John Beswick, Ltd. Gold Street Works. Longton

 

NOTE: This article which follows originally appeared in a 1956 book 'British Potters and Pottery Today', is based mainly upon accounts provided mainly by the firms themselves.

The Gold Street Works, now-a-days identified with the firm of John Beswick, Ltd., has been in existence since 1829; but, since no fewer than eight different proprietors owned the pottery between that date and 1897, we propose here to record only its connection with the present owners, who have raised the factory to the front rank as specialists in producing Staffordshire 'Fancies' in great variety and of striking beauty.

James Wright Beswick was originally in the coal-mining industry, but his pits at Chell had to close down in l892. His son John, having studied the potter's craft at Tunstall, then joined with his father to start the pottery business as partners at Longton.

After three years, the Gold Street Works coming into the market in 1897, they acquired them and the new firm entered upon its career as 'J. W. Beswick'. From that date until about 1918 the firm gradually expanded its activities, producing under-glaze, printed dinner, tea and toilet wares as well as hospital wares and fancy goods, such as pots and pedestals, vases in the so-called 'majolica' glazes, toby-jugs, Old-English style figures and animals.

This short list foreshadows, it will be noticed, the definite policy, adopted after the 1914-1918 war, of specialising in fancy pottery for the home and over-seas market. At the present day this type of wares accounts for some 85% of the Beswick output.

J. W. Beswick died in 1921 and his son in 1936, having brought the firm to such a flourishing condition that it was converted into a Limited Company in I938. It was at this juncture that the business title of John Beswick, Ltd. was adopted. The present Managing Director, John Ewart Beswick and his Sales Director Gilbert I. Beswick are both grandsons of the original founder.

In these post-second War years extensive reconstructions have been made necessary by the growth of the business. In 1940 it was realised that the firing methods called for modernisation. But the change from the old intermittent to continuous firing was hampered by want of space for a modern tunnel kiln. It was only in 1945 that the adjoining factory was acquired. It was thus made possible to convert the Gold Street factory to accommodate an office block, together with the potting and firing departments up to the biscuit stage. The other premises, entirely reconstructed, provided the decorating section, warehouses for the finished products and packing rooms, the whole giving an even flow from slip-house to despatch. Gas fired tunnel kilns are provided for biscuit, glost and enamel firing. The works are therefore now as up-to-date as could well be.

Beswick wares are deservedly popular, especially overseas. The firm has one of the finest ranges of ornamental wares in the whole industry. It has, indeed, achieved remarkable success in its highly specialised lines, which include life-like models, grave and gay, of equestrian figures, dogs modelled from famous prize-winners, birds in great variety, wild and domestic animals, fish, toby-jugs, salad ware and cottage ware which recall the old-time cottages beloved of collectors.

In addition John Beswick Ltd have the sole rights in producing the many quaint characters in the Beatrix Potter 'Peter Rabbit' Books, familiar to the young the world over. First made in 1948 there is a great demand for these favourites of the children, not only in the home market 'but in all English-speaking countries.

 

NOTE: This article which originally appeared in a 1956 book 'British Potters and Pottery Today', is based mainly upon accounts provided mainly by the firms themselves.

questions / comments? email: Steve Birks