Denby Pottery, a potted history

Denby Pottery, a potted history

If you’ve ever been shopping for crockery, then you’ll be familiar with the distinctive Denby ware, which you will find in department stores alongside other popular British brands like Wedgwood, Royal Worcester and Royal Crown Derby. Denby tableware is known for its strength and durability, and the Derbyshire company that produces it has been manufacturing and innovating for over 200 years.

The firm was set up in Denby, near Ripley, by William Bourne in 1809, after a seam of high quality clay was discovered there.  William’s son, Joseph Bourne, soon took over the running the company, which became known as Joseph Bourne, and later Joseph Bourne & Son Ltd.  Producing salt-glazed stoneware bottles and jars, which provided a cheaper alternative to glass, the company prospered as Joseph continually developed and patented improvements to kilns and firing processes.

Joseph Bourne & Son Ltd was unusual for its day in having women involved in the management of the firm.  Between 1869 and 1898 the company was owned and run by Joseph Bourne’s daughter-in-law, Sarah Elizabeth Bourne.  She transformed the company, expanding the product range and exploiting new markets, such as the new demand for telegraphic insulators following the invention of the telephone.  She was followed in the business by her nephew by marriage, Joseph Bourne-Wheeler, whose wife, Florence Bourne-Wheeler, took over as company secretary in 1916 and became chairman after Joseph died in 1942.

The success of the company owes much to their ability to move with the times. As glass became cheaper and demand for stoneware containers reduced, Joseph Bourne began making kitchen and tableware.  Decorative and giftware ranges were also introduced under the name of Danesby Ware, and as salt-glazing fell out of fashion, the company developed their classic and distinctive blue and green glazes.  In the 1970s, Denby’s led a new trend in stylish and attractive crockery that could go from oven to table.

In recent years, Denby Pottery has expanded to acquire other well-known British ceramic companies such as Burleigh Ware and Poole Pottery and business is booming.  Still based at Denby, the company remains one of Derbyshire’s oldest businesses and a popular……...

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