Barbara Vernon Bailey was the daughter of Cuthbert Bailey, managing director of Royal Doulton. As a child she sketched drawings of the countryside and animals, in particular rabbits.
At the age of nineteen, she joined the Augustine Canonnesses of the Lateran in Sussex to become a nun and teach French and history and took the name of Sister Mary Barbara. In 1934, her father decided to introduce a new line of children’s nursery ware and asked her to illustrate the series under the name of Barbara Vernon. Here the range Bunnykins was born.
Her illustrations of rabbits doing everyday activities were an immediate success and after being transformed into china designs by Hubert Light, the Royal Doulton’s Bunnykins ware range was soon in nurseries around the world.
She painted more than 1000 pictures, decorating all types of kitchen and childrens feeding ware. Most were produced as earthenware and the few rare porcelain pieces made are highly collectible. Bunnykins figurines were added to the traditional tableware in 1939.
Eventually, Sister Mary Barbara ceased drawing when her teaching duties became too demanding and her designs were withdrawn by 1952. During the 1940s, Walter Hayward gradually took over responsibility for designing Bunnykins scenes.
Sister Mary Barbara died in May of 2003 aged 92. Bunnykins continues to be produced and today, collectors of Barbara Vernon’s Bunnykins are just as strong in their desire for unusual pieces as ever before.