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Bunnykins History
Bunnykins began as a range of nurseryware from Royal Doulton in 1934. Since then, figurines and other tableware were added to the collection. The figurine line is famous for rabbits representing historical, cultural and professional characters. It is still going strong today; having been consolidated with similar whimsical animal brands, from their Beswick studios, and is currently produced in China.

The idea for the range was spawned when Royal Doulton Burslem General Manager, Cuthbert Bailey, approached his daughter, Barbara Vernon Bailey, with the suggestion that she design some illustrations for a range of nurseryware. Drawing on inspiration from her childhood and her love of watching the wild rabbits around her childhood home, Barbara created a family of (initially 8) rabbits performing everyday human-like activities in the fictional village of Little Twitching.

Barbara, an Augustine nun who went by the name of Sister Mary Barbara, provided illustrations for the Bunnykins range while performing teaching and devotional duties at a convent in Haywards Heath, England. She was responsible for all the designs used by Doulton up until 1939, when she decided it was too much to manage on top of her other responsibilities. However, she had provided sufficient artwork for many more items to be produced after that date.

The range became immensely popular, helped greatly by a royal stamp of approval. In the 1930s Bunnykins nurseryware was used by the young English Princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret, as well as by the Japanese Royal family. Another royal, Princess Diana, was presented with a special Bunnykins plate during her 1984 factory visit. This was designed especially for her and was immediately retired.

Barbara's designs were turned into china designs by Hubert Light and applied by transfer-printing onto white-glazed earthenware and porcelain. Hubert was also responsible for the border and backstamp designs. After Barbara stopped illustrating, Hubert worked with Walter Hayward, who began to take responsibility for the design work. The transition was smooth as Walter and Hubert initially stayed true to the style Barbara had developed. Over his 37 years, Walter gradually introduced his own style, with more complex designs and busier scenes.

Figurines were introduced to the Bunnykins range in 1939. An initial group of 6 figurines were modeled by Charles Noke, based on Barbara's characters, but World War II halted production and figurines were not reintroduced until 1972. These original 6 figurines are highly prized by collectors. They include Farmer Bunnykins, Mother, Billy, Mary, Reggie and Freddie.

1972 is an important milestone in Bunnykins history. Royal Doulton acquired John Beswick Studios, home to the popular Beatrix Potter series, in 1969. Albert Hallam, modeler of the Beatrix Potter figurines, was asked to apply his skills to the Bunnykins range and he created a set of 12 new figurines, based on the designs of Walter Hayward, which were introduced in 1972. These 12 figurines were the first to use the DB numbering system.

Harry Sales, also part of the Beswick acquisition, took over the design for new Bunnykins figurines in 1980 and injected a fresh energy into the range, with more contemporary themes. Harry resigned in 1986 and several other designers and modelers have been responsible for subsequent Bunnykins figurines.

The Bunnykins range also extended into a collection of children's books. In 1987, Colin Twinn was retained to illustrate these books. His version of the rabbits were a little fluffier than their predecessors, but it worked well for the nursery rhymes they complemented. His illustrations were also used for some of the new tableware, but it did not prove as popular and was only available for a short period into the 1990s.

Frank Endersby took over from Colin Twinn in 1994, providing the illustrations for both children's stories and tableware. Frank's rabbits were closer to the earlier styling and this seemed to go over very well with collectors.

There was a short-lived range of resin figurines in the mid-1990s. These were not as popular as the DB range of ceramic figurines and Doulton quickly halted production.

In 2003 Royal Doulton closed the Beswick operation in Stock-on-Trent and all Bunnykins production was moved to China.

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