• Explore the fascinating links between the Wedgwood brand and rulers from all corners and time periods of Europe.

Wedgwood and Royalty

  • by Carenza Price

Queen's ware miniature tea set made for Queen Mary, by Harry Barnard

Theme

Toy ware or 'miniatures' were around in the 18th century, but became popular in the 19th century, with Wedgwood toy ware being produced in several bodies such as Queen's ware, drab ware, black basalt and jasper. This minute breakfast set was created for Queen Mary's Doll house at Windsor Castle, designed and built by Sir Edward Lutyens. The set contains 13 pieces in total, 5 plates, 2 saucers, one sugar bowl with cover, one coffee pot with cover, a coffee cup and a cream jug. All of the set is a lavendar body with a clear glaze and the missing handle on the cream jug shows a cross section of the main body and glaze. In the set, the largest item is only 12mm high, while the smallest is an impossibly tiny 7mm high. 

Because of the tiny dimensions, this set was thought near impossible to make but the fiddly task was given to Harry Banard to produce. Banard was experienced, having already worked for Daulton and James Macintyre before and he also had made the largest plaque ever for Wedgwood, another task that was thought impossible, so was a good choice for the challenge. Barnard left no record of the modelling or production of the set, so we don't know truly how difficult he found the task, but he succeeded and was so proud he bought it home to show his family before it was sent of to Windsor.

Queen Mary's (now famous) Doll House was a masterpiece in its own right. It was to be shown during the Empire Exhibition in 1924 and the architect Lutyens wanted the house to show off the best of British craftmanship by filling the house with objects made by the best in British manufacturing. The fact that Wedgwood was called upon to contribute to the house shows just how strong the links were between Wedgwood and the British royals, nearly 170 years after the company was founded.

The queen's ware body the set was made from has royal connections itself, as suggested by the name. Originally called creamware, Queen Charlotte (wife of George III) requested a tea service from the potteries of Staffordshire. Wedgwood rose to the challenge, eventually producing the technically demanding service to meet the Queen's request. The service was well received and Wedgwood was allowed to style himself 'Potter to Her Majesty' and rename his creamware 'Queen's ware'. This was a marketing masterstroke and shows the genius of Wedgwood because whatever the Queen was buying, naturally all the nobility and aristocracy would want to buy as well, and whatever the nobility were buying, the middle classes would want to buy as well. Queen's ware opened up a whole new market for Wedgwood and still continues to impress today.

 

Catalogue

Toy ware or ‘miniatures’ first commenced in popularity as far as ceramics manufacturers were concerned for commercial purposes in the 18th century, and proved to be particularly popular throughout the 19th century. At the Wedgwood factory a wide range of ‘toy’ ware, otherwise known as ‘miniatures’ were produced in a variety of ceramic bodies including cream coloured earthenware, drab ware, jasper, black basalt, and (more rarely) the bone china body. This 13 piece miniature breakfast set was designed and produced by Harry Barnard for Queens Mary’s doll’s house at Windsor Castle. The doll’s house was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.