Royal Crown Derby has been in business since about 1750 in Derby. The current factory has been at this four and a half acre location since 1878. Queen Victoria granted them the right to use the ‘royal” designation in 1890. You may choose to take a factory tour which are offered several times a day (be sure to call and find out exact times and make a reservation) or you can just see the decorating process and the museum. Since we have been on several factory tours we opted to just do the shorter version.
The current cost is £5 regular £4.5 concessions (students or seniors). Our guide was Sue and she began by taking us through the entire process from slip to finished product.
We see one of the pigs that they do as a piece of green-ware, once it has been fired, glazed, transfers added and then the hand painting. It was very interesting to see how different the pig looks at the different stages. Another interesting fact is that bone china has real bone in it.
Our guide then takes us to the desk where the transfers are inspected and applied. It is a much more work intensive process than you would expect. Each of the colors on a transfer must dry for one day before a new color is added. That means it could be anywhere from seven days to 16 days, and that is for each pattern. These must then be inspected to make sure that they are perfect.
Applying them is not an easy process either and again must be inspected to make sure it is perfect. The person who applies the transfer is called a lithographer and is paid by the piece so perfection is a good thing. Transfers can be removed until the piece is fired. Every lithographer has a mark that they place on every piece they work on.
One thing we learned was that if the crown on the bottom of a piece that you buy in the secondary market is scratched in any way no matter what kind of button it has the piece is a second.
We then watched Jackie work on a $4000 peacock with handmade flowers, loads of hand painting and enough gilding to make it a truly unique and spectacular piece. These are among the many pieces that can be ordered on commission, in other words you can have it your way.
All the flowers are hand done and they employ only one flower maker these days. It takes him half a day to do the flowers for one of the peacocks.
On the second floor of the Visitor Center is the museum. It has rooms filled with cases of gorgeous bone china. I found several pieces that I would love to own, my favorite was an egg cruet with egg cups from the 1820’s. As an egg cup collector it would have been a delightful; addition to my collection.
When you are finished with the museum you can head to the shop. There are plenty of bargains to be had. Some of the dinner sets were marked 50% off. There were paper weights at one for full price a second at half price. I got 10% off my pin tray.
There are also cases filled with the best that Royal Crown Derby has to offer.
If you are hungry there is a café where we stopped to have lunch. They offer sandwiches, several hot cooked meals and tea and cakes. It was served cafeteria style and was appropriately priced.