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Doulton's Rowley works, now just a distant memory

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: May 23, 2014

By Dan Shaw

  • A chimney belches smoke over the Doulton works

  • The Doulton works at Springfield, Rowley Regis, c.1915

  • Busy canal wharf at the Doulton works

  • The works were founded in the 1840s

  • A drying room at the Doulton works

  • Rail tracks amid the stacked pipes at the extensive site

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ONE of the lost landmarks of the Black Country is the sprawling Doulton works at Springfield, near Netherton. Almost nothing of the site now remains but it is remembered in the name of Doulton Road.

These pictures show the works when they were at their height in the early 20th century. They are taken from a special book commissioned by Royal Doulton to celebrate its centenary in 1915.

A copy of the book has been kindly loaned to us by Kath Bryan of Wombourne.

Although the company was granted its royal status by Edward VII and is still known as Royal Doulton today, that name was never applied to the works in Rowley Regis, which always went by H. Doulton and Co.

The business was founded in Lambeth in 1815 by John Doulton (1793–1873) but it was his son Sir Henry Doulton (1820-1897) who established the works at Springfield in 1848. From the start the works specialised in sanitary stoneware, for which there was an increasing demand in the second half of the 19th century as municipalities and local authorities invested in sewage systems and piping fresh water.

The Springfield works also made industrial stoneware and ceramics and architectural pieces and terracotta tiling. Famous buildings decorated with some of its wares include Harrods and the Russell Hotel in London.

The works were built on the Dudley No.2 Canal, which was the main route for the raw clay going into the works and the finished products going out to be transported all over the world.

The clay came from the company's pits in nearby Saltwells Wood. An account written in 1906 describes the work:

"The clay obtained by Messrs. Doulton and Co. from the workings in Saltwells Wood is taken up their incline to the canal at a point near the Reservoir, placed in boats, and taken to their Springfield Pottery near Rowley Regis, where it is manufactured into sanitary ware, etc., etc."

In 1850 Doulton opened a second works in the Black Country, on the bank of the Birmingham Canal in Smethwick. This remained in operation until 1913, when high transportation costs forced its closure. It re-opened briefly in the First World War but closed finally in 1919.

The Springfield works closed in 1979 and an industrial estate now occupies the site.

Have you memories of the Doulton works to share or any historic pictures of the Black Country? Contact dshaw@blackcountrybugle.co.uk or write to us at 41 High Street, Cradley Heath, B64 5HL.

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