Gradual demise and sudden tragedy

John Bew (standing) and his staff, circa 1950
John Bew (standing) and his staff, circa 1950
Examples of specially designed items from the Odney Pottery
Examples of specially designed items from the Odney Pottery

Post-War highs

The Post-War period was one of mixed fortunes for John Bew and his pottery. There were many successes to speak of. For example, at the Festival of Britain in 1951, Bew had more pots on display than any other craftsman potter. His work had also been purchased by members of the Royal Family. Also, up until the early 1950’s, Government regulations were in place that restricted foreign competition to Bew’s pottery. He continued to make pots for the Partnership unabated by rivals.

And Lows

Underneath this success, things were not so rosy. Bew’s relationship with the Partnership was gradually running cold. Bew was proving a difficult man to deal with, increasingly making exactly what he wanted, rather than what the Partnership buyers wanted for customers. Amongst other things, he claimed to have invented a teapot which did not drip! On top of this, profit margins were strained, as natural materials were proving increasingly expensive.

Imports knock Bew’s influence

The hammer blow came to the Pottery came in 1954, when the Government lifted its restrictions upon foreign imports. Pots from Italy and Denmark flooded and saturated the market. Small profits at the Pottery turned into a trading loss. Bew was a man weighed down with worry.

A sad ending

This story has a tragic end. On November 22nd 1954, John Bew set out from his home in Taplow (having moved out from Grove Farm a few years earlier) to go to work. He never arrived. His bike was found by the River Thames. Two years later, his body was recovered in Windsor. He may have gone, but the legacy of John Bew and his pottery live on. Today the Partnership’s Heritage Centre occupies the site of the Pottery, where the importance of the Pottery has been immortalised.

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