The History of Robert Harrop Designs
The DOGGIE PEOPLE are the flagship collection for the company, named initially as THE COUNTY SET, then the COUNTRY COMPANIONS and now as the trademark DOGGIE PEOPLE and were the beginning of a long line of successful collectables. it is always being asked how Robert Harrop’s original idea for the DOGGIE PEOPLE came about, read on and the full story will be revealed. Robert Harrop’s formal training at Wolverhampton College of Art was in three-dimensional design, therefore the range is produced within strict design-led criteria, his heart however dictates the brief.
The DOGGIE PEOPLE are very much the link with his lost life in the professional equestrian world; this was sadly curtailed by a back injury. During his riding career Robert was still involved in the art world by virtue of one-off commissions for formal bronze studies of well known horses, these included the popular international show jumper “Penwood Forge Mill” and the legendary “Red Rum”.
The end of Robert’s active involvement with horses coincided with the retirement of “Red Rum” in 1979. It was at this time that the owners of “Red Rum” approached him to produce replicas of his work for sale to “Rummie” fans. The chosen material was cold cast bronze, so began Robert’s involvement in the volume production side of figurines.
Various projects as a commissioned modeller for some of the most prestigious names in the industry further developed his knowledge in the field of collectable figurines. It was one such commission, which was for a conventional Labrador study that led him to a local stately home, Weston Park. The house and surrounding estate was a world lost in time where men and animals lived and worked in the same harmony more evident in a bygone age. Dogs in particular had their place within this society, to the extent that they were thought of as “almost human”.
It was here that the inspiration for the forerunners of the COUNTRY COMPANIONS and now the DOGGIE PEOPLE evolved. The Earl of Bradford and his dog formed the basis of the “Lord Lawrence” Labrador figurine and a group of characters including “Lady Sarah” Red Setter, “Squire” Spaniel and “Sir Percy” Pointer were selected from this cloistered environment and made up the 12 members of the original COUNTY SET.
Such good ideas are few and far between and in 1982 Just as the COUNTY SET were gaining popularity another, much larger and established manufacturer launched their own COUNTY SET not dissimilar to Robert’s and took away any opportunity to expand the range.
Not to be discouraged the COUNTY SET were reinvented as the COUNTRY COMPANIONS: CC01 the Shooting Labrador, in his hat, waxed jacket, and green wellies was the present day version of the “Lord Lawrence” figurine.
During the development of The COUNTY SET, Margaret who was later to become wife and business partner to Robert started to make her contribution. Thinking in three dimensions is Robert’s strength; this was ideally complemented by Margaret whose forte is colour.
In 1986 Robert and Margaret began to build on Robert’s vision of almost human canine characters, literally from the front room of their cottage, they designed, cast in ceramic resin, hand-painted and despatched their precious COUNTRY COMPANIONS to an ever swelling number of quality independent gift shops. With their growth they were able to take on rented premises, in the form of a temporary building on the site of an old coaching yard, employing the services of two talented painters and a full time production assistant. This was sufficient for 12 more months. However as the popularity of the COUNTRY COMPANIONS gathered strength, they quickly outgrew these premises and in 1988 Robert Harrop Designs purchased Coalport House where they expanded the painting force to include a full-time studio and enlisting a network of UK sales agents.
Within the following two years demand for the COUNTRY COMPANIONS increased with the interest and establishment of distributors world-wide, and in 1992, Margaret’s son Matt Buckley joined the company and is now the Creative Director, working closely with Robert in the development of new and exciting characters.
Following demand, 1994 saw the launch of the “4c’s”: the COUNTRY COMPANIONS COLLECTORS CLUB. Included in the benefits of being a member was and still is the opportunity of purchasing retired pieces from fellow members and bidding in their Biennial auction as well as the yearly free gifts which are now becoming sought after collectables in their own right.
In 1997 it was thought to be more appropriate to alter the title COUNTRY COMPANIONS to the TOWN & COUNTRY COMPANIONS as the characters were of a far more cosmopolitan theme than that of their older “Country cousins”. However not being satisfied that the range title truly described the idea, especially as their collectors’ base was now universal, in 1998 the name of DOGGIE PEOPLE was adopted and registered as a trademark.
Launched in 1995, the success of the BEANO / DANDY Collection saw its introduction into the renamed Robert Harrop Collectors Club in 1997 and has now been a produced by the company for 15 years. The subsequent popularity of the CAMBERWICK GREEN Collection, launched in 1998, saw its introduction into the Collectors Club in 2001, with the WALLACE & GROMIT collection coming on board in late 2009.
Now into the second decade of the Millennia, Robert Harrop Design’s current figurine portfolio still includes the ever popular DOGGIE PEOPLE, CAMBERWICK GREEN and BEANO / DANDY ranges as well as THUNDERBIRDS, MR BENN, WILLO THE WISP and WALLACE & GROMIT.
The company has also been involved with other successful collections such as the P.G. CHIMPS, THE WOMBLES, RSPCA PERFECT PETS, THE FEATHERS, BAGPUSS, CLANGERS, 2000AD, ROY OF THE ROVERS, ROALD DAHL, ANDY CAPP among others.