“Good artists exist simply in what they make. Oscar Wild
The nineteenth century saw amazing changes in the literacy of the UK population. In 1870, Gladstone's Education Act set the path towards our modern educational system, giving power to elected County Councils to provide both primary and secondary education and the effect was profound. Between 1870 and 1890 the average school attendance rose from one and a quarter million to over four and a half, while expenditure per pupil doubled (Trevelyan, 1944). The new educational revolution, which was understandably dominated by city folk, fostered the creation of clerks in preference to farm labourers. For the first time, paper and dip pens replaced slate and chalk, thus laying the foundations for a great surge in the need for ink-related products.
This surge was, however, to be relatively short-lived. By 1884 the fountain pain had been invented, heralding the demise of the inkwell. A century later, the introduction of plastic cartridges presaged the elimination of inkbottles and inkpots. The Victorian era was also the time of great change in the world of pottery, not least in Lambeth where John Doulton had established his activities with such success. By the time that the young Doulton arrived on the scene in the early 1800's, Lambeth had enjoyed a long association with pottery. Noorthouck, in his New History of London which was published in 1773, described Lambeth as "a village…chiefly inhabited by glassblowers, potters, fishermen and watermen".
It was otherwise only distinguished by Lambeth Palace, which lay to the eastern side of the approach road to where Lambeth bridge was to be built in 1861, the potteries lying to the west. The palace today, as then, provides the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury and as we will see, over a century later fish, theology and pottery were to find themselves uniquely juxtaposed in Doulton ink wares.
Ink wares were amongst the very earliest of Doulton's products. The early catalogues issued by the Doulton & Watts Lambeth Pottery feature 'inkstands' among other utility wares. These items, which were produced in Sunderland ware and characterized by having a white glaze inside, originally sold for two shillings and ten pence a dozen, quite a considerable sum in those days. They were used all over the UK, being manufactured not only in the Doulton Pottery in Lambeth but also in Newcastle-on-Tyne and Sunderland.
Walford (1887) reports of a writer in The Queen newspaper for 1876 observing that "it is not many years ago since Messrs Doulton of Lambeth began their careers as art potters, having until then only been celebrated for chimney pots, drain pipes, ink and blacking bottles". Over the years Doulton produces thousands of inkwells and probably millions of inkbottles and inkpots. Like other utilitarian object they were used regularly, consequently broken and discarded and, by comparison with other Doulton wares, are difficult to find.
Almost no other items of Doulton utility ware is available in such a wealth of different shapes and finishes, covering almost every aspect of Doulton's skills from the early 1800's to the present day. Over a period of more than 150 years Doulton have been associated with most of the household names ink-related products – Stephens, Parker and De La Rue amongst them. Unlike other utility pieces ink wares have, in addition to their scarcity, a fascination which stems from a unique combination of inventiveness and a rich variety of color and form. The success of the artistic features of the Lambeth pottery was due in no small part to the Lambeth School of Art. Established in 1854 as a branch of the central School of Design at Marlbotough House, the Lambeth School was effectively the first school of Art and Design in the United Kingdom. It’s Foundation Director. John Sparkes, was unremitting in his dedication to educating printers and the modelers from Doulton's factory. Encouraged by Henry Doulton, John Doulton's second son, Sprkers recruited women students almost exclusively and deliberately excluded foreigners, believing that he could thereby help foster a renaissance of British art pottery. The products which left Doulton's Lambeth factory attest to his undoubted success.
In the space of this small book it is only possible to describe a few of the multiplicity of ink-related products which Doulton produced. With one or two notable exceptions, ink wares are not something with which Doulton are most often associated. Their undeserved fate has been largely to be ignored by dealer and collector alike. I hope that what is contained within these pages, which greatly extends an article written fir the Journal of the International Doulton Collectors' Club in 1989, will stimulate a re-appraisal of their worth. “