Thursday, 30 April 2009

Doulton House, Black Prince Road SE1

Right up until the 1950s the area behind White Hart Drawdock in Lambeth was dominated by the huge Doulton potteries. Originally they made sanitary ware but in the 1870s expanded into art pottery. An enormous building by R. Stark Wilkinson was built in 1878 to be headquarters, studios, factory and advertisement for the products, all in one. Only one corner survived the comprehensive redevelopment that followed Doulton's departure for Staffordshire in 1956, but it still impresses. It is a riot of polychromatic Gothic brickwork and terracotta gargoyles.
Over the door is a charming relief of potters by one of the most distinguished to work in the building, George Tinworth.
Tinworth himself appears standing at the centre, holding a pot. Seated to the right is Sir Henry Doulton, and working steadily on the left is Hannah Barlow, with her cat under her stool. Behind, a worker carries a tray of pots rather perilously on his head, though no doubt this was a lot safer than it looks.
The scene is a gallery of Victorian facial hair and hats. What would they have made of 'designer' stubble and baseball caps?
Gilbert Bayes, who was also at work on the London Fire Brigade HQ round the corner, created a frieze for a later wing on the building which happily survives in the V&A.

1 comment:

Philip Wilkinson said...

That relief over the door is one of my favourites. Hannah Barlow, as you probably know, loved animals (at one point she had a pet fox) and specialized in animal images – the urn behind her chair features one of her lions. When Ruskin visited the Doulton factory he asked for a pot decorated by Miss Barlow with 'piggies'.