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Doulton Lambeth ware

January 3, 2010
by the gentle author

More than twenty years ago, I bought a teapot almost identical to this one for £18 in a junk shop next to the Naval Academy in Greenwich. It caught my eye because it was in the same style as a jug in my grandmother’s house in Chard. This was how my collection of Doulton Lambeth salt glaze pottery began, and now I have innumerable jugs, mugs, teapots, pots and bowls, cluttering up my house in Spitalfields.

I like the modesty of these vernacular designs and, as they are completely out of fashion, I have acquired them cheaply over the years in markets, fetes, charity shops and ebay – where nobody bothers to bid for them. The large blue jug below went for just £5, and I bought the small two-handled bowl in Coppermill Market, Cheshire St for £8 last summer. Even the teapot above, which is in perfect condition with the original price still written in pencil inside the lid was just £22 on ebay, only £4 more than the one from Greenwich, with barely any appreciation in value in the intervening years.

I am fascinated by the small relief images which are made in moulds and applied to the form before firing. There is always a windmill and always a tree, and vignettes of life worthy of Thomas Bewick. The huntsman with a bugle chasing a stag around the bowl is perhaps the reason why no-one likes this stuff now, but I am not offended by this motif of past rural life, whenever it catches my eye I always think the stag is at the moment of escape. Most interesting to me are the recurring domestic scenes with an implied narrative or allegory. In one, a young man is pouring beer down his throat while a woman feeds her baby with a spoon and the other children gather round. Meanwhile, behind his father’s back, a boy prises open a barrel for himself and in the background a pig sleeps, underscoring this picture of the dangers of intemperance (or simply of the chaos of a young family), pertinently placed upon an ale jug. Equally, there are also images of an older fellow in a tricorn hat, sitting alone with a pipe and pint of ale, with a cat at his feet or a wise owl in a little bush, by contrast these figures speak of the contentment ( or loneliness) of age.

Beginning as Jones, Watts & Doulton in 1815, the company of potters founded by John Doulton and taken over by his son Henry, evolved to become Doulton & Co, Lambeth in 1827 when they acquired a property in Lambeth High St, where they continued to manufacture salt glaze ware until 1956. The sprigged jugs that I have collected are sometimes credited to Joseph Mott, Doulton’s art director from 1897, he had his own collection of old London ale jugs and based his designs upon these. However, there are similar jugs made earlier by Doulton from the 1830s onwards and many other London potteries including Deptford, Mortlake, Vauxhall, Fulham, T.Smith and Stiff, produced jugs in this style too.

So there you have my collection of Doulton Lambeth ware. I am aware that these jugs are a bizarre hybrid, essentially a form of seventeenth century retro created in the nineteenth century. But in their limited variety of colour and form, these austere pieces are also the culmination of  a long tradition of salt glazed ware that has its origins in the domestic earthenware pottery that was once the standard for daily use by all Londoners. And I enjoy using them every day, though I am not expecting the Doulton Lambeth salt glaze ware revival will start any time soon.

14 Responses leave one →
  1. January 3, 2010

    Several years ago I gave my mother a similar jug with a fabulous relief of a fox. I have regretted it ever since – it is always a mistake to give presents that you really, really want to keep for yourself.

    I particularly love your teapot – such an elegant shape.

  2. Anne permalink
    January 3, 2010

    You may have started a trend !!! Your readers will now be on the lookout for all things ‘Doulton Lambeth’ and you will see prices have risen alarmingly when you next spot a piece on ebay or on a market somewhere.
    Every cloud has a silver lining though and your collection will be worth huge amounts, you’ll have to feign surprise when you take a piece to ‘The Antiques Roadshow’ and Henry Sandon tells you it’s worth a fortune.
    Back on planet reality though the stoneware is good honest pottery and no doubt looks great filled with tea or flowers in your Spitalfields surroundings .

  3. Mary Alkins permalink
    February 6, 2010

    I have a 7 1/2 inch tall bowl that’s identical to your teapot (windmill, foxs across the top, a tree, man on chair near a tree smoking a pipe, man with tri-fold hat holding a ale pitcher sitting near a tree and so on). Mine however has a chip at the top. I thought it was a nice piece even though and I’ve using mine to hold straws and chopsticks not realizing I should have had a bit more respect for the piece after having spent a few minutes googling it to see just what I had here.

    Thank you for your story. I’m alway on the lookout for pottery made in England.

    Mary in NYS

  4. Simon Griffiths permalink
    May 15, 2010

    I have quite a few pieces of Doulton Lambeth ware and quite a few by other makers , they are charming and I use them all the time ,they look great with a big bunch of roses fresh from the garden . I’m looking for a teapot now after seeing yours , it’s great

  5. Doreen Jackson permalink
    May 16, 2010

    I collected this Doulton Lambethware over many years. Amused by the scenes you describe. Mostly I have collected the miniatures, Jugs, Colman’s mustard, loving cups, a tiny ash tray, one stamped Ponds underneath, salts, a tot cup, a drum. I have a little teapot too and three matchstriker /holders. One like a a ball, a pyramid, and one that looks like a candle holder.Vinegar, mustard and pepper pots with metal tops. I have some mugs and am currently using one. I have a Stiff mug too somewhere. I also have a large jug not marked. I havn’t bought any for ages. A few of them have silver rims. I don’t think they have ever been popular all the time I’ve collected. I’ve had enough of prices rising with items with Stanhope lenses in sewing and writing items ever since an associate published a ‘learned monograph’ on them! Can’t find any and too expensive when I do. Brown Doulton suits your house in Spitalfields better than our fifties bungalow.

  6. susan sommerlad permalink
    September 20, 2010

    I have a jug and three drinking mugs in Doulton Lambethware, all have silver
    rims. I am intrigued as to why some have 4 hounds chasing the stag and others have 7. Is this because they were made in a different location or were they made in different years?
    Susan Sommerlad

  7. Jane Wigney permalink
    January 8, 2011

    Hi, I have two Doulton Lambeth (things) I grew up with them in the south of England calling them Jewish incense burners. As far as I know they go back to my Great Grandmother and they are now in Australia with me. I tried to have them valued here and they called them Pastille Burners and said they were priceless!!! They are 1880/91 one decorated by Jane S Hurst and the other by Eliza Simmance. As I am getting on in years now and my children are not interested I would like to sell them, but it is very hard if you don’t know what they are. I can send you a photo if it would help.
    Jane Wigney

  8. lorayne minahan permalink
    February 17, 2011

    i have in my possesion a brown stoneware lipped pot, has no handle but has a mark on the bottom 28 doulton lambeth. would be interested in what it is and its date. lorayne from kent.

  9. Viktoria Dineley permalink
    February 18, 2011

    what a joy to come across your writting on Doulton,salt glaze stone ware,I came across it by chance whilst trying to research my own piece,I think you might have started something,maybe you could start a Salt glaze appreciation society!
    Being a Dorset lass,these pieces suit this part of England very well,every time i look at mine it makes me think of buxom milk maids and handsome harvest labourours,they are so very British ,sturdy ,naive ,strong and true.I also love the fact that the factory started in Vauxhall,which was country side at the time,what would Jones,Watts and Doulton think of the sprawling mass of buildings and roads that it has become?
    My mug (tankard)is huge measuring 5×5 inches,and what i have discovered is that it is from the Jones,Watts ,Doulton ,Vauxhall walk period,1815-26,although you can easily recognise it as a piece of their salt glaze pottery,the whole thing is much more naive than their later work ,the figuress are much rougher,the glaze is much lighter and more basic looking,the handle has not been put on properly,its basicaly completly on the piss! and for me the most endearing part is that you can see in places the finger prints of the person that made it,maybe they are even Mr Doultons ,though they are far more likely to be Mr watts as he was the working potter when martha jones Husband died and left her the business.
    I would very much like to send you some pictures of said mug as i know they will make you smile.
    Thank you again for the lovely words you have written and for reegniting my love of this mug,it was destined for the Bay of E,but now its staying firmly put amongst the lush green rolling hills of Dorset ,unless you have started something and every one starts appreciating this wonderfull pottery ,in which case its being sold to the highest bidder!

  10. G.Sarwar Khero permalink
    July 21, 2011

    I do possess two of such miniatures about 2 &5 inches. I have not been able to identify the scratched artists marks on both of them as I feel that there was no site illustrating 2 words signatures. How ever I do appriciate your passion for such marvelous creations.Good luck.

  11. November 5, 2011

    At last found out where this so-called harvestware was made – in Lambeth. Bit aghast as I was buying for my Stoke-on-Trent born daughter-in-law! They were definitely not also made at Burslem, were they? Ta.

  12. brenda carr permalink
    July 23, 2012

    I have a small possibly two cup teapot with a very badly damaged handle ….. but still very much my treasure!

  13. May 23, 2018

    I bought one of these, a tiny teapot, with a chipped spout for 99p in our local antiques market last week. I absolutely love it and really enjoy pouring my tea out of it! It was in a bargain box under the stall & when I found it didn’t think it had a top but it did. I was going to use it for flowers otherwise, & if it leaked I’d have used it as a tiny plant pot. I couldn’t believe my luck when the seller found me the lid!

    I don’t care about chips, I just like it. It reminds me of a rustic version of Wedgwood, with a relief pattern in a different clay. They’re so cheap I’ll gather a few more!! 🙂

  14. barry permalink
    November 21, 2020

    I have an old sink

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