The foundation of Odney Pottery Limited

Frank Spindler spinning at Odney Pottery, 1949
Frank Spindler spinning at Odney Pottery, 1949

Introduction

Between the years 1942 and 1956, a pottery operated at Odney in Cookham, creating pots that were purchased for the Partnership, and sold in the department stores. Started during the difficult years of the War, the venture encapsulated the creativity and practicality of the Partnership, and the talented man at the helm of Odney Pottery, John Bew.

A potter in the Rhondda

The establishment of a Pottery at Odney was the end product of a number of superseding prior occurrences. It all began in 1939. Michael Watkins, later Sir Metcalf Watkins (link) who was at that point Director of Trading (Department Stores), introduced China and Glass buyer Elvie Macdermott to a pottery supplier in the Rhondda. The potter in Rhondda was John Bew himself, and his pottery was part of the Maes-yr-Haf Settlement for unemployed miners, an unusual business that placed social and educational welfare as its main goal. John Bew’s pots started to appear in the Partnership’s department stores.

A Perfect Partnership recruit

The War changed everything. By 1942, the miners, previously unemployed, were now in strict demand, and Bew wanted a new outlet to which he could direct his talents. He sought the help of Evlie Macdermott, who looked to Michael Watkins. Watkins leapt at the chance to recruit Bew, owing largely to the scarcity of pots from large manufacturers due to the oppressive wartime conditions. Furthermore, Watkins knew of the desire of the Founder to establish an adult education college at Cookham, and bringing talented craft teachers into the Partnership would undoubtedly be an advantage.

Formation of Odney Pottery Limited

By early 1943, instruments of the trade began to be installed into one of the buildings of Grove Farm, Cookham. Soon after, Odney Pottery Limited was officially formed, led by John Bew, and with seven other members of staff on the Partnership approved training scheme. Bew and his wife were paid a joint annual salary of £300 by the Partnership and had free accommodation in the shape of the flat over the workshop at Grove Farm.

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