In the early 20th century, Sheraton and Hepplewhite furniture enjoyed a revival in England and Georgian style interiors became fashionable. Royal Worcester produced new versions of many old Worcester designs in Georgian style. The Chairman of Royal Worcester, Charles Dyson Perrins (1864–1958) collected 18th century Worcester Porcelain and probably encouraged the use of Georgian forms of shape and decoration. The favourite patterns of the early 20th century were coloured flower borders, Willow pattern, and Blue Dragon.
Rich items are created by many hands, from designer and modeller to mould maker, caster and gilder, but today often only the painter is given the credit. Around 1900 Royal Worcester allowed the painters to sign their work for the first time. (The signature usually appears on the edge of the painting, not on the bottom of a piece) The artists were encouraged to specialise and develop individual styles. They all collected cuttings photographs and postcards from which they drew inspiration from. The most well known painters of Royal Worcester 20th Century were:
|Charles Baldwyn working 1874–1909
Swans in flight and birds
|Henry Chair working 1872–1911
Thistles, poppies, orchids & festoons of roses
|Harry Davis working 1898–1970
Fish, sheep, landscapes, architecture
|George Evans working 1914–1955
Corot style landscapes
|William Hawkins working 18741928
Portraits, interiors and still life
|George Johnson working 1875–1914
Game birds, flying swans and farmyard scenes
|Ernest Phillips working 1890–1932
Neat flower groups and still life
|William Powell working 1900–1950
Small British birds
|Frank Roberts working 1872–1920)
Flowers and fruit
|Frank R. Rushton working 1900–1953
Landscapes, cottages and gardens
|Edwin Salter working 1876–1902
Landscapes and fish
|Richard Sebright working 1882–1946
|Harry Stinton working 1896–1963
|James Stinton working 1902–1951
|John Stinton Jnr working 1902–1938
Landscapes, castles, cattle and Highland Cattle
Royal Worcester absorbed the Grainger workforce in 1902 and Hadley’s employees in 1906 and understandably there was often not enough work to go round. Painters had to do alternative jobs when there were no orders for their specialist subject. As a result, many artists painted watercolours and oil paintings that they sold locally to supplement their income.
The Royal Worcester company, steeped in tradition, realised it must face the future. Life styles changed dramatically during and after the First World War and a new generation wanted modern tableware for entertaining. Under Art Director John Wadsworth several new styles were tried with varying degrees of success. Boxed coffee sets, bowls for floating flower heads and lampshades in geometric designs were chic new ideas. Printed linear tableware patterns, enamelled by hand were also developed. China patterns had always been given numbers by the factory, but for the first time in the mid 1920s china tableware designs were given names such as Marjorie, Lady Evelyn and Duchess.
Some of the most extravagant china was made for export. Richly gilded patterns such as Imperial designed by Harry Davis (1885–1970) in 1911 and Embassy designed by John Wadsworth in 1916 were especially popular in the USA. Tiffany of New York sold rich service plates that were embellished with hand gilded acid etched patterns. Prouds Ltd and the Flavelle Brothers of Sydney commissioned the Australian artist Ellis Rowan to paint a series of exotic flowers to be copied onto Royal Worcester tea services, by artists such as Walter Sedgley, Albert Shuck, Edward Phillips, and the Austin brothers. The Foreman painter, William Hawkins (1858–1930) also painted some remarkable portraits of Aborigines for the Australian market.
With high unemployment in Europe, the General strike of 1926 and the Wall Street crash of 1929, there was still little demand for luxury china on either side of the Atlantic. Royal Worcester narrowly escaped closure and was rescued by Charles Dyson Perrins who bought the company outright in the early 1930s.
All forms of earthenware and glazed Parian were discontinued in 1931 and in the same year under the guidance of Managing Director Joseph Gimson C.B.E. (1896–1985), Royal Worcester launched a new range of bone china figures at the Beaux Arts Gallery in London. Only the models of children by Freda Doughty (c.1898–1972) were popular at first, the designs of the other freelance modellers failed to sell.
In 1933 an American publisher encouraged Royal Worcester to make Limited Edition bird models. Dorothy Doughty (1892–1962) designed birds for the American market working from her studio in Cornwall, which she shared with her sister, Freda. She had never worked in clay before, but was determined to make the birds as life-like as possible. Special matt colours were developed and new skills in mould making, casting and propping were needed to make such complex models in bone china. Dorothy made two visits to America to study the birds in their natural habitat, making sketch models to spontaneously capture their character. 36 pairs and 3 individual models were designed between 1933 and 1960. Towards the end of her life Dorothy also designed a series of 21 English birds and a set of 12 collectors’ plates, which were modelled in relief.
During the Second World War, one third of the Worcester factory was turned over to the Ministry of Aircraft and from 1941 insulators were made for radio and radar equipment. A high fired, heat and shock resistant porcelain had been developed at Government request in 1914 for use in hospitals and laboratories and production continued throughout the Second World War. This hard porcelain was also used to make ‘Fireproof’ cookware from the 1930s onwards including gold and silver lustre wares which were introduced after the war.
In 1948 Royal Worcester opened a showroom at 30 Curzon Street, Mayfair and many successful series of small decorative figures were introduced, including British Birds by Eva Soper (1901–1990), Oriental Figures by Agnes Pinder Davis and Animal Studies by Doris Lindner (1896–1979). In 1947 Miss Lindner modelled her first limited edition, a study of Princess Elizabeth on Tommy, Trooping the Colour. In the 1960s she designed an extensive series of limited edition champion horses and bulls. A half life-size bronze of Red Rum on Cheltenham racecourse is probably her best-known work.
In the 1960s Managing Director Joseph Gimson revolutionised design at Royal Worcester by the appointment of Robert Baker (1909–1992), Professor of Ceramics at the Royal College of Art. Under his direction, shapes and patterns were co-ordinated to produce modern ranges as well as traditional style designs. Full colour floral patterns were popular until around 1980 when plainer coloured borders became more fashionable with the introduction of Nouvelle Cuisine. The last resident team of shape and pattern designers use computer-aided design alongside traditional skills.
In 1962 Royal Worcester’s most popular porcelain pattern, Evesham, was designed by Professor Baker and two of his pupils from the Royal College of Art, Ronald van Ruyckevelt (b.1928) and Peter Ewence.
The success of Dorothy Doughty and Doris Lindners designs encouraged Royal Worcester to launch further series of both limited and unlimited models from the 1960s: Birds by James Alder, Military Commanders by Bernard Winskill, Sporting Fish, Game Birds, Tropical flowers and Queens by Ronald van Ruyckevelt, who with his wife, Ruth, also worked on series of Victorian Ladies and Nurses.
Figurine production continued into the 1980s with a series of elegantly gowned ladies by Donald Brindley, and Dogs and Impressionist figures by Ken Potts.
In the mid 80s the independent designer David Fryer produced a number of models combining bone china and bronze for Royal Worcester including birds, woodland animals, flower fairies and roses. He also designed the Golden Eagle, the largest model ever made by Royal Worcester with a wingspan of 40 inches.
In the 20th century traditional skills were maintained and developed at Royal Worcester and bespoke dinner and tea services and ornamental items of the highest quality were made for individual customers including HM Queen Elizabeth II, King Farouk, The King of Siam, Queen Wilhelmina, Ranjitsinji, and The Bayan Palace, Kuwait. Royal Worcester also continued to produce porcelain and bone china for hotels and institutions such as Claridges, The Dorchester, The Savoy, The Ritz, Raffles (Singapore), The Ford Motor Company, The Houses of Parliament, BBC, Aspreys, Garrards and Tiffany’s (New York).
In 2006 tableware production ceased in Worcester and the bulk of porcelain and bone china was made under contract abroad. The business in Worcester city was concentrated into a smaller area and talented artists continued to hand paint and gild bespoke items and rich ornamental Painted Fruit pieces.
In 2009 the Royal Worcester name was purchased by Portmeirion Potteries of Stoke on Trent and the Worcester factory site and shops closed on 14 June.