Stoke-on-Trent - Potworks of the week

contents: 2009 photos

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The Foley Potteries

Over time business at the Foley Potteries changed hands from the original Elkin and Knight familes to Wileman and then ultimately the Shelley family.

As always with the changes in partnership the dates are approximate. Sometimes there is an announcement in the London Gazette and so a more accurate date is known. 



Elkin, Knight & Co; 
Elkin, Knight & Elkin

John King Knight and his brothers-in-law Thomas and George Elkin established a pottery manufacturing business in an area called "The Foley" which lies between Fenton and Longton.

Elkin, Knight & Bridgwood
Elkins & Co
In 1827 the business was joined by John Bridgwood and they moved to the nearby newly built Foley Pottery (built by John Smith of Fenton Hall) "the first firm by whom they were worked being Elkin, Knight & Bridgwood, who made the better class of 'Willow Pattern' and other blue printed services" 
Jewitt Ceramic Art of Great Britain

Knight & Elkin
Knight, Elkin & Co

After John Bridgwood retires in 1840 the business is continued by John King Knight and George Elkin.

J K Knight
George Elkin retires and John King Knight is the sole proprietor

Knight & Wileman
J K Knight invites Henry Wileman to join the business. Wileman is a wholesale china dealer from London. 

Henry Wileman
J K Knight retires in 1856 - at that time the business is employing about 220 people. Henry Wileman becomes the sole proprietor.
In 1860 the works are expanded and the Foley China Works is built alongside the original Foley Potteries.

J & C Wileman
Henry Wileman died in 1864 and his two sons James & Charles take over the business. In 1866 Charles took over the china works and James the earthenware works.

James F Wileman
c.1868 the partnership between the two brothers had been dissolved, Charles retired and James Wileman became the sole proprietor of both the china and earthenware works.
In 1872 James Wileman took Joseph Shelley (who had joined the business in 1862 as a travelling salesman) into partnership in the Foley China Works, trading as Wileman & Company. 
The Foley Potteries continued separately under James Wileman’s control until it was closed in 1892 when he retired.  The original earthenware works, Foley Potteries, was closed and its contents sold by auction.

Wileman & Co
James Wileman and Joseph Shelley at the Foley China Works trading as Wileman & Co. In 1884 Wileman retired from the china works which then became a Shelley family business although still trading as Wileman & Co.
In 1910 the trade name was changed from Foley China to Shelley China. 

Shelly Potteries (Ltd)
The registered name of the company was changed from Wileman & Co. to “Shelleys” and then in 1929 became the limited company “Shelley Potteries Ltd.”

Shelley China Ltd

The name was changed in May 1965 from Shelley Potteries Ltd. to Shelley China Ltd. to more accurately reflect the companies business as a producer of fine china.  

In May 1966 Norman Shelley died and the Shelley family control of the business ceased. In August 1966 the share capital of Shelley China Ltd. was taken over by Allied English Potteries. The factory was renamed Montrose Works and used for the production of Royal Albert bone china. For a short time a few Shelley shapes and patterns were produced labelled “Richmond.” 

Allied English Potteries became a subsidiary of the Royal Doulton Group.




Shelley Potteries Works, Foley, King Street, Fenton
Shelley Potteries Works, Foley, King Street, Fenton
Shelley continued in production until 1966 when it was taken over
by Allied English Potteries, which became part of The Doulton Group

photo: Geoff Evans


March 2009 photo of the old Shelley’s factory
March 2009 photo of the old Shelley’s factory

This March 2009 photo of the old Shelley’s factory  (formerly Wileman’s) depicts the building still standing (though roofless)  to the north of King Street in Foley. Next to the Shelley factory the Foley Works of Goodwin, Stoddard & Co., as was (the now demolished row of buildings at the back may belong to this works?). This seems (since the demolition of the Old Foley works in 2006) to be the only one of the main buildings of the various Foley pot works left.

View of the remains of the Shelley Factory
View of the remains of the Shelley Factory
The now roofless block formed the offices & factory shop.

photo: Mar 2009 MS Live Earth

this view shows the larger area - the remains of the Shelley works, to the left, sits in isolation, many of the surrounding buildings have been demolished and surviving parts incorporated in industrial units.

Wileman’s occupied all of the ground there – with china production on one side of the road that cuts through from king street to Brocksford road, earthenware on the other (see map below).  

1922 OS map of the Wileman / Shelley works

the still surviving offices to the works is outlined in purple,
the surrounding street names and terrace houses have survived.

Shelley Potteries started life as Wileman & Co when, in 1862, Joseph Ball Shelley was taken into partnership with the firm of Henry Wileman at the Foley China Works, Fenton, Staffs. Over the years, Wileman & Co was a melting pot for many important designers such as Micklewright, Rowland Morris, Frederick Rhead and Walter Slater.


In 1860 when the Wileman family, owners of the Foley works, a large pottery between Longton and Fenton in Staffordshire, England, built a second pottery for the purpose of producing fine china.

James B. Shelley left the Dresden works and joined Henry Wileman and his sons as a traveller. In 1864, Henry Wileman died and his two sons Charles and James split the two works with James running the earthenware works and Charles the china works. In 1870, James dies and in 1872, Charles took James Shelley in partnership to run the china works.

Shelley focused on getting the best china product possible out of the company and staff. He worked on improving china quality and building the foreign export part of the business. James took his son Percy into the firm in 1881. Percy was to run the company for some 50 years. Percy learned the business fast and set off to find top pottery artists and litho designers to improve the appearance and quality of its wares. In 1896, attention was directed to English and foreign sales and after the death of Joseph, Percy Shelley was in full control.

The popular Dainty shape was created by one of those artists named Roland Morris. The renown Frederick Rhead came to work as art director and some of the most beautiful pieces of art pottery became symbols of the company. About 1910, Shelley got into a legal battle with other potteries in the location about the use of the name Foley (the pottery region). Shelley lost and decided to rename his pottery "Shelley" that became official in 1925.