Royal Crown Derby - Titanic China

PUBLISHED: 09:14 20 December 2010 | UPDATED: 18:18 20 February 2013

Royal Crown Derby - Titanic China

Royal Crown Derby - Titanic China

A hundred years on and the stories surrounding the construction and loss of RMS"Titanic are still capturing the imagination. As museum curator Jacqueline Smith reports, local firm Royal Crown Derby has rediscovered its role in the legend ...

Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the launch of RMS Titanic, one of the most famous ships ever built, and surely the most famous to sink. It was constructed for the White Star Line at Harland and Wolffs Belfast shipyard and was the largest passenger steamship of its day when it set off on its first and final voyage to New York from Southampton on 10th April 1912. The Titanic was built as a showcase for the very best of British engineering, design and craftsmanship with furnishings and fittings that were the latest in luxury and opulence. One of the few firms to contribute to its furnishings that still survives today was Royal Crown Derby.

The ship had three dining rooms, one for each class of passenger, and Royal Crown Derby was chosen to provide the china for the exclusive la carte restaurant where only first class passengers were permitted to dine. All the other dining rooms had set meal times and menus but in the la carte restaurant passengers could choose what to eat and when to eat it, whether for an intimate dinner for two or a private celebration. The food was plentiful and of a very high quality, including delicacies such as grilled mutton chops, chicken la Maryland, fresh lobsters or corned ox tongue. Desserts included apple meringue and Waldorf pudding.

The Royal Crown Derby company archives hold a file of correspondence relating to the order for the specially commissioned china, as well as the original pattern and a booklet advertising the ship. Ships chandlers Stonier & Co of Liverpool was the glass and china retailer appointed by the White Star Line to find and purchase suitable pieces for its ships and it was they who placed the order.

Once the White Star line had chosen the pattern it became exclusive to them but there was still some haggling over the price. Stoniers pointed out that the presence of the china on Titanic would act as a worldwide advertisement with the cream of passenger traffic. The companys reply is in the form of a telegram stating: Have fully considered and allowed for advertisement accruing. Regret impossible to concede any abatement in prices, which are rock-bottom.

On 31st January 1911 the order was confirmed and a December delivery date set later changed to 1st March 1912. White Star asked for the older style OSNC (Ocean Steam Navigation Company) monogram to be used rather than its flag, which appears on much of the other tableware, as this was more to their liking. The final order was for: 600 dinner plates, 150 soup plates, 150 breakfast plates, 100 salad plates, 150 breakfast cups and saucers, 100 teacups and saucers, 36 creams, 25 slop basins. It was also noted that replacements would be required and further orders for egg cups, hors doeuvres trays and salad bowls were later received.

Throughout the correspondence there is a lot of discussion about advertising, and the White Star Line asked Royal Crown Derby to produce a booklet, at its own cost, to advertise the sailing of the ship. Only 1,000 were produced so they are very rare today. In it the design is described as in exquisite taste ... consisting of a band of encrusted gold work with painted ornament of Chaplets and Festoons in the Louis XVI style, delicately finished in tints of green. The leaflet continues, Travellers who take their meals in the Restaurant of the Titanic will have their viands served on china entirely superior to that provided at any of the finest hotels in the Kingdom.

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the ships launch, Royal Crown Derby is reproducing this tableware pattern for the first time. Even more uniquely, it is being produced on the same site it was first made a hundred years ago. The patterned tableware will be produced both without the original OSNC"monogram and with it as a range of commemorative items, presented in a gift box and accompanied by a reproduction of the original leaflet from the company archives. The range will be on show at the Royal Crown Derby Visitor Centre, Osmaston"Road,"Derby, and by taking a factory tour (booking essential) you can see it being made. Royal Crown Derby will also be holding a number of commemorative events next year, beginning with an exhibition of items from the Titanic, its sister ship Olympic and the Crown Derby archive.

For information on the commemorative china or a factory tour call the Visitor Centre on 01332 712833 or view
For details of next years events phone 01332 712850 or email

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