Surviving The War Years – The Middle Years Of The UK’s Longest Established China And Glass Business With Lladro By Their Side

The Lladro collection is certainly a modern example of how a small range of pieces can grow into something that everybody wants a part of. With it’s humble beginnings starting in 1953, it has rapidly grown into the phenomenon it is today, with it’s sales helping businesses to grow in over 120 countries worldwide. One of these companies is Church’s China, who after the war years appreciated the Lladro collection as a big part of their trading business.

As the end of the nineteenth century approached, business progressed quietly and unremarkably. This was so often the way in those days. The pace of change was much slower than it is now, so slow in fact that the whole concept of change was almost unheard of. Never would a business like Church’s have taken on such radically new product ranges as Lladro, at least not without months of agonizing.

Wilfrid Church was the grandson of the business’ founder and the grandfather of the current Managing Director, Stephen Church. Of the few activates that stood out in Wilfrid’s mind was the annual ‘packing’ at Castle Ashby. He recalls one on such occasion when as a boy of nine, he accompanied his farther to the stately home.

“At a certain time of year the Marquis of Northampton would visit Exmoor on a stag hunting expedition, taking with him a fairly large retinue. At such times, my farther would be requisitioned to visit Castle Ashby to pack up china and glass for their safe conveyance to the hunting grounds. There in the large servants’ hall in the castle, I can remember joining in the lunch with the large number of servants and general staff, the baker, the butler, the house keeper and the coachman. After this repast, I was taken across a snow covered park to see Knuckle Bone Arbour, a bower or retreat, the floor of which was laid with the knuckle bones of deer.”

At the end of the century, the Church family was shattered to hear that their shop was to be demolished to make way for a modern development known as ‘The Arcade Emporium’. All the stock and shop fittings had to be man-handled round the corner to new premises. In those days, long before the development of product ranges such as XXXXXXXXXX, with its sophisticated packing and boxing, everything had to be packed into straw filled tea chests before it could be safely moved. The business was moved to No.7 Sheep Street. In those days, as today, position was all important, and situated on the wrong side of a busy and dangerous thoroughfare, trade suffered. Perhaps the bargains offered in adverts were hints of the tough times of the period.

Wilfrid Church now a young businessman in his late twenties was keen to revive the fortunes of the family concern and arranged a return to the Market Square. On June 26th 1911, Church’s China moved back to its original position on Northampton’s Market Square, this time at the front of a splendid new Shopping Arcade.

A contemporary description accompanying a watercolour states read: “The building extends over 300 feet from front to back and contains upwards of 50 shops, several suites of offices, a gymnasium hall, several meeting rooms, a basement café, a restaurant approached directly from the Market Square, a hairdresser’s salon and public conveniences. The building is lit through by electricity. The entrance archway is decorated with white, green and purple Doulton tiles.”

For over sixty years, Church’s China occupied the front of the Emporium Arcade. During this period, trade, whilst not exciting, was sufficient to keep the Church family comfortably off. In those days, the staple ‘diet’ of business revolved around bone china dinner and tea services. Brands such as Lladro hadn’t even been thought of.

Taking on the Lladro collection may have been a major decision for the company, but it has rewarded them tenfold. This seems to be the way that Lladro is. Both old and new businesses have thrived through selling the Lladro collection, and this is a testament to the creators of this magnificent range of pieces.

To explore our range of Lladro collectibles further, please visit our website at

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