Simpsons (Potters) Ltd., Cobridge

 

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.

 Although the firm now familiar to us as Simpsons is only a trifle over fifty years old, the Simpsons have direct family links with the past, for there have been potters in the family since the first half of the sixteenth century. Richard Sympson was making pottery in Burslem in 1549. In the next century William Simpson was the proprietor of the Stocks Pottery, afterwards worked by Carlos Wedgwood, and in the reign of James II Ralph Simpson was a prolific follower of Toft. The Museum at South Kensington has a number of dishes by him.

After a period of over two hundred years, during which it may be presumed the practice of the potters' craft continued as a family tradition (the ceramic art is noted for such continuity) the firm was established at Tunstall by S.J. Simpson in 1904 as the Soho Pottery, Ltd.

The new company grew in size and importance, its repute and prestige being largely created by the quality of its 'Solian' and 'Ambassador' wares, so that the proprietors were obliged to take over an extensive factory at Cobridge in 1918. This has since been in great part reconstructed and enlarged to cope with the ever increasing production of modern, high quality earthenware. 

After steering the business through the first World War the founder died in 1918 and the control of the firm devolved upon his two sons who, after distinguished active service, returned and took over in 1919, Sam Simpson taking charge of the commercial side and Tom Simpson the production. Together they directed the business through the difficulties of the period between the wars and in the second Great War Tom served as a Major in the South Staffordshire Regiment. He remained with the forces until the sudden death of his brother, in 1944, brought him home to take command. The Company's name had meantime been changed in 1942 to Simpsons (Potters) Ltd.

He has now been with the Company for well over forty years, has been President of the British Ceramic Society, is a Fellow of the Institute of Ceramics, and a J.P. It is not by accident that he is Chairman of the Earthenware Section of the British Pottery Research Association. 

Before the last war he had paid many visits to Europe to study Continental methods of production and in 1945 he went to America with the British Pottery Research Association, where he made himself familiar with American methods and markets. In I947 his son, Robert Simpson, returning from army service, became Director and General Manager. Under the present directorate the factory has been extensively rebuilt, tunnel kilns installed and the factory completely electrified with the latest machinery. Under his direction the firm is ever looking for improvements both in body and glaze. Strength and texture of body and perfect glaze are their constant preoccupation; coupled with this their designs achieve an intrinsic beauty, which makes Simpson's productions comparable with the best British earthenware produced.

Especially notable achievements are their 'Queen's Green' and 'Elizabethan Blue', the latter claimed to be an unique colour, between a matt and a cobalt-blue. In patterns their French style is well exemplified by the 'Chanticleer' and 'Strasbourg' types and among others may be specified the finely embossed 'Virginia' and the attractive 'Hampton Court' lithographic patterns. Entering the contemporary field, they have a number of' selected designs which are Simpson's own exclusively.

 

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