How old is this vase from my great-grandfather?

08/16/2014 3:42 PM

08/16/2014 3:43 PM

Q: Attached are photos of a vase that once belonged to my great-grandfather. It is marked “Coulton, Burslem” and is decorated with painted poppies and a three-dimensional dragon. It is marked with an emblem with a crown on top and the number 1922. It is 22 1/2 inches tall. Would it be possible for you to tell me how old it is and the approximate value?

H. O.

A: This impressive and rather rare vase was made in England by a company that was founded in 1820 to make utilitarian items out of stoneware. The location of the factory was Lambeth, which is part of central London.

The founders of this company were John Watts and John Doulton — not “Coulton.” Doulton’s son Henry entered the field in 1846 in the sanitary pipe business, and his brother John Jr. also started a ceramics firm. All three companies amalgamated in 1854 as Doulton & Co.

Doulton & Com. exhibited unsuccessfully at the 1862 International Exhibition in London, but this experience gave them some ideas for the future. In the 1870s, decorative stonewares began being made in Doulton’s Lambeth facility and were exhibited at both the 1871 and ‘72 exhibitions to critical acclaim.

In 1877, Henry Doulton purchased the Nile Street pottery facility in Burslem, Staffordshire, but it continued to use the name Pinder, Bourne & Co. until 1882 when it became Doulton & Co., Ltd. It was at the Burslem facility where Doulton made porcelain (actually, it was bone china, a sort of “artificial” porcelain), and they hired some of the finest ceramicists available to make and decorate the products.

The marks Doulton used before 1902 were a bit varied, but most were marked with a kind of shaped circle, which might resemble a cog to some. Inside was “Doulton” and either “Lambeth” or “Burslem“ to identify the Doulton facility in which the piece was made.

Then in 1886, Henry Doulton was appointed potter to His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales, who would later become King Edward VII (1901-1910). At this point, a crown or “coronet” was added to the mark to proclaim this achievement.

This means that H. O.’s vase was made in Doulton and Co.’s Nile Street facility in Burslem sometime between 1886 and 1902 (in 1902 the name was changed to the familiar “Royal Doulton”). Henry Doulton allowed his artists to sign their pieces and if we could have seen this piece in person, we might have been able to discover who the actual artist was.

We believe that this may very well have been an exhibition piece because we have seen a similar piece with the poppies identified as such, but again, there is no way of knowing without seeing the actual piece. However, the size, the beauty of the painting and the very unusual three dimensional dragon crawling up the side all suggest a piece that was supposed to be seen initially at something like a World’s Fair.

The value of this piece depends very much on its condition, which in the photographs looks good except for a bit of rubbed gold here and there, which does constitute a deduction. But if there are not chips or cracks, the insurance replacement value should be in the $3,500 to $4,500 range at the very least.

Write to Joe Rosson, P.O. Box 27419, Knoxville, TN 37927, or email If you’d like your question to be considered for the column, please include a high-resolution photo of the subject, which must be in focus.

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