Southbank House, Black Prince Road, London SE1

In background:

Jacqueline Banerjee, PhD, Associate Editor, writes at the Victorian Web:

“Southbank House, the only surviving part of the Doulton Pottery complex in Lambeth, south London. Tucked away behind the Albert Embankment, this Grade II Listed Building was probably designed by Robert Stark Wilkinson (1844-1936; see Brodie 993); but Wilkinson has different initials in different sources, and other architects are also mentioned, namely F. W. Tarring, and the partnership of Waring & Nicholson. It was built in 1876-78, of red brick with polychromy, and is boldly ornamented at every point with pink and sandy-coloured terracotta dressings. It stands at the junction of Lambeth High Street and Black Prince Road, SE11.

The building housed the pottery’s museum and art school (Dixon and Muthesius 135). Although it is described in the listing text as “long,” with two bays each side of the corner bay, its height is more striking, since it has five storeys, as well as a basement and attic. The main entrance at the angle is quite narrow, but has a fine tympanum relief by Doulton’s then chief designer, George Tinworth, suggesting the purpose of the building — to display Doulton’s already well-established, proud tradition. The pottery was founded in 1815, just a stone’s throw away in Vauxhall Walk (see Cherry and Pevsner 367).

Apart from its general presence, what is most striking about this building is its extraordinary range of detailed ornamentation, obviously intended to show off the Doulton product. Gavin Stamp describes it as a “living advertisement,” and calls the whole original complex an “elaborate, rumbustious exercise in Ruskinian Gothic” (91).

Roger Dixon and Stefan Muthesius call the Doulton pottery complex, as it originally stood, “one of the most comprehensive commercial establishments in any city” and, like Gavin Stamp, say that its slender 233′ high factory chimney to the right was “a slim version of the campanile of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence” (135). It is thought to have been suggested by Ruskin himself. These Thames-side buildings with their prominent give-away chimney were targeted in World War II, gutted during air raids and demolished in the 1950s. Royal Doulton moved its operations to Stoke-on-Trent in 1856. It is sad that most of Doulton’s London pottery premises were lost, but lucky that at least one building remains to give us some idea of what an impressive landmark they must have made…”

From: The Second Website of Bob Speel:

“Henry Doulton was the owner of the famous pottery firm of Doulton’s of Lambeth. The company had been founded in nearby Vauxhall by his father, John Doulton, and his partner John Watts, in 1815, then moved to Lambeth, but had not really distinguished itself when Henry took it over in 1846. And he started with highly successful but rather utilitarian wares such as stoneware drainpipes and chimneys, before turning to art pottery in 1866. He made an arrangement with the adjacent Lambeth School of Art, run by John Charles Sparkes, to take large numbers of their students, who were mostly young women who in Victorian times had little prospect of independent artistic success, and welcomed the immediate employment Doulton could offer. By the end of the 1860s, the Lambeth School curriculum expressly taught pottery manufacturing with Doulton’s and other local pottery firms in mind.

Henry Doulton’s innovations included new ranges of stoneware and faience, and later tiles, but also his approach to those who worked for him. Rather than making them anonymous workers who had to conform to rigid factory standards, Doulton treated them as artists with a level of freedom of design, and encouraged them to sign their work so it had an individuality.

Thus some of his students achieved recognition in their own right, including the Barlow sisters for their sgraffito work, Esther Lewis for contemporary scenic views, and Miss L Watt for tile pictures. The men included John Broad and George Tinworth, and two of the Martin Brothers.”

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