Joan Midgley who joined the company aged 14 in 1932 and who lived at 11 Ladygrove Cottages. She was put in charge of the enamelling department, a key responsibility as new staff were constantly needed to be trained to keep up with the demand for the product. She signed the Harold Taylor Robinson Birthday book in June 1947 and is in the staff photograph of 1949
Joan in charge of her department. Brenda “Pip” Bentley is situated to the right of the girl to the bottom right corner. The two girls to the centre on the left hand side are rose painting, the two nearest to Joan are painting the flowers on the lids of round covered boxes.
Joan at the time of the factory visit by Richard Dimbleby in 1950. Her son Martin recalls seeing a 78 recording of the broadcast but it has been lost. The BBC does not have one it its archive. If anyone is in possession of a copy I would very much like to hear from them.
Staff Dinner of unknown date and we are also unsure of the venue. We do know that it must have been taken prior to 1952. Joan appears in the top right hand corner.
Joan at a staff dinner which was probably held at the Traveller's Joy, Shelton Lock, (Now Golden Pheasant) which was owned and run at the time by Miss Francis and Royal Crown Derby artist Cuthbert Gresley.
A photograph apparently taken at the same event.
Joan’s name is included in the official list of mourners at Harold Robinson’s funeral service which took place at Littleover Parish Church on Tuesday January 24th 1953
We are still trying to establish her identifying mark, but during the period that she was in a training role she would not have needed to mark her work.
Joan left Royal Crown Derby to look after her son Martin Tanner in April/May 1956. She died in 1998.
Joan wrote an account of her experiences at Royal Crown Derby and this is set out below. It is unedited. As far as I can establish this is the first time this has been published:
"RECOLLECTIONS OF A DERBY APPRENTICE PAINTRESS
In August 1932 at the age of 14 I applied for a job as an apprentice paintress at the RCD. After a successful interview I was told to report on Monday at 7.45.
On reporting to the lodgeman I was taken to Mr Turvey who was the Decorating Manager. The buildings were just the same as when it was the Derby Workhouse. I was to train in one of the dormitories. Mr Turvey took me up two flights of spiral stairs, badly worn by the inmates.
The room was long and narrow white washed walls seven small windows each with bars. A bench under each window, and a pot stove in the middle. At one end of the room there was a screen, a chamber pot and a jug of water to wash your hands.
Mr Turvey took me to Miss Broughton she was the first woman apprentice at the RCD Osmaston Road and was over eighty years old then. She informed me of all the Do’s and Don’ts, we were not allowed to eat or drink in the work room, if we wished to go to the toilet we had to put our hand up for Miss Broughton’s permission and we had to go alone.
There was another girl starting that day her name was Edith Hill. Her family had come from the potteries, her father was to be the new Clay End Manager.
There were fourteen other women in the workroom, some quite old, they were all misses, as married women did not go to work in those days. Miss Broughton gave us a three legged stool and indicated at which bench we were to sit.
Our ‘tools’ a tile, turpentine, oil, paint, a fine brush and a white plate. We were told to take care of our brushes as in future we bought our own 11/2p for tracers 2p for shaders 1/2p increase according to size (old money).
Miss Broughton sat at the end of the middle table on a chair raised on a small platform. We stood at her side while she demonstrated some strokes on our white plate and then told to copy them. This we did time and time again, only to be told to wipe it off and do it again. The white plate was the only piece of china I worked on for three month.
As apprentices we had to empty the stove of ashes and take them down two flights of stairs and bring back two buckets of coal every day (no central heating then).
Friday was cleaning day, windows were cleaned, benches scrubbed, floors mopped and stairs washed. There was another thing we didn’t like on Friday, bones were brought from the Derby abattoir boiled, incinerated and then ground as one of the China’s ingredients. My wages for the first year were six shillings and threepence (32p in today’s money) per week.
After working on the white plate we progressed to working on miniatures again the procedure as the same, practice and practice until Miss Broughton considered us good enough to do work. First small pieces and then gradually larger and more intricate patterns. Every piece was closely examined before it was passed to the kilns for firing.
We got to know when orders from big American stores were expected hoping they were large enough to enable us to work full time. The American stores were Tiffany’s and Plummers had their own names printed under the RCD stamp.
The bottleneck kilns relied on coal for heat and the skill of the men who fired them. There were holes round the ovens for the men to draw out trials to check on the correct temperature.
In 1939 the war came and things changed. All women were released for war work with the exception of Miss Gerard, a Gilder and myself as the paintress. I was encouraged to learn from the men painters Mr Mosely, Mr Gregory, Mr Dean and Mr Gresley, Mr Haddock was the Gilder.
Mr Mosely wore knicker bockers and was quite a character. They all had one thing in common, perfection.
During the war we had to fire watch one night a week at the works. The team included Mr P Robinson Works Manager, Alec Wainwright Decorating Manager, Bill Morris Clay End Manager, Mr Ken Peake Works Secretary, Connie Polkey and my sister and I. We were as much afraid of the cockroaches as the German Bombers.
When the war ended we had parties to celebrate the victory.
I retired from the works at the age of 37, when my son was born. I worked from home for quite a few years after.
My father worked for the old North Staffs railway in Stoke and was moved to Derby when the LMS amalgamated. I suppose I have a feeling of nostalgia about china, as the old railway men have of steam trains.
Times change production methods change, but the RCD still produce beautiful china.
J Tanner, nee Midgley, nee Ravenscroft"
The photographs and Joan's recollections have very kindly been supplied by Martin Tanner from his family archive.