Sunday, May 21, 2017

Titian, Orzel and Crown Lynn - are they related?

There is a lot of debate about what is Titian and what is Crown Lynn. I hope this post helps clarify things.   

One proviso: This is a complex subject with lots of sub-plots. I hope I have got the story correct - but comments are happily accepted!

The Brown family - Sherwood and Titian

Cameron Brown Snr and Dorothy Brown set up Sherwood Pottery in the Waitakeres in Auckland in about 1951. They made detailed mugs, ashtrays, toby jugs and figurines, which are sought after today. Some of this ware is marked ‘Sherwood’ in various ways. They also made unglazed blanks for Owen Salisbury, who decorated them in his Royal Oak factory near Penrose.  Sherwood has no relationship with Crown Lynn.

This mug and goose are typical of the ware made by Cameron and Beverley Brown in the early days.

In 1958 the Browns moved their operation to Henderson and renamed it Titian Studio. By 1960 they had about 16 staff, and this is the period when the ware we generally recognise as Titian was made. Quite a lot is numbered, and often a letter is incorporated in the number on the base – V for vase, B for bowl, etc.

This link takes you through to the extensive Titian photo gallery on the New Zealand Pottery website.  

In the main, Cam and Dorothy made artware rather than cups and plates. Their exquisite pieces included a flying gull, leaping fish, a swordfish, wall birds, wall vases shaped like butterfies and flowers and fish… all carefully shaped and decorated.  This butterfly wall vase from my friend Jim's collection shows the delicate glazing techniques used by the Browns at Titian.

There was also a huge range of lamp bases and vases, with innovative and interesting glazes. Some pieces carry stickers such as “Presley Ware” depending on which distributor it was made for. 
 Above is an interesting Presley Ware vase/bowl... I am not sure what to call it!

Titian from this period also has no relationship with Crown Lynn.

In 1964/65, Titian was chugging along nicely, but Cam and Dorothy decided they wanted to expand.  They  formed a limited liability company, Titian Potteries (1965) Ltd, and sold shares.  The new Titian factory was established in Takanini in mid-1966.  By now Titian was making branded ware for a range of distributors, including Syliva Ware, Paramount Ware, Montrose Ware and Cambridge Ware – this is where the ‘Cambridge’ marked jugs come into the picture.

Crown Lynn takes over the Titian factory - 1968

Crown Lynn became concerned at Titian’s expansion, and began buying up shares.  By May 1968, Crown Lynn had a majority shareholding and the company newsletter annouced a "partnership" with the Brown family - in reality a takeover.

This is when the confusion arises.  In the ex-Titian factory, Crown Lynn began making huge amounts of domestic ware including the honey glaze ware and the white vases.  These products are marked with a four-digit shape number, like this mug.


This ware is not Titian, it is Crown Lynn which has been made in what was previously the Titian factory.  Note the four-digit shape number on the base of the mug above. This is  typical of post-1964 Crown Lynn.  

To add to the confusion, the factory was generally known as 'the Titian factory" long after it fell into Crown Lynn's ownership. And, the factory continued to make some Titian shapes after the Crown Lynn takeover. Thus, you will see the same jug shape with and without the Crown Lynn four-digit shape number. The "Cambridge" jugs are a good example - this one was made after the takeover; on the base there is a faint 6027 along with the word Cambridge. 
And to confuse matters still further, for an unknown reason some of the Crown Lynn ware made in the old Titian factory carries the words "Titian Pottery" or "Titianware" along with the four-digit number.
For example, the shape number on this egg holder marks it as Crown Lynn - the "Titianware" is just there to mislead us all!

Likewise this little jug is marked "Titian Pottery" while its four-digit number identifies it as Crown Lynn shape number 6053.

Again, the jug and egg holder are not Titian, they are Crown Lynn which was made in the ex-Titian factory. No wonder we get confused! 

The Crown Lynn-owned 'Titian factory'  continued to make much of Crown Lynn's honeyglaze pottery (like the pinecone patterned mug above) and whiteware - including the swans - for many years.  If you have a swan with the "170" mark it was made in the Crown Lynn factory. If it has a four-digit number, it was most likely made in the Titian factory after the Crown Lynn  takeover. Both swans are Crown Lynn. 

The old Titian factory was sold by Ceramco in the mid-1980s and closed soon after.  Crown Lynn itself shut up shop in 1989.


The brands Orzel, Aquila and Adelaar have nothing whatever to do with Crown Lynn!  Sometime soon I will write more detail about these three brands, which are considered to be under the umbrella of Orzel. Meanwhile here's a quick summary.

For some time after Crown Lynn took over Titian Potteries in 1968, the Brown family continued to work in the factory  under Crown Lynn, but Cameron and Dorothy missed their independence. They set up a workshop in their garage at home in Papakura and they and their son Cameron began doing contract production work in their spare time. This became profitable enough for them to leave Crown Lynn and by 1972 they had bought a property at Firth St in Drury and set up a new factory.

By this time their sons Cameron and Chris had joined the family enterprise.  The new ware was named Orzel after the Polish Eagle.  (Cam Snr was in the Polish merchant navy during the second world war – an interesting story but it will have to wait for another time!). The brands Aquila and Adelaar (also meaning eagle) were also made at the Orzel factory during this period.  

At the Drury factory the Brown family mass produced the ware which we commonly recognise as Orzel.  The enterprise grew and grew, at its height in the mid-1980s there were about 40 staff. Orzel was a big and busy factory.  They made terracotta kitchen ware which was sold at The Warehouse, jugs, sugar bowls, etc etc etc.  Unfortuately much of the Orzel ware is not marked - but after a while you learn to recognise the shapes and glazes.

This delightful fat little jug is a common Orzel shape.

And there are hundreds if not thousands of Orzel salt pigs out there in the opshops.

Beer steins were a huge seller. Orzel made them for the breweries; almost without exception they are branded with a beer logo.  These are for various armed services messes.

The business had its ups and downs, but for a couple of decades Orzel was a relatively big player in the New Zealand commercial pottery field.  

In the 1990s the market slowed, and after Dorothy then Cameron Snr died the business ebbed to a close.  Today, Cameron Jnr and his wife Beverley – sometimes assisted by their son, also named Cameron – make kiwiana ware to sell at markets around the country. They use the brand name Sherwood.

 This post does not seek to be a definitive history of Titian and Orzel. I would need to write a book to do that.  But I hope it helps clarify the distinction between Titian and Crown Lynn made in the ex-Titian factory. Those four-digit shape numbers are the key. 

Much of this information has come from Gail Henry’s book “New Zealand Pottery, Commercial and Collectable” and from my interviews with Cameron Brown Jnr and his wife Dorothy.
Ev Williams has also made a major contribution, both personally and through her NewZealand Pottery website. 



  1. I enjoyed my time working for the Brown Family.

    1. Hi there... it would be lovely to hear more about what you did when you worked for the Brown family. Are you able to email me on