The Royal Worcester bone china tradition all began in 1751 in the town of Worcester, England. The founder was Dr John Wall. Always the benchmark for quality and design, that's exactly the reason this Worcestershire firm beat the traditional Stoke-on-Trent manufacturers at their own game. The rivalry was always intense, the secrets always jealously guarded, the mutual respect often disguised as critical banter.
Up until 2009, Worcester was unique in the UK
in having an unbroken history of porcelain making on the banks of the river Severn from 1751. Just think about that for a minute.....
For all those centuries, a legacy was passed down from one generation to the next of traditional skills, tricks of the trade, and craftmanship all stemming from Dr Wall and his original team. In 2009 the label was sold to rivals from Staffordshire, and the plant closed and sold off for apartments. The changing fashions of the 21st century finally did for this lovely old firm.
The Royal Worcester bone china legacy is a one off. The question is, how did it begin in such out of the way spot in the south west of England, far away from the Staffordshire epicenter of UK ceramics?
All this was all the vision of one Worcester physician, Dr John Wall. From the beginning Dr Wall’s vision was to achieve consistently high craftsmanship at all times. Worcester were always innovators. In the 1900’s Worcester invented Parian ware, which revolutionized figure making.
Painted porcelain fruit is one of the longest traditions and only a select few artists can reach the standards required.
I have met many of the painters painting today, and there are only a small handful of them - none of them, sadly, located anywhere within the old Worcester works (though some are in Worcestershire).
More than that I cannot say. Bone china has secrets still.
The long tradition always was to train all young apprentices in many skills - gilding, ground-laying, printing and painting - before specializing in one area.
Many skills were passed down from father to son and there was a noticeable pride in Worcester and their wares from the workforce. This pride has passed down even to the present day as I have seen first-hand in my 10 years of designing and sculpting for the Company.
In the Victorian era, Worcester were at their height - many extensive dinner services being made for the Royal Family and European aristocracy.
They also displayed at major exhibitions where spectacular show pieces wooed the audiences (for example, the Norman Conquest Vases and the giant Chicago Vase).
To summarize, I know from first hand the reason for the Royal Worcester china success story.
The will power and skill of Dr John Wall was so strong he set up a tidal wave of achievement which still bowls along today leaving a brand unsurpassed in quality.
Royal Worcester was the oldest surviving of the English potteries and the legacy remains untouchable.
The brand is now owned by Staffordshire maker Portmeirion - a company which bucked the general downward post war trend for the china companies. They had an ace up their sleeve - that ace was called Susan William-Ellis - a superb designer - who also happened to be the owner.
They also had her husband who was a financial genius and they also had her father who was a leading architect (and the person behind the famous Welsh faux Village of Portmeirion). Her daughters were also very strong on design.
Had Worcester put as much emphasis on great design as they had during the rest of their history, and had they shown the vision of the William-Ellis's, then perhaps they would not have gone into administration when they did. Many knowledgeable aficionados, experts and collectors of Worcester looked on in horror as the company, in it's death throws lurched from one incompetence to another.
Dr Wall must have been turning.....
The book above is the 19th century misdemeanors book recently found in the clear-out of the old works of Royal Worcester Bone China. In my opinion it should be thrown at the senior management clowns responsible for the failure of one of our national treasures.
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