the company enjoyed growth in the 1830s and 1840s, branching out into terra-cotta products and garden ornaments. Foreseeing the public outcry for more sanitary living conditions, Henry exquisitely timed the company’s entry into the production of stoneware piping and conduits. It was so successful that by 1846 the Lambeth factory was leading the sanitary revolution in England as the major supplier of stoneware drainpipes.  This mundane business laid the foundation for the sterling reputation it developed over the next century and a half.


During this time, John Doulton dabbled in stoneware jugs with relief modeled scenes of Toby Fillpot drinking ale, as well as figurative flasks in the form of leading politicians and, in the 1840s, the first Doulton bust or character jugs portraying Lord Nelson to celebrate the great naval hero.  By the 1860s, Doulton was making the traditional style of Toby Jug in brown glaze-stoneware, including in 1863 a convivial toper sitting astride a barrel marked XX.  Doulton’s most famous figure modeler, Leslie Harradine, created a number of character jugs in the first decade of the 20th Century, including Theodore Roosevelt, Mr. Pecksmiff and a Highway Man. Lambeth’s chief contributor to the Toby Jug tradition, however, was Harry Simeon, who fashioned Toby Fillpots into a variety of useful articles in the 1920s – ash trays, candlesticks, spirit decanters – as well as the more familiar Toby Jug.  Examples of all of these very rare and hard to find early 20th Century stoneware pieces may be viewed Royal Doulton section.


Doulton received the royal warrant from King Edward VII in 1901, with the right to use the name Royal Doulton. By this time, Henry Doulton had established another factory in the town of Burslem in Stoke-on-Trent, the heart of the British Potteries district– and the birthplace of the Toby Jug 150 years earlier.  Both the Lambeth and Burslem factories grew, producing a wide variety of products and displaying over 1500 different items at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. By the 1930s Royal Doulton was known world-wide as a leading producer of fine china, as well as for its popular line of figurines depicting pretty ladies and other colorful characters.


At this time, Doulton’s Art Director, Charles Noke, began experimenting with the idea of face jugs, later to be marketed as Character Jugs. Doulton celebrated the launch of its first character jug in 1934 with John Barleycorn, the personification of malt liquor.  Noke’s second jug was Old Charley, which together with Sairey Gamp’s fifty years became the longest production run in Doulton’s character jug history.  In the late 1930s modeler Harry Fenton, re-introduced the full bodied Toby Jug tradition with a succession of colorful characters, the full production of which is on display in the Museum.  Novelty coupled with practicality became the theme in the 1930s and several character jug subjects were adapted for use as tobacco jars, match-stands, ash bowls, teapots, sugar bowls, book ends, liquor containers and musical boxes.  The complete range of these derivatives are also on display.  Doulton went on to create more than 600 characters from legend, history and fiction in Character Jug and/or Toby Jug form.  Unfortunately, as part of the Waterford-Wedgwood-Doulton group, recently emerging from bankruptcy, the company has announced that its last production character jug will be 2011’s Jug of the Year, Barrack Obama.


During the long production life of Royal Doulton Character and Toby Jugs, a number of characters were modeled, which for various reasons, were never put into production.  These we now refer to as prototypes and, due to the avarice of the Doulton collecting population, they have become the most valuable and sought after jugs in the whole Museum. These one-to-four of a kind jugs may be found in two cabinets facing each other in the corner of the Museum. The rest of the long aisle culminating in the overhead Royal Doulton sign features every production jug ever made by Royal Doulton, with historical characters on the right, fictional characters on the left and generic characters at the end of the aisle.  At the very end of the aisle are collections of Flambe' jugs, two handled and two-sided character jugs, and rare two-sided teapots.

Royal Doulton character jugs
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