E Brain and Co Ltd, Foley China Works, Fenton

 

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.

Five years have passed since Messrs E. Brain and Co. of Foley China Works, Fenton, celebrated the centenary of potting upon the site of their present factory. There had been a pottery at Foley in the eighteenth century, owned by Joseph Myatt, who made wares somewhat in the style of Wedgwood. But the present firm can only claim to have been in existence since 1850, if they include the period when the works were owned by Robinson and Son. But in the year 1885 they were purchased by E. Brain, then a well-known figure in North Staffordshire, who, besides taking a prominent part in the public life of the district, had the distinction of being the first Chairman of the Fenton Town Council.

At that time he was in partnership with a Mr. G. Hawker, but the latter withdrew after a short while and his place was taken as partner by the son William Henry Brain, a partnership which only terminated with his father's death in 1910.

In his business life throughout that period Mr. Brain, Sr. was his own most energetic salesman. With an eye to the extending of his overseas markets he made business trips to Australia, New Zealand and Iceland, while a similar journey to China, the original home of fine china, was only frustrated by his death.

Under the direction of W. H. Brain the business continued to prosper and expand. Especially was this the case perhaps in those spacious years before the first World War, when he introduced new decorative styles which created such a demand that a minor revolution in design was effected within the trade, the lead thus given being copied by many other firms.

Unfortunately about 1924 continued ill-health compelled Mr. Brain to semi-retirement, but he still maintained a keen interest in the good name of the firm and the welfare of his employees.

Representative of the third generation, his son Eustace William Brain entered the pottery in 1931 and a few years later joined the Board of Directors. He is now Chairman and Managing Director, the other Director being T. H. F. Shirley.

Throughout their seventy years of potting the firm has specialised in bone china tea and breakfast wares of high quality and good design. But since the second war they have introduced the manufacture of china dinner ware, the production of which is steadily growing. Good quality china hotel ware is also being made, mostly for the great shipping lines.

At the present day, as is the case with the majority of pottery manufacturers, the greater part of their products are ear-marked for the dollar market. A fairly recent estimate is that some 70% of the total output was destined for export, though the home market is now being gradually extended.

Considerable alterations and necessary improvements have been made to the factory since the war. An electric tunnel kiln for firing decorated wares has been put in as well as a gas tunnel oven for glost firing. By the middle of 1956 the factory will be smokeless. The working conditions have also been greatly improved, bringing the factory into line with up-to-date requirements.

A particularly interesting feature and one of which the management is proud is that the factory is one of the few where boys are trained in the old art of flower-painting, A propos of which we may record that their centenary year was commemorated by the adoption of a pattern known as the Century Rose an exact reproduction of a very old and beautiful design a pattern which was first exported to Canada. Other floral designs identified with the Foley factory are the Ming Rose and the Cornflower, which are always in steady demand.

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