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Royal Crown Derby - A Factory History

With production beginning ‘some time before 1750’ (Royal Crown Derby, 2016), Royal Crown Derby is one of the oldest remaining porcelain manufacturers in England. Started by André

Planché, a Huguenot maker of soft-paste vases and figurines, he was joined in 1756 (Bemrose, 1898, p. 7) by enameller William Duesbury and banker John Heath. Although Planché departed soon after, under Duesbury the Derby factory became celebrated for the quality of their continental inspired decorative wares that ‘many good Judges could not distinguish from the real Dresden’ (Bemrose, 1898, p. 100).


Buoyed by recognition from King George III who granted the use of a crown in their backstamp (Royal Crown Derby, 2016), by 1777 Duesbury had purchased the manufactories of Chelsea, Bow and Giles (Cust, 1885-1900) and transferred the best of their craftsmen to Derby with great success.


Following the death of Duesbury in 1786, his son William Duesbury II developed an extravagant and popular decorative style. Although this period saw great prosperity for Crown Derby (Cust, 1885-1900), it was sadly short lived. Duesbury II died in 1796 aged only 34 and his successor, business partner Michael Kean, proved unpopular with the craftsmen. As they left, so the fortunes of the factory waned (Robinson, Robinson, & Robinson, 2020).

The business was then taken on by Robert Bloor in December 1811, previously a clerk under Duesbury. His understanding of both the factory and of aesthetics revived the Derby reputation (Perry, 2011) and it was under Bloor that the distinctive Imari patterns were introduced (Royal Crown Derby, 2016).


Bloor’s death in 1846 heralded the end of production at Nottingham Road. By 1848 Thomas Clarke, husband of Bloor’s only granddaughter, had sold off the assets and closed the doors. Six Derby workers set up their own factory on King Street (Royal Crown Derby, 2016) and new owners Edward Phillips and William Litherland built a separate grand factory on Osmaston Road (Derby Porcelain Society, 2019). The popularity of the Osmaston Road output culminated in a grant of the Royal Arms by Queen Victoria in 1890 and a new name: The Royal Crown Derby Porcelain Co. Ltd. (Perry, 2011).


In 1935 the factory on King Street was brought under the Royal Crown Derby (hereafter RCD) banner, which itself then became an independent operating company under the Pearson Group’s Allied English Potteries Ltd (later The Doulton Group) until on 1 July 2000 it was bought out by Hugh Gibson to become a privately owned concern again. Now held by Kevin Oakes following the retirement of Hugh Gibson (Royal Crown Derby, 2016), RCD can still be found on Osmaston Road.


Images from Swan Deverell's Great British Ceramics auction


Bemrose, W. (1898). Bow, Chelsea, and Derby Porcelain . London: Bemrose & Sons.

Cust, L. H. (1885-1900). Duesbury, William. Retrieved from Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 16: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Dictionary_of_National_Biography,_1885-1900/Duesbury,_William

Derby Porcelain Society. (2019). The Nottingham Road Works c1748-1848. Retrieved from Derby Porcelain Society: https://www.derbyporcelain.org.uk/nottingham-road

Perry, M. (2011). Pottery Histories. Retrieved from Derby - History: http://www.potteryhistories.com/derbyhistory.html

Robinson, J., Robinson, V., & Robinson, C. (2020, Feburary). Blog. Retrieved from RCD Collections: https://rcdcollections.com/blog-1

Royal Crown Derby. (2016). The History of Royal Crown Derby. Retrieved from Royal Crown Derby: https://www.royalcrownderby.co.uk/history/





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