Doulton, Henry (DNB01)

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DOULTON, Sir HENRY (1820–1897), the 'greatest potter of the nineteenth century,' second son of John Doulton, by his wife Jane (Duneau), was born in Vauxhall Walk, Lambeth, in 1820. His younger brother Frederick (1824-1872) was M.P. for Lambeth from 1862 to 1868. His father had started a small pottery at Lambeth with three kilns in 1815, and he moved to High Street, Lambeth, in 1828. His staple productions appear at first to have been blacking and oil bottles and 'Toby-fillpot' jugs. Among other early products were 'reform' bottles, bearing the heads of the king, Grey, Russell, and Brougham. On leaving University College school in 1835, Henry joined his father at the pottery. Working his own wheel with foot-power he soon became an expert 'thrower,' and in 1846 made his first distinct success with glazed pipes for sanitary purposes. With these, and with earthenware sinks, in the face of many prejudices, progress was slowly made. The firm obtained medals in 1851 and 1862 for large stoneware vessels and appliances for chemical purposes. In 1867 they first exhibited ornamental work at Paris. About 1870 Doulton toegan to develop his famous 'sgraffito' ware, a revival in a modified form of the old 'agate' or self-glazed stoneware of the late seventeenth century, made of a rather hard grey or brown material, on which a sharply incised design from nature is generally drawn, apart or the whole being then richly enamelled in blue or dark brown. At the exhibition at South Kensington in 1871 a striking display was made of the new ware, which was justly described as 'honest, useful, and in thoroughly good taste.' A quantity of the pottery was bought by Queen Victoria, a sensation was created among connoisseurs, and a brilliant future assured to the Doulton ware. The firm had a magnificent show at Vienna in 1873, and in 1878, after the exhibition at Paris in that year, Doulton was made a chevalier of the Legion d'honneur. His success encouraged him to undertake the revival of the old local art of underglazed painting. A school of art was now grafted upon the original commercial undertaking, and by 1885 Doulton had in his employ as many as four hundred male and female artists, each one an independent designer, bound by the rules of the firm to copy no previous pattern and to keep no duplicate for imitation, in order as far as possible to avoid mechanical reproduction. A number of individual marks employed by the most talented of the Doulton artists (such as George Tinworth, Arthur and Hannah Barlow) are given in Chaffers's 'Marks on Pottery and Porcelain' (1900, p. 879). At the Lambeth works on 21 Dec. 1885, in recognition of the impulse given by him to the production of art pottery in England, the gold Albert medal of the Society of Arts was conferred upon him by the prince of Wales. Two years later (on the occasion of the jubilee, when he presented Doulton mugs to all the children reviewed by the queen in Hyde Park) he was knighted, and the same year witnessed the erection of the new Doulton works above Lambeth Palace, with the slender tower familiar as a landmark on the south bank of the Thames. A number of developments, each with distinctive features of its own, were gradually introduced into the fabrique, such as the Lambeth Faience, Doulton Impasto, Silicon, Chiné, Marquetrie, and Burslem wares. In 1897, in the sanitary and faience works combined, over four thousand persons were employed, and the original factories were supplemented by establishments at Burslem, Smethwick, Rowley Regis, St. Helen's, Paisley, and Paris.

Sir Henry, who was vice-president of the Society of Arts from 1890 to 1894, took a keen interest in local affairs, and was almoner of St. Thomas's Hospital for many years. He died at his residence, 10 Queen's Gate Gardens, London, on 17 Nov. 1897, and was buried at Norwood cemetery. He married, in 1849, Sarah (d. 26 Oct. 1888), daughter of John L. Kennaby, and left issue. The business was turned into a joint-stock company in 1899.

[Times, 19 Nov. 1897; Illustrated London News, 27 Nov. 1897 (portrait); the Pottery Gazette, 1 Dec. 1897 (portrait); Architecture, January 1898 (portrait); Litchfield's Pottery and Porcelain, 1900; Portfolio, xxi. 85; Art Journal, December 1897; Society of Arts Journal, 26 Nov. 1897; Mackenzie's Encyclopaedia of Art and Manufacture, p. 709; Chaffers's Pottery and Porcelain, 1900; Magazine of Art, August 1897; All the Year Round, lxii. 250.]

T. S.