Our Museum Feature, the Under the Greenwood Tree plate, is an outstanding example from the many collections of Series Ware that Royal Doulton produced in celebration of people, places, events, and literature significant to British history. The Under the Greenwood Tree plate features a scene of the legendary English outlaw Robin Hood holding court under a towering tree, accompanied by Maid Marian, Friar Tuck, and a group of Merry Men. The Under the Greenwood Tree series showcased a variety of Robin Hood-themed scenes on more than 60 different items, including toothpick holders, vases, jugs, fruit dishes, cake plates, bon bon dishes, and more. The series first began in 1914, and production ran through 1967.
Royal Doulton began as Doulton and Watts Pottery in 1815. A partnership between John Doulton, Martha Jones, and John Watts, the pottery house mainly produced industrial materials such as stoneware sewer pipes, along with pots, jugs, and pitchers. The new business flourished over the next few years, and eventually relocated to Lambeth, England. By 1830, John Doulton’s sons had joined the management of the factory. As the company grew, so did its interest in producing ceramics for the home. Two of John Doulton’s sons, Henry and Frederick, left Doulton and Watts to open Henry Doulton and Co. In 1847, John Doulton’s oldest son, John Doulton, Jr., also left the Lambeth factory to open his own ceramics mill. Turmoil in the European and American financial markets forced the three firms, Doulton and Watts, Henry Doulton and Co., and John Doulton, Jr., to dissolve. But in 1853, the three firms regrouped as Doulton and Co.
During the second half of the nineteenth century, industrial pollution began to contaminate the River Thames, London’s primary source of drinking water. To address this problem, Doulton and Co. produced ceramic vessels that successfully filtered pollutants from the water. These vessels were easily adapted to the needs of the Royal Family, British Military, and hospitals throughout England. In 1901, to honor this contribution to public health, King Edward VII provided Doulton and Co. with a Royal Warrant.
After the Royal Warrant was issued, Doulton and Co. became Royal Doulton. It was around this time that the company began to invest its resources in skillful art directors and sculptors, as Henry Doulton had realized a growing demand for mass produced figurines and art ware. Ceramic designer Charles J. Noke had been recruited by Doulton in 1889, and would become a seminal force in the company. Noke’s father was a fine antiques dealer who counted among his friends R. W. Binns, who was then director of the Royal Worcester company. Noke grew up spending time in the Worcester factory, and apprenticed under famed sculptor James Hadley. After becoming art director of Royal Doulton, Noke championed the creation of Series Ware. Crafted by a talented team of artists, including George Holdcroft, Harry Tittensor, Victor Venner, and others, these lines of themed art ware were very popular. Noke (in collaboration with potter Bernard Moore) also developed a variety of new glazes, perhaps most famously the brilliant red “Flambe” glaze which debuted at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1914 to great acclaim. Under Noke’s artistic direction, Royal Doulton also began producing the character jugs and figurines for which the company is best known today.
Royal Doulton’s Under the Greenwood Tree plate in our museum is not for sale, but we do have other Royal Doulton Series Ware items available for purchase in our inventory; be sure to browse our web site. And remember that we always invite you to visit our facilities – here you’ll see a stunning variety of silver, china, crystal, and collectibles! Our 500,000-square-foot facilities hold more than 12 million individual pieces in more than 425,000 patterns! Our showroom and museum are open from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm ET, 7 days (except holidays); free tours are available from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm ET, 7 days. The showroom and museum are conveniently located between Greensboro and Burlington, NC, at exit 132 off Interstate 85/40. We look forward to seeing you!