Portmeirion Potteries Ltd
Location and period of operation:
Portmeirion Potteries Ltd
Portmeirion, Grays Pottery, London Road, Stoke Internet site: www.portmeirion.co.uk
Formed by an amalgamation of A E Gray & Co Ltd and Kirkhams Ltd
In 1960, Susan Williams-Ellis and her husband, Euan Cooper-Willis purchased a small pottery decorating company in Stoke-on-Trent called A.E.Gray Ltd. Susan had worked with A.E. Gray for some years, sending her designs there to be produced exclusively for the gift shop at the Portmeirion Village in North Wales, which had been created by her father, Sir Clough Williams-Ellis in 1925.
This was the first experience of the Pottery industry. Previously Susan had Fine Art training from Chelsea Polytechnic, where her tutors included Henry Moore and Graham Sutherland. Since graduating, Susan had had several different careers; she was a draughts woman at the Air Ministry during the war and then taught A level art for a while at Dartington. During the late 1940's and early 1950's, Susan and Euan lived almost self sufficient life on their farm in North Wales. To supplement their income Susan took on some book illustration commissions and Euan, who had studied Mathematics and Statistics at Cambridge worked part-time as a stockbroker in the City.
In 1961 Susan and Euan purchased a second pottery firm, called Kirkham's Ltd. This was equipped for actual pottery manufacture, whereas Gray's could only decorate. This allowed Susan to start designing shapes rather than surface pattern alone (in the 1960's it was considered quite unusual for a designer to do both). Her first set of shapes were based on some existing cylindrical moulds ('Porous Cells') found at the factory. They were of varying diameters, so by cutting the different sizes to different lengths, Susan was able to create a tall straight coffee set.
Susan Williams-Ellis and Euan Cooper-Willis take responsibility for the retail outlet at the Portmeirion Village, Penrhyndeudraeth, North Wales.
Susan and Euan open a Portmeirion Shop in Pont Street, London, SW1.
Susan's own designs, eg "Portmeirion Dolphin" are produced exclusively for Portmeirion by Gray's Pottery, Whieldon Road, Stoke-on-Trent.
Wares manufactured at this point bear Gray's pottery yellow ship backstamp.
1st January Susan and Euan take over Gray's Pottery.
Backstamps read "PORTMEIRION WARE GRAY'S POTTERY MADE IN ENGLAND"
Frank Thrower is appointed as Sales Director. He also begins to import and design Swedish Glass to be sold alongside Susan's pottery design.
"Malachite" produced by Susan Williams-Ellis.
1st January, Susan and Euan acquire Kirkham's Ltd, Kirkham Street, Stoke-on-Trent. This allows Susan to design shapes as well as surface pattern.
"Moss Agate", "Gold Diamond", "Talisman", "Tiger Lily", designed by Susan Williams-Ellis.
1st January, the company is renamed "The Portmeirion Potteries Ltd".
Backstamps read "PORTMEIRION DESIGNED BY SUSAN WILLIAMS-ELLIS MADE IN ENGLAND".
The Gray's Pottery site if sold and factory staff are moved into the new premises.
The "cylinder" range introduced by Susan Williams-Ellis.
"Totem" embossed range produced by Susan Williams-Ellis. Success of this design establishes Portmeirion as an innovative force in ceramic design.
The "serif" shape designed by Susan Williams-Ellis.
"Cypher" and "Jupiter" embossed ranges designed by Susan Williams-Ellis.
George Hesp appointed as Managing Director of Potteries Ltd.
"Samarkand" embossed range, "Montesol" and "Greek Key" designed by Susan Williams-Ellis.
"Magic City" designed by Susan Williams-Ellis and a range of black and white prints is introduced.
Dartington Glass is established following a meeting with Euan Cooper-Willis and the Dartington Trustees. It is mostly designed by Frank Thrower and distributed by Portmeirion.
Major reconstruction work at the factory including the installation of an electric roller hearth kiln.
"Gold Rule", "Gold Lion", "Gold Sun", "Coptic Brocade" and Aztec Brocade" coffee Sets designed by Susan Williams-Ellis and "Gold Phoenix" Coffee Set is designed by John Cuffley.
Jim Pointon joins the company as distribution and Warehouse Director.
"Meridian" range designed by Susan Williams-Ellis.
Introduction of "Botanic Garden" by Susan Williams-Ellis. Design is immediately successful both on the home and the export markets.
The "Drum" shape designed by Susan Williams-Ellis.
"Kingdom of the sea" designed by Susan Williams-Ellis.
Portmeirion potteries Ltd rent a factory in Penrhyndeudraeth, North Wales, close to the Portmeirion Village. the "Crochendy" site functions as a hand painting and decorating plant until the early 1980's.
"Oranges and Lemons" designed by Susan Williams-Ellis.
Major expansions and reconstruction of the Portmeirion Potteries Ltd factory, Stoke-on-Trent, including new machinery, warehouses, a new loading bay and new factory entrance.
"Rose and Passion Flower" designed by Susan Williams-Ellis.
Fire at Portmeirion Potteries Ltd.
"Birds of Britain" dsigned by Susan Williams-Ellis.
Botanic garden backstamp changes to include the words "DISHWASHER PROOF" and "FREEZER AND MICROWAVE SAFE".
Philip White joins the company as Technical Director.
"Summer Strawberries" designed by Angharad Menna.
Kami Farhadi joins the company as works Director.
"Compleat Angler" designed by Susan Williams-Ellis.
Martin Gulliver joins the company as Sales and Marketing director.
"Pomona" on the "Romantic" shape is introduced by Susan Williams-Ellis.
All "Botanic Garden" pottery (except cookware) made after 1982 has a small 82 hidden in the backstamp.
"Spirit of Christmas" designed by Susan Williams-Ellis.
A range of non-ceramic accessories is launched in "Botanic Garden" and "Pomona".
"Flower of the Year" and new "tulip" Cup shape designed by Susan Williams-Ellis.
Portmeirion USA is established as a joint venture.
New three storey extention at factory, Kirkham Street - London Road.
"Weeping Hearts" designed by Susan Williams-Ellis.
"Queens Hidden Garden" designed by Shahrzad Forouzan.
"British Heritage Collection" launched, based on Nineteenth Century moulds.
Portmeirion Potteries Ltd is floated on the stock market.
Brett Philips appointed as Finance Director
Portmeirion Potteries (Holdings) PLC purchases the Crown Windsor site, formally Shaw and Copestake (SylvaC), Longton, Stoke-on-Trent and re-equips as a casting plant.
Portmeirion Potteries (Holdings) PLC is awarded the Queens Award for Export.
"Variations" designed by Susan Williams-Ellis.
"Welsh Dresser" designed by Angharad Menna.
Princess Margaret visits Portmeirion potteries.
Julian Teed appointed as Design Development Director of Portmeirion Potteries Ltd.
Launch of Portmeirion China in four new designs; "Ladies Flower Garden" designed by Susan Williams-Ellis, "Welsh Wild Flowers" designed by Angharad Menna, "Ancestral Jewel" and "Summer Garland" designed by Anwyl Cooper-Willis.
George Hesp retires as Managing Director. Dr Mary Lorraine Hughes takes over as Chief Executive.
Dr Anwyl Cooper-Willis appointed as Marketing and Design Director.
Chris Grocott appointed as Sales Director of Portmeirion Potteries Ltd.
"Harvest Blue" designed by Angharad Menna.
"Traditional" Cup shape designed by Susan Williams-Ellis.
Special Anniversary Jug designed to commemorate Portmeirion's 35th Anniversary.
Botanic Garden celebrates its 25th Anniversary. A range of special anniversary products are made including a crafted miniature tea set which uses Susan Williams-Ellis' original shapes. Other items include "The Jardiniere" and limited edition framed prints of a painting by Angharad Menna.
The above information may
not be available
for all potters - if you have information to
help complete the records then I would be
happy to include it.
email: Steve Birks