John Doulton, born in Fulham in 1793, served his apprenticeship at the Fulham Pottery and on coming out of his apprenticeship in 1812, found employment at a small pot-house in Vauxhall Walk. The small establishment had belonged to a potter named Jones but in 1812 was being carried on by his widow, Martha, with the help of a foreman, John Watts. Martha's intention was to hand over the works to her son - however a scrape with the law resulted in him absconding to South America and in 1815, Martha Jones took both Watts and Doulton into partnership. Thus starting John Doulton's future career which would lead him to founding Doulton & Co with his sons in 1853. His son Henry invested in the manufacture of ceramic drainage pipes - adding to the existing production of sanitary and industrial wares as well as some ornamental salt-glazed stoneware (a hang-over from the original Vauxhall Walk pothouse). Henry's investment proved to be wise and the company prospered. Henry, the driving force behind the business, continued to develop new industrial applications for pottery leading to the financial success which later enabled him to become an enthusiastic and generous patron of the arts.
John Dalton (1793-1873)
Demand grew and in 1882 Doulton opened its Doulton Burslem site in the heart of the Staffordshire Potteries. In 1901 the Burslem factory was granted the Royal Warrant by King Edward VII - becoming known as Royal Doulton.
Doulton's involvement with decorated salt-glaze stoneware was intimately connected with the rise of the Lambeth School of Art. John Sparkes, who ran the school, sought to rekindle the tradition of decorated pottery (such as delftware) that had been associated with Lambeth. In 1860, Sparkes persuaded Doulton to make a small edition of presentation jugs for the opening of the school's new premises in Vauxhall Gardens.
Links between Doulton and the Lambeth School of Arts grew and in 1866, Henry was induced to take on one of the School's most talented students, George Tinworth, as a pottery modeller. Encouraged by Sparkes, Tinworth began to design decorated wares.
Doulton first exhibited a few examples of decorated stoneware at the Paris Exhibition of 1867. Well received by art critics, Doulton then exhibited a small selection of salt-glazed art-ware at the London International Exhibition in 1871. From this came the birth of Doulton's art department and the start of its transition from sanitary and industrial ware to decorative items.
A brief overview of the history of Doulton Lambeth stoneware is given here. An excellent and very comprehensive source of information is "The Doulton Lambeth Wares" by Desmond Eyles, revised by Louise Irvine (2002). Eyles has also written about Burslem Ware and other Doulton wares. Other very good sources are Potteries History - Doulton History and The Potteries.org - Doulton, which also gives examples of marks used by Doulton's.