The Royal Worcester Porcelain Company is another firm that has, along with various backstamps, used a date code system during its long history that allows us to pinpoint a date of production for its bone china.
Royal Worcester dates back to nearly the dawn of porcelain production in England. The company was founded by Dr. John Wall and William Davis, who perfected their own formula for china production, circa 1751. Through a partnership of investors, the firm was set up as “The Worcester Tonquin Manufactory” in a new factory located at Warmstry House, Worcester, England. While the early pieces by the factory were all lower-quality imitations of Chinese blue & white porcelain, the later pieces were in great demand and the company receiving a royal warrant from George III, the Prince of Wales, in 1807, as well as the Princess of Wales, in 1808.
Like many potteries of the period, it went through several changes of partnerships and owners, and the company reappeared as the now-familiar “Royal Worcester” in 1862. It’s from this period forward that we see the implementation of markings on its bone china from which we can determine dates of production.
The marking above is the Royal Worcester backstamp implemented in 1862. In the center is the number “51,” which indicates the founding of Royal Worcester in 1751. The number below it,”73,” indicates the year the piece was made. The use of numbers to indicate the date, along with the company mark, was used from 1862 to 1875, but is not found on all pieces.
The next system, which overlapped the first one, was used beginning in 1867. It was a date letter code system that remained in use until 1890, beginning with the uppercase letter “A” for 1867, and ending with a lowercase “a” in 1890 as can be seen in the image below.
The system was not quite alphabetic, as can be seen in the chart below, where the letters “F,” “J,” “Q” were not used, the letter “O” being used for 1889 and a lowercase “a” used for 1890.
In 1891, Royal Worcester changed its company back stamp by adding “Royal Worcester England,” most likely to comply with the McKinley Act, a new U.S. trade law. The McKinley Act was a trade tariff that required goods imported into the United States to have “country of origin” markings. As the U.S. was such a large market, companies around the world were very quick to comply. In 1892, Royal Worcester adopted a new date code system, along with this mark, by adding dots, beginning with a single dot for 1892. As can be seen below, the dots were added on either side of the crown, this mark has 11 dots, which would—if my math is correct—represent the year 1902.
The dot system remained in use until 1915 without major changes, at which point an asterisk was added below the company backstamp for the year 1916. Dots were added to the asterisk beginning in 1916, again one for each year until 1926. By 1926 there were 11 dots added to the asterisk. Royal Worcester changed its main backstamp again, circa 1928, adding the words “Made In England” and dropping the “star & dot” system for a short series of symbols: in 1928, the symbol of a square was used; 1929 a small Diamond mark; 1930 the mathematical division symbol; two interlocking circles for 1931; and three interlocking circles for 1932. By 1933, the company reverted back to adding dots to the three circle marking, one added for 1933, and an addition dot for each year until 1941. Between 1942 to 1948 no new date marks were used, I’ve not been able to determine a reason, but my speculation is it probably has something to do with shortages during and after World War Two and Wartime production.
In 1949, Royal Worcester changed the system yet again, using the letter “V” below the marking. In 1950, the “V” was dropped and the letter “W” was used. From 1951 to 1955 it began adding dots back to the “W,” with one dot for 1951, five dots for 1955. In 1956, the “W” was replaced with the letter “R,” with extra dots being added until the mid-1960s. The mark below was used from 1956. Try using the code system to described above to determine the exact year (*answer below).
Sadly, by the late 1960s, Royal Worcester’s glory years were over. It merged with the equally famous Spode pottery in 1976, its production moved to Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, and its workforce was gradually made redundant. On 23 April, 2009, the Royal Worcester brand name and intellectual property were purchased by Portmeirion Group, a pottery and home décor company based in Stoke-on-Trent that also now owns Spode.
*If you guessed 1960, you are correct.
Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.
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