Saturday, January 19, 2008

Black Prince Road, London

In Victorian England, Doulton pottery was everywhere. Doulton of Lambeth made drainpipes, sanitary ware, fireplaces, and all kinds of other practical wares. They also developed an enormous range of art pottery, employing men and women who trained at the nearby Lambeth Art College to decorate jugs, vases, plates, and everything else you could make out of clay. Doulton artists and craftworkers also produced architectural ceramics, cladding and decorating the walls of factories, offices, hotels, and hospitals. The whole enterprise was a typically Victorian marriage of art and industry.

Only part of their Lambeth headquarters remains, and the highlight of the building is this tympanum celebrating the artistic side of the Doulton ethos. While Henry Doulton (the seated figure towards the right) explains what goes on in the studios, two of his top artists are on hand to show what they do. On the left, seated and working on a pot, is Hannah Barlow, who specialized in incised line drawings of animals. Her pet cat is just visible under her chair; she had a pet fox, too, but he didn’t live at work. The bearded figure in the centre, holding a large urn, is George Tinworth, the virtuoso sculptor in clay who created this panel. His long and successful career for Doulton, producing figures, reliefs (often of Biblical subjects), decorated pots, and more, makes him famous among collectors. Tinworth Street, honouring his memory, is a couple of blocks away.

The Lambeth works closed in 1956, but there is still a lot of Doulton ware around on English buildings from the mid-Victorian period to the 1930s. Their terracotta panels often show Victorian decorative art at its best, their tiles sometimes give expression to the swirling rhythms of the Art Nouveau – and their brewery plaques occasionally still point the way towards a good pint. Here’s to art and industry.


Zoe Brooks said...

This brings back memories. You may be interested to know that nearly opposite the Doulton Factory is a dock for the use of the people of the parish of St Mary at Lambeth. This and the factory hark back to a time before the Albert Embankment, when the whole of the river frontage was a mass of factories (including many potteries) and docks serving them. All but Doulton's were cleared when the Embankment was built. The reason for the exception may be due to the fact that Mr Doulton was on the committee that managed the Embankment's construction ;-)

Peter Ashley said...

I believe Hovis was first put together on Millbank, where the Tower Gardens are now. I think.