Pottery Focus: Purbeck Pottery

Posted by Mike Eley on

Purbeck Pottery's origins are not that old when compared to many of the UK's best known potteries. It wasn't until 1966 when a small group led by Stanley Laws formed a new limited company and purchased premises, previously owned by the Branksome China group, in Seamoor Road, Westbourne, Dorset.

Purbeck Pottery Guide

Interesting, all but one of the founding Directors were ex employees of the more famous Poole Pottery. Together they recognised the growing demand of the time for stoneware tableware and decorative items; a demand that Poole Pottery were struggling to meet due to their already over burdened production capacity.

The founding Directors were Stanley Lewis (Managing Director), Bob Jefferson (Design Director), Gordon Ede (Technical Director who had previously perfected the Purbeck Pottery clay mix using the clays from Dorset's Jurassic Coast in his garage!) and Peter Barnes (Sales Director).

The first tableware range produced by the new pottery was "Country Fare" including patterns such as "Pheasant " and "Oatmeal". The Pheasant series was particularly unique in that the casseroles featured a beautifully crafted pheasant shaped lid. 

In 1967 the pottery started to produce giftware including money boxes and shortly after studio ware and ornaments. Perhaps the most sought after of the decorative pieces are the 'Wildlife' series of woodland creatures designed by Bob Jefferson in the early 70's. an initiative that was started by a commission by the local Hall & Woodhouse Brewery to help promote their Badger Beer.

Perhaps the most well known of Purbeck's tableware designs were produced on the "Plymouth" range initially created in 1968. Some of these, such as "Sierra" and "Greenvale", had limited production lives due to poor sales, while others like "Toast" and later "Portland" ran for over a decade.

By 1992 only two of the original founding Directors remained, Gordon Ede and Philip Barnes and wishing to retire themselves they handed over the reigns to their respective children; Philip and Simon Barnes and Darrell and Varden Ede. Sadly the new team did not see eye to eye on the direction of the business and following a parting of the ways the pottery fell under the sole directorship of the Barnes family, who still own it to this day.

In 1996 the pottery moved from Westbourne to Hamworthy, in Poole, Dorset. To commemorate this change Zdenka Ralph was asked to design a new range of tableware, introducing more highly glazed and colourful designs for the first time.

In 2006 the Hamworthy plant was closed. A very limited production still continues today, but rather sadly the business today is little more than a general giftware company selling a variety of imported and domestic products from other manufacturers, from their retail unit on Poole Quay, Dorset.


If you would like to learn more about Purbeck Pottery, we would recommend "Purbeck Pottery - A History & Collectors' Guide" by Peter Freeman and Alan Peat, as further reading.

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