From Drainpipes to Teacups, and the Making of “Royal” Companies

flowers-webWith a royal wedding just around the corner, time to break out the royal tea ware—as in Royal Chelsea, Royal Chintz, and Royal Doulton!

So how royal are these?

Well, although my Royal Doulton teacup and saucer are a fairly recent 1973 according to the makers mark, the Doulton name goes back two hundred years, with the English company’s founding in 1815 by Martha Jones, John Watts, and John Doulton.

Under the name Doulton & Watts, they made inexpensive and decidedly un-royal ceramics, jars, bottles, and the like.

royal-doulton-cup-webTwenty years later, they added partner Henry Doulton and the company

flourished due to Henry’s role in the ‘sanitary revolution’ – pioneering the general use of stoneware drain pipes and water filters to improve living conditions. . . . [and making the company] world-class experts in the field. (Royal Doulton website)

They might have remained specialists primarily in plumbing had it not been for Henry’s friend John Sparkes, who suggested that Henry collaborate with the Lambeth School of Art.

royal-doulton-mark-web.jpgA new product line—decorative stoneware, or Doulton Ware—debuted, receiving many accolades at International Exhibitions in the 1860s–1880s.

And the name “Royal Doulton”?

It actually does refer to the monarchy:

  • first, in 1887, Queen Victoria knighted Henry for advancing the ceramic arts,
  • and then, in 1901, Edward VII granted the company a Royal Warrant, which meant they could use “Royal” as part of their name.

The maker’s mark on my bone china set includes both crown and lion, royal symbols.

Today the Royal Doulton company has multiple product lines, including, fittingly, commemorative figurines of the Royal Family.

So what about Royal Chelsea? 


royal-chelsea-mark-web.jpgOriginally founded around 1900 by two brothers, R. H. and S. L. Plant, the company took the name New Chelsea Porcelain Co. Ltd in 1912. Specializing in bone china tea and coffee ware, they skillfully used on-glaze enameling in the 1920s.

Around 1943, the name Royal Chelsea showed up on a lot of their products—particularly for the teaware sent to North America (Perry 2010).

Royal? Unlikely.

Marketing ploy? But why add “royal” to teaware destined for the USA during World War II? Was it a way to bolster England’s heritage, their spirit, during a beleaguered time?

And Royal Chintz?


Chintz may be best known as a multicolored fabric used for curtains and upholstery, and chintz ware was indeed named after the late-17th-century cotton material from India. royal-chintz-mark-web

Chintz china was covered in flowers, as in this gold-trimmed mini pitcher and basin. This set is marked Royal Chintz Arnart 5th Ave and includes a crown image, lending credence to the royal aspect.

But Arnart was a New York import company, not a manufacturer. Founded in 1953, they imported products from Japan, Germany, England, and Taiwan (Marshall).

Royal? Not in the least.

Of my examples, Royal Doulton is the only one with a monarch-sanctioned “royal”!

–Perry, M. “New Chelsea Porcelain Co. Ltd,” Pottery Histories, 2010.
–Perry, M. “Royal Doulton,” Pottery Histories, 2011,
–Marshall, C. S., “Arnot creations/Arnot imports,” Porcelain Marks and More,
–Royal Doulton, “The Royal Doulton story,”
–Wiggins, P., “Collectible English chintz china,” Spruce Crafts, 4/4/17,


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