A History of Royal Albert
To kick off the start of our regular blog posts on all things vintage and retro, what better place to begin than Royal Albert? One of our best-selling lines and something we love specialising in, Royal Albert has created thousands of beautiful patterns both named and un-named, but all of them beautiful. The history of Royal Albert goes right back to late Victorian times, where in 1896 Thomas Wild purchased the Albert Works in Longton, Stoke-On-Trent, England, right in the heart of the Potteries. Named for Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert, the works were a central part of the booming china industry in the UK and the perfect place for a china company to blossom. In 1897 the company received a Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria after producing a range of commemorative china celebrating her Golden Jubilee.
This was a family business run by Thomas and his son Thomas Clark Wild, and was known between 1896 and 1917 as Thomas C Wild, and in 1917 Thomas' children Tom and Fred joined their father and the company became TC Wild & Sons. By the 1920s TC Wild owned about over 12 of the Staffordshire potteries including William Lowe, Shore & Coggins and more.
Known for making beautiful quality white porcelain with stunning floral designs, they specialised in breakfast and tea sets that stood out for their beauty but also for their affordability. Previously fine china was only available to the upper classes and was considered quite a status symbol. By the early 1970s they had taken over Roslyn, Paragon, Queen Anne and many more, but in 1972 the Royal Albert company was bought out by Royal Doulton and from 2002 production of Royal Albert in the UK ceased and is now made in several Asian countries.
Collectors often seek out the older backstamps to guarantee they get English made pieces, however if you just want the piece to use or to look at it doesn't really matter, both have their market. We often get asked if a piece is made in England, and our answer is always the same - check the backstamp. If the backstamp says England or Made In England, then it's pre-2002. After that, it is the new Asian made china. The casual viewer would be hard pressed to tell the difference however often on handling you can feel the difference between the two. We always include a picture of the backstamp with our listing so the buyer can make an educated decision.
One of the post-2002 overseas backstamps on the left compared to a made in England backstamp on the right.
Royal Albert china backstamps sometimes have a small scratch through them, and this indicates that they were considered second quality when leaving the factory. Sometimes it's easy to spot the flaw, but sometimes even with a magnifying glass and a very keen eye, even the most experienced collector is hard pushed to define why a piece was considered a second. The quality control at Royal Albert was very high! The first backstamps used from 1896 to 1905 were simply a crown, sometimes with the pattern name or the initials TCW, and from 1905-1907 the Royal Albert name was first used on their china. These backstamps were printed in different colours to co-ordinate with the colours used in the china designs.
By 1917 the backstamp reflected Tom and Fred Wild's joining the business, and in 1925 the company started to use the Royal Albert Crown China mark. This was used in many variations until 1935 and some of these Crown China backstamps are works of art in themselves. In 1935 the china was simply known as Royal Albert, and there are hundreds of backstamps ranging from highly decorative ones to just plain and simple black words. There are so many different backstamps that we could never cover them all but I've shown a few samples below.
Needing no introduction, Royal Albert's signature pattern is Old Country Roses, designed by Harold Holcroft in 1962 and based on an older Royal Albert pattern called King's Ransom. This is the best selling and most recognisable china pattern in the world and we'll cover it in more detail in a separate blog post later. Often seen on historical movies and television shows, its timeless style means it doesn't look out of place in Victorian film sets, yet it wasn't created until 1962. But there is so much more to Royal Albert than just Old Country Roses. There are thousands of designs and we'll delve a bit deeper into some of those in later blog posts. Until then, pop Royal Albert into the search engine at http://www.astimegoesbyvintage.com and revel in the beauty before you!