Ashtead Potters Limited was established by Sir Lawrence Weaver in 1923 to generate employment for disabled ex-servicemen. Located in the village of Ashtead, Surrey, the studio pottery ran until January 1935, a lifespan of just 12 years.
Sir Lawrence was president of the Design and Industries Association in the nineteen twenties and it was his design aptitude and appreciation of its modern application that inspired Ashtead and its associated designers to produce some of the most progressive pieces of the time. The ‘newness’ of the company meant that output was not hindered by past production, the Art Deco scene was grasped immediately with fresh moulds produced in the fast developing style of the day.
The pottery was based at the Victoria Works in The Street (built around 1900) in Ashtead, on the corner of Greville Park Road. With assistance and support from Sir Bertrand Clough Williams-Ellis (who designed and built the Portmeirion model resort in North Wales) and also Sir Richard Stafford Cripps (politician), Sir Lawrence’s company quickly flourished. This was astounding as the company began with just four untrained workers with no moulds or designs. Closure resulted from increased competition, the death of Sir Laurence and the economic depression of the 1930’s. Attempts were made to ward off closure by putting the workforce on half-time but even after trading had ceased the company suffered due to bomb damage to potters’ houses in Purcell Close, also in Ashtead. Photographs, pottery items and important documents were sadly destroyed.
The pottery is well known and collected especially for its Art Deco output and limited edition production of collectables and figures such as A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh milk jugs. As with the likes of Clarice Cliff designs incorporated bright and bold designs, but unlike Cliff, were based on European country wares.
In 1928 Queen Elizabeth II was presented with an Ashtead Christopher Robin set on a visit by her parents. The factory also specialised in advertising wares, most notably, Genozo Lions that promoted Genozo toothpaste and Guinness ashtrays (depicting a drawing by ‘Phiz’ of Sam Weller composing a valentine against a contemporary Guinness sign). Ashtead also produced utilitarian and kitchenwares some reminiscent of banded designs by Susie Cooper. The ceramic is often recognised by the Ashtead ‘pearl barley glaze’. Other typically Ashtead glazes were used including a ‘blue mottle’ with a typical example being a jug which was made in a limited run of only 1,000 pieces world-wide and in commemoration of the British Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin. It is modelled in the form of a stylised Baldwin smoking his pipe. Dating is quite straightforward with year marks representing the year of manufacture. For instance a ‘crescent’ mark indicates 1927 and a swastika 1928. The swastika mark is quite rare as the political situation of the period provoked people to smash such examples.
At the height of trade the pottery provided work for around 40 ex-servicemen and used some first rate designers including Phoebe Stabler of Carter, Stabler and Adams (associated with Poole Pottery) and Percy Metcalfe. Metcalfe designed wonderful Art Deco pieces in the 1920s and 1930s including a sought after geometric Deco ‘Lion of Industry’ created for the Wembley British Empire exhibition of 1924 and 1925. Metcalfe was also produced the design for a plaque to house the medal for the exhibition. The company was represented by the press on the instruction of Percy Metcalfe.
After closure Ashtead Potters was taken over by a tool company and was unused for a number of years until the original building was demolished in 1985. There is now sheltered housing on the site at Lime Tree Court.