Shelley Potteries Ltd., 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.
When first established about the middle of the nineteenth century the factory which, since 1929, has been known as Shelley Potteries, was named the Foley Works, its proprietor being Henry Wileman. The name Shelley comes into the story in 1867, when J. B. Shelley became a partner. Three years later, when Wileman retired, he became the sole proprietor. Thereupon the earthenware factory next door (which was part of the concern) was closed, only the china works being carried on. Up to the 188o's wares either white or with gold line borders were produced. But after that time a change was made, the result of his sons advent.
Percy Shelley joined his father in 1881 and introduced more elaborately decorated wares. He had a London B.A. Degree and sought to improve both quality and decoration, much to the advantage of the company. Then, in 1893, he visited the Chicago Exhibition and saw the desirability of cultivating the American market. The production of china dinner ware was the result. Artists were engaged to paint fish, game and landscapes on course plates destined for American use.
Succeeding his father as proprietor in 1896 Percy Shelley inherited an entirely new factory which had been built on an adjoining site two years earlier for the making of ornamental earthenware and a range of under glaze hand-painted wares known as 'Intarsio'. The latter were designed by the then Art Director Frederick Rhead, a talented artist who much influenced pottery design in the late nineteenth century. He produced many new designs for tea ware as well as plates with raised paste borders and painted centres for the services destined for America.
Another talented artist followed him – Walter Slater, who had been trained under Arnoux at Mintons and at Doultons, Burslem. His influence, from 1901 to 1937 was a great factor in the growing reputation of the firm.
Two of Shelley's sons joined the direction in 1913 and later a third became its accountant. It was about this time that the name Foley China was changed to Shelley China, since it was found the former could not be registered as a trade name. In 1929, as a private limited company the firm adopted the title of Shelley Potteries, Ltd., the Directors being Percy Shelley and his three sons. Then, in 1937, the father having died, two surviving sons carried on the business.
With the second World War the inevitable restrictions in the home market left to the few remaining decorators the task of supplying the quota of decorated wares allowed for the purpose of earning dollars.
As the war came to an end the Directors had the foresight to anticipate post-war needs and every effort was made to prepare for the demand. New designs were prepared and decorators were trained so that deliveries were available immediately restrictions were lifted. Time passed and changes in the administration took place. Under two of the fourth generation, Alan and Donald Shelley, the output of decorated china increased year by year, a very large percentage being exported. The making of china dinner ware for the dollar countries was given first priority and these wares became the firm's most important asset.
The policy of the Management is today, as it has been throughout, to manufacture only china of the highest possible quality. Since 1948 a brilliant staff of decorators has been trained, many of them girls who have come straight from school. Facilities for the most promising to attend local Art Schools have been fraught with good results.
During the war years considerable thought had been given to the reconstruction of the factory. It was decided to discontinue the making of earthenware and, the two factories joined into one, to make a large modern works. Since 1946 electric decorating kilns and a glost oven have been installed. Electric intermittent bisque ovens are, after long experimental work, also being installed, which will entirely eliminate the use of coal and make the factory smokeless.
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