Art Deco Vase 31Art Deco Vase 31

Art Deco jug 131Art Deco jug 131

When the Beswick family built a pot bank in Tunstall in 1840, it was to guarantee a market for the output of their coal mines; they leased out the pot bank with coal purchase being part of the contract. In the 1890's James Wright Beswick decided to take a direct hand in the ceramics business, later buying the Gold Street Works in Longton, Staffordshire, the firm's long term home.

The firm's history is characterised by enterprise. Early on they launched themselves enthusiastically at the popular market producing items in the Victorian taste: highly decorated tableware, jugs, plant-pots, spittoons and figures. They also made reproduction 'antique' Staffordshire figures. With new kilns and modern methods, they could compete keenly on price and as a result, by 1930 they employed 400 people.

In 1933, John Beswick, James' son, oversaw the introduction of a new range of jugs, bowls and vases decorated with new matt glazes. Responding to the modernist influence in design so evident on the continent, many of these highly distinctive shapes were designed by Mr Symcox and decorated in 'satin matt' glazes using soft pastel colours running into each other or arranged in striking modern geometric blocks and lines. In 1934 John Beswick died and was succeeded by his son Ewart as managing director. By then Symcox, together with Albert Hallam and Mr Owen had designed over a hundred new shapes and continued to produce strong Art Deco shapes up until 1940.

Beswick also made a range of Deco shapes called Trentham Art Ware for a retailer in Nottingham from 1934 to 41 and stamped them accordingly. When the contract finished Beswick continued making some of the shapes, but without the Trentham mark.

During the war years 1939 - 45, Beswick along with all other producers were required to minimise decoration for the home market. But the spirit of enterprise flourished and the company seized new opportunities to export to the growing overseas markets of the U.S.A., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Goods for export were officially encouraged to be more highly decorated than those available in the U.K. and during this time 80% of Beswick's output went to export.

After the war, Beswick continued to innovate, employing new designers such as Colin Melbourne, embracing the 1950's slightly diffident style, which swept away the more flamboyant Art Deco. They also extended the very successful line in animal models, begun in 1939 with horses designed by Arthur Greddington, to other animals, birds and also characters from children's literature and films. Taken over by Royal Doulton in 1969, the firm is perhaps best remembered for these models, which have a large following amongst collectors, but there is a growing interest in the quality and style of their 1930's Art Deco pieces. These survive in very good condition, justifying the boast of a 1930's advertisement of "a sound body, with a brilliant, non-crazing glaze fashioned in hundreds of shapes".


  • The Charlton Standard Catalogue of Beswick
    Diane & John Callow
  • Collecting Art Deco Ceramics
    Howard & Pat Watson
  • Millers Collectables 2000-2001, Art Deco Ceramics
    Greg Stevenson