The Making of the Royal Doulton Story Video

by Louise Irvine

In 1988, I was presenting The Doulton Story at the art gallery in Victoria, BC and I met David Lindsay from Catalina Productions. He introduced himself by explaining that he had been dragged along reluctantly to my talk by his wife and he was missing an important ball game. However, he was intrigued by the story of Royal Doulton and thought it would make an interesting TV documentary. After correspondence and script approval from Royal Doulton, David approached veteran actor Patrick Macnee to host the program. Macnee was familiar to viewers worldwide as Steed in The Avengers. With his trademark bowler hat and umbrella, he represented a traditional British gentleman for American audiences.

The documentary was produced by Dave Harding and directed by David’s son Russell Lindsay. The script takes Macnee across the Atlantic on the Concorde where he is served his meal on Royal Doulton china. Actually, the Concorde didn’t leave the ground. As one of the camera crew joked in the video about making the movie, “it was a very moving experience for a plane that didn’t move.”

I met Patrick Macnee in London to start his voyage of discovery and began relating the Doulton Story at the Victorian Lambeth studio on the banks of the river Thames. We visited the Royal Doulton gallery in Piccadilly, the Victoria & Albert Museum, and Harrods, which is built of Doulton terracotta. The department store’s famous food halls are lined with Doulton tiles in art nouveau style. Macnee had afternoon tea at the Ritz (on Royal Doulton of course) before heading to Stoke-on-Trent to see Royal Doulton china being made.

In the movie, Macnee appears to travel to the Potteries by helicopter but in fact he did not want to fly. Instead, I had the opportunity to fly with the video crew and pointed out the landmarks below us on our journey north. It was an exhilarating flight with the helicopter doors wide open for filming.

At the Burslem factory, Macnee met Valerie Baynton, the curator of the Sir Henry Doulton Gallery, who introduced him to the different styles of Doulton wares made in the Potteries. Macnee then went on a tour of the figure painting department following in the footsteps of many illustrious visitors. There is a clip of Princess Diana’s 1984 visit to Royal Doulton in the movie. Macnee had a drink in a local pub full of Royal Doulton character jugs before heading back to London. He attended an auction at Phillips auctioneers, now Bonhams, where he bought an Art Deco figure of the Lido Lady and determined to visit the largest collection of Royal Doulton in the world at that time.

The last scenes are shot in the Harriman Judd collection of British Art Pottery in Los Angeles with Edward Judd. For Royal Doulton fans, this is a very nostalgic movie as as the Burslem factory is no more and Patrick Macnee, Ed Judd and Princess Diana have all passed. Concorde’s last flight was in 2003. The Sir Henry Doulton Gallery in Burslem and the Royal Doulton Gallery in London have both closed but fortunately many of the key pieces from the company’s collection can still be enjoyed at the Wiener Museum of Decorative Arts.