Royal Doulton porcelain and china takes its name from John Doulton, who in 1815 joined with Martha Jones, whose late husband had founded Lambeth Pottery, a ceramics operation in Lambeth, England, and the foreman at the pottery John Watts. John Doulton had learned his trade at the Fulham Manufacturing Co. well known as one of the first English commercial producers of stoneware and which had been founded by master potter John Dwight in 1688. While operations began as Jones, Watts, and Doulton, the firm soon assumed the name of Doulton and made a wide variety of decorative objects for an affluent buyer. Soon, John Doulton and his son Henry had established themselves as makers of fine English stoneware which rivaled the finest in the world, and the pottery came to the attention of the British Royal family. Soon, the firm expanded both internally and through acquisitions such as the 1882 acquisition of Pinder, Bourne & Co. of Burslem, England, a small factory in the Staffordshire region who was known for the quality of their fine bone china. Doulton art director John Slater recognized the growing trend toward gleaming porcelain pieces in brilliant colors, and he saw that his new acquisition gave Doulton the ability to move aggressively into these enamel on glaze decorations.
By 1885, Doulton was producing world-class wares for an international clientele. By the late 19th century, Doulton had won honors at major international exhibitions and was producing a tremendous variety of figurines, vases, character jugs, and other decorative pieces in vibrant colors and using under- and on-glaze enameling techniques. The company continued to hire talented artists including the next art director Charles Noke, Harry Tittensor, Joseph Hancock, and many others. Doulton achieved a design and quality aesthetic sufficient to serve the needs of the English royal family, and King Edward VII bestowed upon Doulton in 1901 the honor of using "Royal" in their name. While production was interrupted for the two World Wars, the years in between offered Royal Doulton a period of great prosperity and the fabulous Art Deco figurines for which they are widely recognized today.
Doulton always produced fine English china sets for both a domestic and international market, but after World War II more production shifted to these simpler designs which could be mass produced at a price more people could afford. Another well renowned art director, Jo Ledger, joined the company in 1954, and continued producing older designs while at the same time exploiting new production techniques that allowed Royal Doulton to produce high quality works at modest prices. Today, Royal Doulton is still producing popular figurines and fine bone china as well as the Doulton Lambeth line of stoneware. As throughout the history of Royal Doulton, the Lambethware line uses cost effective yet high quality production techniques which reflect the technical innovation for which they have always been known.
What's it worth? Take a look at this Royal Doulton price guide: sold listings for a value indication.