learn more about royal worcester thimble painters

This listing of Royal Worcester thimble painters does not purport to be complete or accurate in all aspects.

Rather it invites comment and contribution to add to our knowledge of these highly prized handpainted thimbles.

My thanks to the contributors.







John von Hoelle - Thimble collector's encyclopedia. 3rd ed. 1986

Henry Sandon - Royal Worcester porcelain from 1862 - 1972

Christie's South Kensington - Thimbles & needlework accessories (auction catalogue) - Dec 1997

Phillips Auctioneers - Sylvia Groves' collection (auction catalogue) - Dec 1999

Phillips Auctioneers - Fine antique sewing boxes, thimbles,... (auction catalogue) - Dec 1998

Joanna Waciorski's website - www.sewmanybits.co.uk

The Thimble Society of London catalogues

Royal Worcester thimble artists Thimbletter - vol 7, issue 3, May-June 1980

The Royal Worcester story Collector Circle Gazette - vol VI, no 3, winter 1981/82

Het Vingerhoedje - vol 4 no 1

Dorset Thimble Society - Royal Worcester thimble painters. May 1991

A blog on William Powell www.ispyabird.co.uk/blogs/756

Friedericke Baechle - Antique Hand-painted Royal Worcester thimbles TCI Bulletin winter 2012

Royal Porcelain Museum website - www.worcesterporcelainmuseum.org.uk

Charlotte Goldberg - David Roy Bowkett former Royal Worcester artist 1948-1962 TCI Bulletin summer 2014






Tom Ainslie | Anne | Petra Arnzen | Friederike Baechle | Linda Bennett | Marta Valencia Betran | Clarice Birch | Sue Burt | Jonathan P Broad | Jack Broadhead | Sheila C

Christine Cameron | Tony Charman | Sue Christensen | Maggie Cooper | Linda Day | Val de Vries | Diana | Nick Durham | Joy Earles | Helene Ellis [nee Ligthert] | Ros Forster

Kit Froebel | Joan Gale | David Garn | Charlotte Goldberg | Linda Heggs | Giorann Henshaw [nee Garcia] | Margaret Hickling | Sondra Hirsch | John Houghton | Gloria Hudson

Janet E Humphries [nee Collins] | Judith | Gladys Junge | Wolfgang Langrehr | David Mayne | Debbie Mayo | Rosie Mladenovic | Caroline Meacham-Elegant Arts | Maggie Morris  Jan Neville  | Elizabeth Nevin | Ro Olbricht | Rebecca Orme | Mandy Page | David Pantland | Moyra Peckston | Di Pelham Burn | Judy Pollitt | Wanda Ralston | Kathleen Rastall

Rhoda | Wendy Ritchie | John Roberts | Ian Salter | Linda Samaripa | Wolf-Dieter Scholz | Irene Schwall | Norma Shattock | Edna Skarratt | Kate Smith | Sue | Tom Suttie 

Amanda [Spilsbury] Taylor | Erin Titmus | Audrey Turner Kate Twomey | Marta Valencia | Sheena Venn | Hans-Ulrich Vogel | Joanna Waciorski-Sew Many Bits | Rosalie Webb  Agnieszka Wiechucka | Mave Wiskin | Sandy Woodyard | Jenny Yuhas








© Sue Gowan

October 2002









EMAIL thimbleselect@bigpond.com TO SHARE YOUR KNOWLEDGE.



I have always had a deep love for handpainted Royal Worcester thimbles.


My best find is an unmarked 19th century handpainted bird, with the lovely translucent porcelain of early Worcester's and the taller, narrow shape of their early thimbles. This was found here in Brisbane. It was sold to me as milk or opaline glass, a term I had never heard before - it is a term used for the translucent porcelain of 19th century Royal Worcester. Another term associated with early Royal Worcester porcelain, is blush, peach bloom or a biscuit finish, describing the warm creamy ground of the porcelain. It is rare to find that the apex has been gilded - usually a sign that if it is gilded, the thimble is not an early Royal Worcester?


Then there is the handpainted Kookaburra (1926) that Edwin Holmes first described in May 1994. This is the only type of Royal Worcester that I have encountered with a self-patterning of indentations on both sides. Holmes could not explain this at the time. I have seen two thimbles with Kookaburras with this type of marking. Have you come across this unusual surface that flanks the painting on RW thimbles?


Neither of these are signed, but that doesn't bother me too much.























An example of a handpainted Locke thimble that preceded the Royal Worcester brand












Dating your Royal Worcester Thimbles


The early blush, biscuit or translucent thimbles of the late 19th century have no signatures or marks. Up to the 1880s, later painters cannot surpass their fine painting. The exception is William Powell's exquisite bird studies in the early 20th century.


Royal Worcester thimbles with a puce or purple backstamp date from late nineteenth century to 1963 and are usually signed by the painters. The dating of these thimbles can be calculated from 1891 by a series of dots and/or symbols. The table can be found in Thimble Society of London, winter 1997, p5. (images reproduced below)


Thimbles with the black Royal Worcester backstamp date from 1964 onwards. Though the thimbles are still signed, it is not possible to date these thimbles. Royal Worcester produced hand-painted thimbles until 1986.


Those Royal Worcester thimbles that were in production after 1986 were decaled thimbles.



Royal Worcester Porcelain Backstamps (1862 - 1963)

Reproduced from Thimble Society of London, winter 1997, p5.


The Royal Worcester Porcelain Co., Ltd. was formed as a Joint Stock Company in 1862 and since that time pieces have been marked with some type of date code.


The standard backstamp, illustrated here, includes the number 51 in the centre which refers to the year 1751 when the Worcester Porcelain Company was founded by Dr. John Wall.


In ignorance this number is often mistaken for the date of manufacture of a particular thimble!!













It's very hard to find much information on thimbles produced by Royal Worcester. There is a list of Royal Worcester painters in Von Hoelle's Encyclopedia of thimbles, but it's known to have been incomplete. Hopefully this listing will go somewhat to remedy this. The Sandon listing is only compiled until 1971. It truly inspires me when former Royal Worcester thimble painters or their descendants, take the time to make contact and send me their own information. Not many of them have kept examples of their own work on thimbles. 


The list of Royal Worcester thimble painters includes dates that each painter is known to have painted for Royal Worcester. It's rare tho but I have included their life dates where they are available in square brackets alongside their name.









some of the Royal Worcester fruit painters


I have included as many examples as possible for each artist.


The list is far from complete but now a start has been made, other names or thimbles can be added. To date there are 249 artists listed who are thought to have painted thimbles (this includes women painters' maiden and married names). Many of the early painters included here may never have painted thimbles!!


So far - with help from collectors around the world - 200 have examples of their thimbles included: we're over 3/4 way there!! This means there are now only 51 thimbles to find by listed artists that are understood to have painted thimbles.


William Powell is the most prolific thimble artist and still the most collecctable!!


Please share your photos, especially if your handpainted thimble artist hasn't an example alongside. Thank you in anticipation.


As thimbles are so small, when painters' names were too long the signatures were sometimes shortened or only initials used. I have included the first names even when not part of the signature. If you know the first name of a RW painter, listed here, please share. Most signatures only contain the initial and surname. The signature is usually on the back of the thimble, alongside a leaf or flower sprig. The early thimbles usually have the signature closer to the main painting, and not on the back.


Royal Worcester thimbles were never signed by the artist inside the thimble.


Some signatures are always going to be difficult to decipher, but with practice you will become familiar with styles of painting and so be able to hazard a guess - eg Kitty Blake's signature is often illegible or "messy".


As more thimbles have been added to this site, you will notice how many identical paintings there are, done by different artists, especially amongst the later painters. Once you have handled or looked at the scenes, you will soon be able to identify the later style of painting [post 1970], even tho the thimbles aren't dated.


Have you ever thought why thimbles were painted? I understand that in the modern era [ie 1964 onwards], thimbles were only painted when there were not many orders coming into the factory and were used to practice their painting skills. I wonder if this was always so? They were so small so they were easy to finish but they were not really made to be sold!!


If only they could see the prices being fetched on eBay for these very same thimbles!!


This interesting item of information has just come to my attention: 

"In the late 1970s the demand for Royal Worcester hand-painted thimbles grew enormously. One can speculate as to the reason(s). Maybe the thought of an original thimble was alluring. Royal Worcester did not want to employ more artists for economic reasons as thimbles are time-consuming to paint freehand (at least three firings).

The foreman of the painters division, Edward Townsend, came up with a solution.

He designed a number of outline prints - six flowers, six fruit and eight birds - which were printed onto the blank thimbles. The artists did not have to create an individual painting but merely coloured in the blank design. This speeded up the process noticeably.

Some of the painters were dismissive of this process and much preferred doing original work on larger items."

Compare the same topic (ie blue tits) amongst your most modern thimbles and you will notice that this is true: they look the same

From my observation of studying thousands of RW thimbles the topics were = apples, peaches, pears and plums in that order with smaller fruit used alongside. The birds used were tits, kingfishers, wrens, robins, bullfinches, a generic red bird and one with yellow colouring. Roses and daisies of various colours with iris, violets and forget-me-nots.


Can you discern this on any of your later thimbles? Study your collection and you will find that the information above is correct! The little paintings are too similar for this to be coincidence! This is why there are so many identical-looking modern handpainted RW thimbles!!


Other English garden birds were handpainted by earlier bird painter experts and feature swallows, chaffinchs, redstarts, thrushes and goldfinches.


 Primroses, heather, pansies, morning glories, daffodils, anemones, crocuses, wattle, tulips, carnations and bluebells are some of the rarer flower paintings on RW thimbles, including an example of strawberry flowers and the fruit.


Fruit is a much more modern topic for painting.


Do you collect RW thimbles by the painter, the era painted, the type of bird or the flower featured?


The modern painters include Fiona Bakewell, Christine Cameron, Janet Collins, Claire Cox, Pat Dunkley, Sheila Dutfield, Gioran Garcia, Mary Igoe, Angela Lawson, Helene Ligthert, Mandy Munslow, Christine Parker, Sue Roberts, Dorothy Sparks, Julia Vass, Christine Wilson - all who painted from the 1970s onwards. It's amazing that the later painters were all women - in the early days, most of the painters would have been male.


With the modern painters, when the backstamp is not dated (ie 1964-), I have begun to use the generic date of "1970s-" to indicate that they were a later painter, where the smallest black backstamp has been used. When the modern black backstamp is larger - presumably for the 1960s, I have used "1960s- [larger backstamp]" for the painter. This is an on-going project and I will amend the dates as information on the backstamps comes to light. Obviously the best outcome will be, when more accurate dates are available for the painters.


The painters may have been with RW at a later date but I feel that this information may be more useful this way?


If you know more specific dates, please contact me with this information. According to Henry Sandon, Royal Worcester thimbles made between 1860 and 1939 are of glazed parian body which is a creamier, smoother body than bone china, which is very white and translucent.


I have included some black and white photos where no other examples exist.


The Royal Worcester factory and shop at Severn Street in Worcester closed on 14th June 2009. The buildings were then demolished, for other development.


The Royal Worcester name was purchased by Portmeirion Pottery of Stoke-on-Trent.




Click on the following links to find out more about...

Royal Worcester Thimble Painters



Examples of 19th century thimbles or unsigned Royal Worcester thimbles




Or click here to "Learn more about Royal Worcester Decal thimbles"



For more information, visit the Royal Worcester website













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