Royal Crown Derby
The story begins in 1748 when Andrew Planche established the first china works in the city. From 1756, William Duesbury became the guiding light in making china of outstanding quality. His creative ambitions led him to take control of the famous potteries of Chelsea and Bow, where he brought together the leading potters and artists of the day to launch a great variety of richly decorated wares.
In 1773 a London showroom was opened in Covent Garden, attracting great public interest and securing the patronage of nobility. King George III gave Duesbury permission to call himself 'Porcelain manufacturer to His Majesty The King' and granted the rare honour of incorporating a crown into the backstamp.
On Duesbury's death, his son William Duesbury II, took control of Crown Derby. He combined his father's business acumen with a sophisticated sense of taste and style, under his guidance the Derby China manufactory was to become the most important in Britain and amongst the finest in Europe. Great improvements were made in body and glaze, in potting and, especially, in decoration as Duesbury inspired and directed the finest group of ceramic artists ever assembled.
A remarkable range of products makes the decade from 1786 one of the most rewarding for collectors and students alike. The first written records date from this period and contain references to the china works' great artists and their specialist works: the figure painting of Richard Askew and James Banford, the landscapes of Zachariah Boreman and John Brewer, and perhaps most distinguished of all, the exquisite flowers of William Billingsley and William 'Quaker' Pegg.
Sadly, many members of this remarkable team were to leave Derby when Duesbury died and the day to day running of the Company passed to his partner Michael Kean. But this wa to be a temporary decline and, when Robert Bloor took control in 1811, Derby welcomed the return of a fine group of artists who recaptured the earlier traditions in their rich and elegant work. Typical of this revival are the sumptuous Japan and Imari patterns. These were first introduced in 1775, but it was during the Bloor period that they gained the tremendous popularity still enjoyed today. Seen to best advantage by candlelight, their beauty comes to life as the flickering light catches the burnished gold and rich shades of cobalt blue and red.
After a long illness Robert Bloor died in 1846 and the china works had to close.
However, Derby was to be saved by the foresight and dedication of a small team of artists
and potters who opened the King Street pottery. It subsequently traded as Sampson Hancock
until merging with The Royal Crown Derby Porcelain Company in 1935. Production was mostly
traditional with the emphasis on creating useful wares in the Japan and imari designs.
'Old Japan' became the most famous and still holds that position today. So it was that
this small pottery played an important role in carrying the skills and traditions of Derby
into the twentieth century.
1890 was perhaps the most significant year of all. In January the Company was appointed 'Manufacturers of Porcelain to Her Majesty' and commanded to style itself 'The Royal Crown Derby Porcelain Company', a title still proudly borne today. Also in 1890, the artist Desire Leroy arrived at Osmaston Road to form a studio dedicated to creating new standards in gilding and hand-painting. Leroy's work is exemplified by elaborate gilding and jewelling on service plates, vases and ornamental pieces.
Today, rich colours and intricate gilding remain the distinguishing marks of Royal Crown Derby. And, of course, the highest standards are still insisted upon. William Duesbury has bestowed a heritage of artistry and craftsmanship which lives on in every piece of fine bone china produced at Royal Crown Derby today.