Royal Winton and 'chintz' dinnerware have become inexorably linked during over a century of production of chintz patterns. The word "chintz" is derived from the Indian word "chint," meaning broad, brightly printed fabric. The term evolved further to mean printed calico fabrics that were exported from colonial India Great Britain. In the terms of dinnerware, chintz has come to define ceramic dinnerware pieces for which the entire surface of the piece is covered with bold, intricate floral patterns. These intricate designs are applied to the ceramic blanks via lithographs. Royal Winton was the industry leader in developing processes that allowed the intricately patterned chintz pieces to be economically produced for the masses, and the popularity of chintz patterns increased significantly.
Leonard Grimwade and his brother Sydney began a small pottery trade in Stroke-on-Trent in 1885. Working out of what was little more than a shack, Grimwades Limited became widely known in a short period of time due to Leonard's innate feel for ceramic designs that would be popular with customers.
Gaining recognition in the ceramic trade as word spread of their expertise, business began to expand for the Grimwades. The brothers acquired several local potteries, and expanded their facilities to four locations. The acquisitions allowed the Grimwades to expand into the popular and lucrative tea set market. Seeing potential in a fanciful design known as chintz, Leonard wanted to add this pattern to Grimwades tea sets. A problem arose though when trying to mass produce the intricate chintz patterns using traditional hand painting techniques. The hand-painting process was just too labor intensive to allow chintz patterns to be economically massed produced.
Two inventions of Leonard Grimwade's, duplex lithographic transferring, and the Climax kiln, would forever change how chintz was produced, and also had a significant impact on the dinnerware industry as a whole. Duplex lithographs were designs printed on thin tissues, with detachable backs. Pattern prints were applied to the paper, and then transferred to the ceramic piece by removing the detachable backing. This new process allowed chintz patterns to be produced quickly and efficiently. To complement the pattern application process, Leonard created the Climax kiln. Unlike traditional kilns that had to be loaded, heated, cooled, then unloaded, the Climax Kiln operated continuously, and ceramics were moved in and out with carts on wheels. Ceramics, and in particular chintz patterns, could now be mass-produced. Leonard's inventions assured long-term success for his company.
Following a visit from King George V and Queen Mary in 1913, the prestigious title "Royal" was bestowed upon Grimwades, and the company issued its first catalog to commemorate the event. A major shift in focus for the company occurred in 1928, which up until that time had counted tea sets only as a mainstay product. Royal Winton began offering a chintz dinnerware pattern called Marguerite . The pattern design was said to have been modeled after a needlepoint cushion worked by Leonard's wife. The pattern was produced in a full complement of pieces, from dinner plates to serving bowls. In 1929, when ads running in potter's magazines touted the quality of design and innovation offered by the company, Grimwade's adopted the trade name "Royal Winton."
Following the death of Leonard Grimwade in 1931, Royal Winton rode an unprecedented wave of success. Chintz had become the "ultimate expression of the quintessential English table." Designs such as Julia, Majestic, and Summertime offered English country elegance and simplicity that worked on any table. Chintz became so popular that hospitals were using the patterns for "sick feeders."
The early sixties brought higher labor costs and lower demand for tableware, particularly chintz patterns, which many consumers began to perceive as being "dated." Even with transfer processes, producing chintz was still a relatively labor-intensive process. Royal Winton, acquired by Henry Pottery, Ltd. in a corporate buyout, discontinued all of the previously produced chintz patterns in favor of giftware. As the years wore on, demand for chintz pieces in the antique market showed that consumers were still enamored with the simple beauty and elegance of chintz dinnerware. Customers, the American market in particular, wanted chintz, and they wanted it in quantity!
In 1993, Spencer Hammer and Associates arranged a takeover of Royal Winton. The firm reinstated the Grimwades Limited name, and continued the tradition of trading as Royal Winton. The company's board decided the first course of action would be to resurrect the once proud chintz lines. Many "old" patterns were produced once more. Unfortunately, the books containing the drawings and ideas for the original lines had long been lost. New lines, like the beautiful Welbeck, were designed to replace the patterns. Today, Royal Winton produces quality lines that would make Leonard Grimwade a very proud man.