Royal Worcester came into being in 1751. Dr. John Wall, a gifted surgeon and local pharmacist, discovered a formula for "soft paste" porcelain. This was unique for its time and received much attention, as the porcelain 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.
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 on the production of blue painted underglaze wares. A natural progression from this work led to decorating on the surface of the glaze with enamel colours. The company steadily developed a following by producing pieces with traditional shapes and themes such as landscapes, flowers, fruits and finely gilded giftware. With the arrival of Robert Hancock (known to some as the father of transfer printing) in 1756, Worcester vastly increased its product lines by including transferwares. By 1764, the company was producing more transferware products than all rivals combined.
When Dr. Wall retired in 1770, purchasing agent Thomas Flight bought the company. With excellent vision and strategic planning, Flight established Worcester as a household name in Europe. When he visited the works in 1789, King George III granted Worcester 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. Employee head-count increased dramatically from 80 to nearly 800. Father/son teams were encouraged to create an environment more conducive to "family." Young men were apprenticed at early ages in an attempt to keep new ideas flowing in the company.
One example of innovation was in the area of figurines. Royal Worcester's figurines have come to be recognized nearly as much as its dinnerware. Royal Worcester created a new material, Parian, which revolutionized the figurine manufacturing process. Royal Worcester figurines of George Washington, Queen Elizabeth I and Napoleon are exquisite examples of the craftsmanship and creativity that is poured into each of these works of art.
Over the course of the next century, Royal Worcester steered a course that brought it great success and a worldwide reputation with the public and the royal family. Dr. Wall's vision of the "perfect" porcelain is embodied in patterns like Devonshire, Evesham Gold, Holly Ribbons and Hyde Park. The year 2001 marked the 250th anniversary of the founding of this distinguished tableware company.
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