Margaret (Peggy) Davies was born in Burslem, in the heart of the Staffordshire pottery industry. In fact, Burslem has had a thriving pottery industry since the twelfth century – possibly because the local clay is suitable. It still retains the old ways of an industry, staffed by local people who could walk to work – and Peggy was a local lass, born within walking distance of the Burslem potteries. In time, she was to become one of Royal Doulton’s most respected and prolific figurine artists.
As a child she suffered from tuberculosis, which meant she spent a large proportion of her time in the hospital. Life in the 1920’s was a tough time, with unemployment, strikes, and general poverty. Peggy needed plenty of fresh air and good food so her parents decided to send her to her grandparents to live. Her grandfather had a large house attached to the potbank, where he worked as an engineer and was able to give Peggy the care she needed.
However, young Peggy missed out on her school studies, Fortunately, one of her teachers noticed her artistic talent and allowed her to spend much of her time on creative endeavours. And when Peggy was 12 years old, she won a scholarship to study at the Burslem College of Art, where she studied under Gordon Forsyth for several years.
But Peggy had to cut her studies short and seek paid employment. She found a job as a part-time assistant with Clarence Cliff – a local ceramic designer. And then in 1939, at the outbreak of the second world war, she joined Royal Doulton’s, as an assistant to Cecil Noke. At the same time, Peggy started a small workshop at her home.
Cecil Noke’s father was the well-known designer and art director for Royal Doulton, Charles Noke, and Cecil spent 16 years assisting him, working with him, and then finally taking over the directorships in 1936.
The war years
But these were the war years, and a bomb dropped on Peggy’s house, partly destroying it. She decided to become a nurse and play her part in the war effort.
A new start
After the war, she set up a new workshop at her home and became a freelance designer under contract to Royal Doulton.
She created a flow of new figurines for Royal Doulton and in 1945 her first piece – ‘HN1976 Easter Day’ was released. Two years later she produced ‘HN1992 Christmas Morn‘.
She then created a wonderful 8 figure series which shows important ladies in the history of England (HN2005 to HN2012). What is special about this series is that Peggy researched the costumes of the times to make them as realistic and accurate as possible.
Family life was important
Peggy Davies married and brought up three sons. In addition to her domestic duties, she continued to produce a large number of ladies, children, and character figures. Sometimes she used family members as models, for example, a son in “River Boy” and her husband features in characters like “The Master” and “The Town Crier”. Family history also takes part in her creations. One example is a figure of a girl, seated on her trunk, waiting to board a boat. This is thought to represent an aunt who was sent to Canada to be adopted – but finally returned to her family. This is how Peggy depicted her waiting to board the boat to Canada, dressed in her best and with her trunk. And as always, she strove to be accurate in her costumes, from medieval times to modern times.
Some of her work
Despite her prowess in producing an amazing output of charming figures, she got great pleasure in creating more complex works such as ‘HN2041 The Broken Lance‘ and ‘HN2051 St George‘. In fact, her wide range of pieces continued to delight and entrance collectors of her work. They include ‘HN2261 The Marriage of Art and Industry‘ and the enchanting ‘Southern Belle‘.
In 1970, the first of a 12 set lady musicians series was completed – a lady playing the cello. Other members of the orchestra followed. Interestingly, she chose to make a leader rather than a conductor – which is more accurate for the 18th century. This was limited edition to just 750 pieces and produced with a matte finish to pander to the current style, and the idea was that collectors could gradually build up an 18th century orchestra.
But even more special was the fact that for the first time in 50 years the name of the modeller was imprinted on the base – a nice recognition of the blue of her work to Royal Doulton.
Another well-known set was the Kate Greenaway child figures. These models are based on the drawings by Kate who based them upon her experience in being brought up in a Victorian household. These are still popular collector’s items and the attention to detail recreates the charm of the original drawings as figures in porcelain.
Peggy retired from the Royal Doulton but not from pottery. She created a series of character jugs for Pascoe and Company in 1987. And the following year she visited America to attend the Royal Doulton show in Florida and make the acquaintance of some of her American fans.
Exhibition in Australia
She had an exhibition of her contemporary work in Australia.
Her death and after
But in 1999 Peggy Davies died. She had started her remarkable career 60 years ago with Roal Doulton.
After her death, her son expanded the business, moved to new premises
Just to slightly confuse us, Peggy Davies Ceramics is based in Stoke on Trent. Now, Kevin Francis Ceramics is also the home for Peggy Davies Ceramics. They specialise in quality china produced by traditional methods, and all in limited edition. Every piece is unique and hand painted.
A Peggy Davies figurine is very collectable and prices vary enormously. Renowned for her painstaking attention to detail and extensive research to get the costumes exactly right are notable features of her work. She had the enormous technical expertise and her work is much sought after today. Indeed, a collection of Peggy Davies figurines can delight the eye and touch the imagination for many years.