a celebration of
100 years of federation

Leonard Grimwade - the federation spin-doctor

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Historian Fred Hughes writes....

On 26th January 1931 the pottery manufacturer Leonard Grimwade was killed in a road accident in Hassall Street Newcastle when the car he was driving collided with a bus.

“Grimwade was an active 66 year-old at the time,” Potteries historian Steve Birks recounts. “He was the chairman and managing director of several manufactories under the brand name of Royal Winton Pottery. The factory closed some time ago but the fine building can still be seen in Stoke Road just north of the railway bridge.”

Winton Pottery, Stoke Road
Winton Pottery, Stoke Road
Messrs. Grimwade Brothers established their Winton Pottery (Stoke) in about 1886. A wide range of useful and decorative earthenware was produced."

From: Jewitts 'Ceramic Art of Great Britain 1800-1900.

Grimwade came to the Potteries from Ipswich as a decorator/modeller rising to create a massive business in partnership with his brothers Edward and Sydney on a 2 acre site near the station.

“The factory opened in 1897 by which time Leonard was a Hanley Borough Councillor and a member of North Staffs Chamber of Commerce,” Steve continues.

“From this position he was made secretary of the newly assembled Committee for the Promotion of Federation in 1907. The president was the Duke of Sutherland; Cecil Wedgwood was the chairman and Thomas Twyford was the treasurer. As secretary Grimwade also took on the role as publicity agent making sure that all those who had influence in the Potteries became signed-up members including 3 mayors, 5 aldermen, 15 magistrates together with leaders of industry and commerce. In this role he worked tirelessly.”

Leonard Grimwade
Leonard Grimwade

Grimwade gathered evidence from far and wide to support the federation cause. He seemed to be everywhere, travelling around the country to see what benefits other local authorities enjoyed under single management. He noted comparisons with Nottingham, a similar size district and population, and proved unquestionably that Nottingham’s transport maintenance costs were half that of the Potteries towns put together. He began to influence his colleagues and told them that instead of a number of separate companies federation would produce a Nottingham-style system bringing Tunstall and Fenton within 20 minutes of each other at a fare of just one penny.

This was Grimwade at his best for he was a dazzling salesman. His assertions that federation would result in more efficient management and economy were extremely convincing. He promoted media hype to a wide audience by printing sensationalised copies of pro-federation speeches made by the Duke of Sutherland and other federation leaders which he distributed to 30,000 ratepayers. He also took opinions from 160 leading citizens which he copied into a remarkable theatrical Opinion Book.

 “Grimwade was a spin doctor long before Peter Mandelson and Alistair Campbell were twinkles in Tony Blair’s eyes,” grins Steve. “And there’s no doubt he was good at it. But long absences were disadvantageous to his business. Soon after his death his factories began to decline even though the Winton brand continued for some years. The great Grimwade relic nonetheless is the superb factory building in Stoke Road. This was the flagship of a self-made manufacturer and in his time there was none better than Leonard Grimwade.”

Royal Winton
Royal Winton
backstamp used on some of the
Grimwades ware

Sandra Booth is a director of Winton Property, while the owner of the Winton building today is the landscape garden designer and businessman William Podmore OBE of Consall Hall.

“Mr Podmore bought Winton Pottery in 1965 as a commercial property investment,” Sandra tells me. “We’re very fortunate to have the detailed notes he made of the building when he first saw it. It must have been a remarkable step into the past.”

Mr Podmore, a historian of some respect, recalls his first view.

“The building was constructed in good quality red brick with stone features,” he details. “The foundation stone is dated 1891. But when I added another storey to the building I removed it. In fact the whole central gable was removed to Consall where it was used as a garden feature. The pottery itself had been much altered between 1918 and 1939; part had been made into a restaurant; a ground floor corner into a factory shop. The site apparently had been formerly occupied by a row of terraced worker’s cottages built around 1850. A good number of these were demolished by Grimwade himself to build his factory.

The remaining derelict houses I removed in 1965. I added new offices and a roof car park having cleared much debris away. But the factory was a typical Victorian pottery and suggestive of a lost age. The original factory layout was good when little machinery was required. But as output increased short term unsatisfactory solutions were imposed. In post-war Britain labour changes increased mechanism and management simply failed to adapt.”

In the late 1920’s Winton amalgamated and after Grimwade’s fatal accident in 1931 it was taken under the control of a managing director James Plant. After Plant’s death in 1962 it was absorbed into the Howard Pottery Group and closed.

Mr Podmore, now age 90, recalls the factory in 1965.

“It was evident the company had slowly faded after the war; very little had been done to modernise it. The workrooms and offices bore a gloomy resemblance to the Dickensian period,” he says.

A reminder from the past, you could say, nudging our elbow to what’s happening now.  


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18 Feb 2009