Q: My wife has a Royal Doulton Dickens jug. It is approximately 20 inches tall. She brought it back from Europe 50-plus years ago and it is in mint condition. Can you give me some information about it and what its current value might be?
A: Doulton was founded in 1815 as Jones, Watts & Doulton. The principals were Martha Jones, John Doulton and John Watts, and they had a factory at Vauxhall Walk, Lambeth, London. Jones left the partnership in 1820 and the company became Doulton & Watts.
The firm made stoneware items, especially bottles and salt-glazed sewer pipe. The company played an important role in bring sewers to London, greatly improving the city’s sanitary condition. In 1853, the enterprise became Doulton and Co. after Watts’ retirement.
The company slowly moved from largely utilitarian wares to more decorative items, and in 1862 it exhibited some incised decorated stoneware enhanced with cobalt pigment at the Crystal Palace Exhibition. These were technically unsuccessful because the color fired out, but they led to Henry Doulton (John’s son) setting up an art studio at the Lambeth factory in 1871.
Charles Noke (1858-1941) was trained at the famous Royal Worcester factory. In 1889, he joined Doulton, where he pioneered some important new glazes such as Sung and Chang. Over the decades, Doulton’s products had become more and more artistic, and in 1901, King Edward VII granted Doulton the royal warrant. The company began signing its wares “Royal Doulton” in 1902.
Noke was largely responsible for Royal Doulton’s series, which often featured Britain’s great literary works, such as those penned by Shakespeare and Dickens plus tales from the legendary hero Robin Hood. In 1933, Noke designed what collectors call the “Dickens Dream” jug, which depicts the image of Charles Dickens surrounded in a sort of surrealist cloud by some of his most famous characters.
The handle is Jo, the sweeper from “Bleak House,” and then there is Timothy Cratchett (“Tiny Tim”), Bob Cratchett, David Copperfield, Uriah Heep, Bill Sykes, Artful Dodger and many, many others. The jug was not produced as a limited edition, but it is thought that production was rather low and that fewer than 1,000 were made.
The prices for most run-of-the-mill Royal Doulton wares have declined significantly in the opening years of the 21st century, and many of its figures and Toby mugs have become very difficult to sell in many instances. However, there does seem to be interest in the “Dickens Dream” jug, and fairly recent (post-2010) auction prices have been in the $750 to $1,000 range, with retail reported to be around $2,400.
We should mention that the jugs whose prices we have quoted are the standard size of 10 ½ inches tall. If the “Dickens Dream” jug in today’s question is really 20 inches tall, its value would be considerably greater.
Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson have written many books on antiques.