Makers & Retailers - Royal Worcester

Royal Worcester

Royal Worcester is an English porcelain company based in Worcester. It one of the oldest remaining English porcelain companies still in existence today alongside Royal Crown Derby. Royal Worcester was established in 1751 when John Wall, a physician, and William Davis persuaded a group of 13 businessmen to invest in a new factory at Warmstry House, Worcester, England, on the banks of the River Severn. Davis and Wall had experimented with a porcelain type substance prior to the investment with unknown success. Wall and Davis secured the sum of £4500 from the partners to establish the factory, which was originally named The Worcester Tonquin Manufactory. The company bought out Bristol porcelain manufactory of Lund and Miller in 1752 which was part of the proposal during the initial investment. The buy out was aided by Richard Holdship, a Quaker and major shareholder. Holdship personally bought from Benjamin Lund, a fellow Quaker, the soaprock licence that ensured the mining of 20 tons per annum of soaprock from Cornwall.

In 1783, the factory was purchased by Thomas Flight who was the former London sales agent for £3,000. He let his two sons run the company with John Flight taking the lead role till his death in 1791. In 1788 George III during a visit to the factory granted the company a royal warrant and it became known as the Royal Porcelain Works. During the Flight and Barr period the factories under a variety of company names produced the soft-paste soapstone type porcelain. Initially it was manufactured due to its popular resistance to cracking upon placing into hot water, this type of porcelain became unpopular in the 1790s once the bone china was invented. Unusually Flight and Barr continued with the production of the soapstone porcelain until it merged with Chamberlain in 1840.

Worcester porcelain went on to include a hard-paste porcelain ware made in Chamberlain’s Factory and Grainger’s Factory. Both Chamberlain and Grainger initially began as decorating shops in Worcester painting “blanks” made by other factories moving to production after a few years. Chamberlain’s Factory which began manufacturing in 1791 received a royal warrant from the Prince Regent in 1811 due to the high quality work it was manufacturing. In 1840 it merged with the main Flight and Barr concern as Chamberlain & Company as a sign of strength in a treacherous market.

Grainger’s Factory was making porcelain from 1807 at a slightly lower standard to Chamberlain. Under a succession of partnership and company names the Grainger family retained significant shares until the death of the last member in 1889 at which time Royal Worcester took them over. Grainger & Co the factory and name were used by Royal Worcester until 1902 when a full transfer to the main factory took place. The Grainger & Co factory at St Martin’s Gate was used for nearly a century between 1809 until 1902. Royal Worcester were also known to have used some Grainger moulds through the 21st century.

The Royal Worcester company succumbed to a reducing market from around 1976 when they merged with Spode. Hundreds of redundancies were made in the early 2000’s and eventually the company went into administration in 2008. The brand name and intellectual property were acquired by Portmeirion Pottery Group who operate as a pottery and homewares company based in Stoke-on-Trent.