When the very bright computer specialist who assists with the preparation of the Broadcast Newsletter was told the subject of our Museum Feature, he immediately asked, “What’s that?” So, a brief history of the chamber pot is in order.
The chamber pot, in French, “pot de chambre,” is a bowl-shaped, handled vessel that was stored under a bed or in a bedroom cabinet. It served as a nocturnal toilet during a time when heating systems were terribly inefficient and working indoor plumbing was rare. The chamber pot remained in common use until the 19th century, when the indoor water closet began to supplant it.
While the Royal Doulton chamber pot and cover in our Replacements, Ltd. museum collection may not be as delicate a subject as many we’ve covered in our Museum Features, it is worthy of note, especially in light of the history of its manufacturer, Royal Doulton, a company now acclaimed internationally for its exquisite fine china and figurines.
The origins of Royal Doulton, however, are a bit humbler than that. In 1815 John Doulton, then working as a “thrower” at Fulham Pottery Co., London, partnered with John Watts to create a new pottery house, “Doulton & Watts,” which eventually relocated to the town of Lambeth.
A few years later, Doulton’s son Henry joined the firm as an apprentice. While Doulton & Watts produced pots, jugs, pitchers, and bowls, the company was also known for its production of large vessels for storing industrial materials. In a souvenir booklet entitled, “The Doulton Story,” authors Paul Atterbury and Louise Irvine note that young Henry was “an intelligent and ambitious Victorian entrepreneur,” who realized that the growth of industrial cities like London would require far better sanitation systems. Doulton & Watts therefore turned “its attention to the large-scale production of stoneware drainpipes, conduits, and related wares.” These products were used in enormous quantities under the streets of England and Europe, turning quite a healthy profit for Doulton & Watts in the process.
Over the years John Doulton’s other sons, who had joined their father in the management of the business, eventually formed companies of their own. But turmoil in the British financial markets forced the businesses to dissolve. In 1853 they reformed as Doulton and Co. Although patriarch John Doulton died in 1873, the company continued to grow and expand. While Doulton and Co., under the leadership of Henry Doulton, produced industrial materials throughout the second half of the 19th century, Henry realized there was a growing middle-class market for quality ceramics, as well. Henry threw his whole-hearted support to the Lambeth Studio, a section of the factory devoted to the design and decoration of household wares.
In 1901, King Edward VII conferred upon Doulton and Co. the honor of a Royal Warrant for the company’s production of ceramic vessels holding porous stones that successfully filtered pollutants from the water of the Thames River, London’s primary source for drinking water. With the issue of the Royal Warrant, “Doulton and Co.” became “Royal Doulton.” Using the marketing power of the crown backstamp, the company began producing many collectible items, including character jugs and figurines. As Royal Doulton saw the growing demand for figurines in the Edwardian lady’s home, the company began to invest more resources in skilled art directors and sculptors. Throughout the first half of the 20th century, the company continued to introduce lines of miniature and full-scale figurines for the modern consumer.
In a way, the Royal Doulton chamber pot and cover in the Replacements, Ltd. museum represent the bridge between the firm’s industrial and utilitarian origins and its growth into a company known for household and collectible wares of the highest quality. The Royal Doulton chamber pot and lid were probably made in the 1930s, and the landscape depicted on its sides suggests the influence of popular artist Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966), though certainly not his luminous colors. The base of the pot, with the famous crowned lion backstamp of Royal Doulton, shows significant crazing. Obviously, the chamber pot and cover would not have been carefully stored, and were subject to variations of heat and cold.
While our Royal Doulton chamber pot and cover are not for sale, Replacements, Ltd. carries a broad range of china and collectibles, not only from Royal Doulton, but from many other English and American makers of fine china. Be sure to browse our web site. And remember that we always invite you to visit our facilities! Here you’ll find a stunning variety of silver, china, crystal, and collectibles! Our showroom and museum are open from 9:00am to 7:00pm ET, 7 days a week (except holidays); free tours are available from 10:00am to 6:00pm ET, 7 days a week. 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!