Visits from royals were so memorable for Pip during days decorating china at Crown Derby
THE monotony of the working week at Royal Crown Derby would sometimes be relieved by visits from VIPs and even members of the Royal Family.
Only a couple of years after Pip started work at the factory, it played host to the then Princess Elizabeth, and Pip was given a vital task.
She said: "Our supervisor, Joan Midgley, gave me my bus fare and sent me all the way back to my home in Melbourne to fetch some more flowers to decorate the work tables in the rooms.
"My mother was very proud when I returned to the china works with roses grown in our garden. When I arrived back, I couldn't get through because of all the police and crowds outside the factory.
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"I told one of the policemen who I was and he sent for Mrs Midgley and I was rushed straight through.
"I remember that the princess looked gorgeous. She wore a beautiful dress and her hat was covered in little lilies of the valley.
"Rather than the princess having to go into all the small rooms which used to make up the factory in those day, some of the tables and workers were moved out into the corridors. My table was one of them but, because I had been sent out for the flowers, Mrs Midgley took my place at the table and picked up the plate I had been decorating.
"I was left to peer through the window of our workroom as the princess walked by."
When she was appointed to enamelling supervisor in the mid- to late 1950s, Pip had the pleasure of meeting and talking to several other members of the royal family during visits to the works, along with other famous visitors, including then prime minister Margaret Thatcher and broadcaster Richard Dimbleby.
In advance of a visit to the works by the Queen Mother, Pip was even given instructions on royal etiquette, which she has kept.
The briefing reads: "Her Majesty will not expect sweeping bows and low curtseys. Try to think of natural courtesy. Ladies place their left foot slightly behind their right, hold Her Majesty's hand and 'bob' slightly. Gentlemen, shake Her Majesty's hand, remembering she is not a front row forward, and nod the head. In speech, it is normal to refer to Her Majesty as 'Your Majesty' once and then 'Ma'am' (pronounced as if written Mam)."
Over her career, she also worked on many royal commissions and clearly remembers a plate she decorated for the Queen Mother in 1971.
But it is a visit by Lord Snowdon, the former husband of Princess Margaret, that she remembers with particular fondness.
She said: "A colleague who was deaf was spoken to by Lord Snowdon. After I explained to him that she was deaf, he immediately waived away the media who were covering his visit and spoke to her in sign language."
During his visit, Lord Snowdon also had a go at painting on a plate. Pip remembers taking the brush he used home as a keepsake for her mother. And she recalls how he made the effort of returning to say thank you to her for showing him round her section before moving on to another part of the works.
Another memorable event happened when Pip was in the warehouse. She said: "Mr Wright came up to me and told me he was sending me to Buckingham Palace that day with a special delivery containing three plates.
"I was sent on the train and told to get a taxi to the palace when I arrived in London. It was an amazing experience."
Pip has many Royal Crown Derby pieces dotted around her home, several of them seconds which were sold off a trolley for 10p on a Friday.
She also made many friends and worked with talented craftspeople including artists John McLoughlin and Michael Crawley, who she describes as "brilliant".
She still keeps in touch with three colleagues – Pat Edwards and Mary George, who worked in wages, and Judy Land, a tour guide.
On her retirement in the late 1980s, Pip received a rather unusual gift from her colleagues, along with the more traditional presents.
She said: "I had a chair which I'd used for years and which I didn't like anyone to take, as it suited me just right. I always made a fuss about no-one taking the chair so, when I left, they boxed it up and presented it to me!"
Her time at the works was memorable for many reasons. She said: "My 40 years have enabled me to span the changing techniques and to see lithography brought to very high standards.
"I drew some of the first designs to be lithographed.
"It would be foolish of me to say that I enjoyed every moment but, on reflection, I am pleased to have had the satisfaction of watching young girls become competent and reach the high standards required – and to have been one of the many who've had the experience of working at probably the most famous china works in the world."
Did you work at Royal Crown Derby? We would love to read your memories. Contact details are on Page 2.