This month, we feature five beautifully decorated seriesware “Cathedral” plates by Royal Worcester. Seriesware was made popular in the early 20th century via several lines made by another tableware icon, the Spode China Company. The production of seriesware was begun for marketing reasons, with the thinking being that if a line or “series” of a particular item were produced, consumers would want to purchase each piece that belonged to the collection.
The “Cathedral” series by Royal Worcester is a group of five plates that commemorate cathedrals in England. The plates in this collection are distinguished by a gorgeous transferware rendering of a cathedral, with hand-painted highlights. These beautiful images include Gloucester Cathedral, Hereford Cathedral, Lichfield Cathedral, Worcester Cathedral, and York Minster Cathedral. Our research department dates these plates to approximately 1933 due to the type of Royal Worcester backstamp used as well as the hand-painting process done over the transferware design. Each cathedral design is rich in history, architectural design, and beauty.
One of the most interesting cathedrals in the collection is “Gloucester.” The original foundations of this church were laid in 681 and were dedicated to St. Peter. This dedication was dissolved by Henry VIII sometime during the 1530’s. Traditionally, St. Peter is seen as the first Pope of the Catholic Church and the spiritual predecessor of all other popes. It goes without saying that Henry VIII’s break with the Catholic church and the dissolving the dedication of the Church to St. Peter was an act of defiance to Rome. Today, the church is known as “The Cathedral Church of St. Peter and the Holy and Indivisible Trinity.” The church is 420 feet long, 144 feet wide, and has a 15th century tower that rises 225 feet in the air. The Gothic styling of the church is very apparent, with pointed spires rising from every peak of the church. It is also filled with the most beautiful display of medieval stained glass. The cathedral has a canopied shrine that serves as the resting place of King Edward II who was murdered at Berkeley Castle. Edward II was interred at the cathedral to get pilgrims to visit the country church during the medieval period.
Today, the church serves as one of the churches in the “Three Choirs Festival.” This musical festival is also held at Hereford and Worcester Cathedrals. Most interestingly, beginning in 2000, Gloucester Cathedral served as Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for the popular “Harry Potter” films! The decision to allow the church to be used for such purposes was met with a great deal of controversy as many felt that the subject matter of the Harry Potter films stood in opposition to teachings of the church.
Regarding the Royal Worcester China company, it was conceived in 1751 by Dr. John Wall, a gifted surgeon and local pharmacist who stumbled upon a formula for "soft paste" porcelain. The paste formula was unique for its time and received much attention, as it did not crack when exposed to boiling water. With this industry-changing formula in hand, Wall and his associate secured local financial backing and formed Worcester - Tonkin, a porcelain studio on the banks of the river Severn in Worcester, England. Strong emphasis on artistic freedom and quality of craftsmanship helped the business establish a solid reputation in the local porcelain industry; however, living up to Dr. Wall's mission to "create wares of a form so precise as to be easily distinguishable" was not a leisurely undertaking. Fierce competition threatened the very existence of Worcester - Tonkin.
Early on, Worcester thrived in the production of blue painted underglaze wares. This work led to experimentation with decorating on top of the surface glaze enamel colors. The company developed a significant following by producing products with traditional shapes and themes such as landscapes, flowers, fruits, and finely gilded giftware. Upon visiting the facility in 1789, King George III granted use of the prestigious "royal warrant" and the name "Royal Worcester" was officially adopted. By the reign of Queen Victoria, most of Worcester's competition had fallen on difficult times. New product and process advancements and expanding business opportunities brought much success to the company. The year 2001 marked the 250th anniversary of the founding of this distinguished tableware company. Now a member of the Royal China and Porcelain Companies, Inc., Royal Worcester continues to be a leader and trendsetter in the tableware industry.
York Minster Cathedral
We extend a most genuine invitation to you to visit our Museum, with its vast collection of rare tableware and collectible items, and our Showroom, where you can browse and purchase in a stunning array of china, crystal, flatware, and collectible patterns, and of course, Royal Worcester pieces! Our Showroom and Museum are open from 9am to 7pm ET, 7 days a week (except holidays). The Showroom and Museum are conveniently located between Greensboro and Burlington, NC, at exit 132 off Interstate 85/40. Make plans to visit us soon!
Want to know more about Royal Worcester? Click here for an informative history.