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A brief history of Winchcombe Pottery

Winchcombe Pottery is situated one mile out of the ancient town of Winchcombe on the Broadway Road. There has been a pottery workshop on the current site of Winchcombe Pottery since the early 1800’s. Today Winchcombe Pottery ranks alongside Bernard Leach’s St Ives as one of the pioneer studio potteries in Britain.

Michael Cardew trained under Bernard Leach (who had introduced craft pottery in the Japanese stoneware style) but he wanted to make pottery for everyday use and at a price that ordinary people could afford in the English slipware tradition. Cardew came across the old Greet, or Beckett’s pottery, which until 1914 had produced a range of farmhouse ware for the surrounding area but had not reopened after the war and was owned by local farmer Alfred Butler.

In 1926 Michael Cardew rented the pottery buildings including the bottle kiln and with the help of two locals, retired Beckett’s potter Elijah Comfort and local boy Sydney Tustin, set about restarting the pottery. After a couple of years hard work and experimentation production had begun alongside Comfort’s farmhouse ware. Using the clay on site and firing the pots in the bottle kiln the range and skills quickly developed and in 1935 Charlie Tustin joined the team followed in 1936 by Ray Finch. From then on many people joined the team to help and learn the craft - a lot of them going on to become well known potters in their own right.

In 1939 Cardew left leaving Finch to run Winchcombe Pottery, and then came the war. In 1946 Ray bought the business off Michael and with the help of Syd and Charlie got production going again. This makes it one of the longest running craft potteries in the country making some of the finest and most practical domestic pottery in the world.

1952 saw the first experiments with stoneware and in 1954 was the last bottle kiln firing, slipware production continuing using electric kilns until 1964. In 1974 the wood fired kiln was built to replace the oil fired kiln for stoneware production and has been used ever since. In 1969 Mike Finch (Ray’s son) joined the pottery and now runs it with the help of Matt Grimmitt who is the great, great grandson of Comfort, and two others. This autumn the pottery is going to start making a small amount of slipware again and open a teaching wing as well.

Winchcombe Pottery is of the highest standard – designed to last for life. It can be used in conventional and microwave ovens and dishwashers, which gives it a very up to date practicality to such traditional stoneware. The only restrictions are that they should not be used under grills, on hot plates or over naked flames. The glazes are harder than steel and even good old elbow grease will not wear them away!

All of the beautifully fired products from the pottery kiln are for sale in The Pottery Shop or you can buy online at www.winchcombepottery.co.uk