Our journey so far
Uncover our rich heritage
DOULTON & WATTS
London, especially Thames-side, has long been associated with pottery making. Remains of Roman and medieval kilns have been found and the area had well-established potteries by Tudor times.
In the year England gains a new brand-new king with George IV; a pottery partnership is born in Lambeth, London between a gifted young potter, John Doulton and his older ex foreman, John Watts.
John Doulton wanted the company to be called Doulton and Watts, but John Watts preferred Watts and Doulton. They argued about this so much that early signage for the company had to have both versions of the name.
Also, John Doulton’s second son, Henry Doulton is born.
CHARLES DICKENS WORKS WITH DOULTON
When his father was sent to debtors’ jail, our great novelist Charles Dickens was forced into work at Warren’s warehouse in the Strand (London).
Here, the 12-year-old Charles pasted thousands of labels onto Doulton & Watts pottery bottles. He hated it and avoided talking about it as an adult, but he kindly visited our Lambeth pottery much later as a successful writer and told us about how the experience inspired his stories of child poverty.
OUR FIRST FILTERS
Doulton produces the earliest domestic water filters from easily cleaned glazed stoneware. Water was filtered through powdered charcoal, a purifying substance used by the Romans.
Water in the news
Drinking water supplied to thousands of families living in Westminster, London (where Britain’s parliament buildings are) is described in a popular pamphlet as being “Offensive to the sight, Disgusting to the imagination and destructive to health”.
Demand rapidly grew for our domestic water filters and we started supplying larger filters to shipping companies.
VICTORIAN AGE BEGINS
Unpopular monarch George IV dies without heirs and after a brief hiatus, the eighteen-year-old Alexandrina Victoria takes the throne, becoming Queen Victoria. Royals don’t usually have a last name. They tend not to need one.
Letter writing begins
The “penny post” and the introduction of pre-glued stamps (with a silhouette of the young Queen on the face) led to a surge in letter writing with Doulton & Watts supplying thousands of ceramic ink bottles to fuel the craze. Not everyone was happy with the new pre-gummed stamps though:
“I don’t fancy making my mouth a glue-pot, although I suppose I do have the satisfaction of slobbering over Her Majesty’s back”. Taken from a letter from a schoolboy to his sister in 1840.
The sale of Doulton & Watts ink bottles increased in line with the new penny black and penny red stamps.
HENRY DOULTON JOINS
Fifteen year old Henry Doulton (John Doulton’s second son) is apprenticed at Doulton & Watts.
He works 12 or more hours a day, along with the other factory workers. Three evenings a week he goes to school after work, learning chemistry, physics and among other things, how to draw.
LONDON IS A CESSPIT
A letter sent to Times newspaper, signed by 54 residents of Soho, London:
“Sur, we live in muck and filthe. We aint go no privez, no dust bins, no drains, no waste supplies and no drain or suer in the whole place. We all of us suffer and if the Cholera comes, Lord help us”.
Later that year Cholera came to Bermondsey in London, killing hundreds.
DOULTON & CO.
In 1854, John Watts retires, and the 34-year-old Henry Doulton joins forces with his Dad in a new company, Doulton & Co.
On 14th December 1861, Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s beloved husband dies from Typhoid fever, most likely caused by the faults in the plumbing Albert himself installed at Windsor Castle.
Queen Victoria orders a set of specially made Doulton water filters for her castles and palaces.
HENRY DOULTON REINVENTS
An improved water filter, with super imposed carbon blocks screwed to the bottom of a stoneware basket. Henry patents his invention.
“Everyone told me that the water filter trade was completely played out – but I was convinced it was capable of resuscitation”. HENRY DOULTON 1820-1897
The International Exhibition
We exhibit copies of Queen Victoria’s water filters, embellished with Coats of Arms and using the new filtering device invented and patented by our own Henry Doulton.
1873, 1877 & 1887
OUR FOUNDER DIES
In 1873 our founder, John Doulton, dies.
Henry looks north
In 1877, Henry buys a factory in Burslem and moves some of his manufacturing to Staffordshire, the heart of pottery making in the UK.
Sir Henry Doulton
In 1887, our founder’s son becomes the first potter in England to gain a knighthood.
SIR HENRY DOULTON DIES
Sir Henry Doulton dies at home in Kensington, London.
“He was a generous employer, an honest merchant, a loyal friend and one who loved the principle of beauty in all things”*.
*Taken from “Impressions of Sir Henry Doulton by one who knew him” published shortly after his death in the journal St James.
POROUS PORCELAIN TUBE
Introduction of the porous porcelain tube or water filter candle.
These are used all over the world where domestic water is suspect and supplied in huge numbers to hospitals and laboratories.
A modern variation of the porcelain filter candle is still used for water filtration.
THE FIRST WORLD WAR
995 men from the Doulton potteries joined up to fight during the Great War. Of these, 134 gave their lives and over 200 others were wounded or taken prisoner.
Many female employees also left to become munitions workers or nurses to help the war effort.
By 1918 the Doulton workforce had almost halved.
THE SECOND WORLD WAR
708 men and 58 women from the various Doulton offices joined the forces, with many others serving the war effort in other ways. Fortunately, far fewer died in the conflict than in WW1.
Doulton supplied large quantities of water filters for ships and for use by Allied forces overseas.
Our ceramics technology was used to make porcelain parts for mines and anti-submarine devices. We also supplied special parts for gun mountings, cannon carriage gear and shells.
1956 & 1991
DOULTON'S COMING HOME
In 1956 Doulton moves all manufacturing out of London to Staffordshire, the home of British pottery.
In 1991 a statue of Sir Henry Doulton is unveiled in Burslem, Staffordshire, close to our current factory.
MODERN DAY DOULTON
Every year, millions of people get access to safe, fresh, great tasting drinking water by using our filters. We supply water filters all over the world that are still hand made in our factory in Staffordshire, England.
“Until unpolluted water supplies are available everywhere, one of the best defenses against water-borne disease is effective filtration”.
SIR HENRY DOULTON 1820-1897