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We have been making pottery at Denby for over 200 years!
Our history begins in 1806, when a seam of clay was found at Denby during the construction of a road to link the industrial towns of Derbyshire. William Bourne, a local entrepreneur, examined the clay and recognised its exceptional qualities.
Production of salt-glazed pottery was started at Denby in 1809 and William gave the onerous task of running the business to his youngest son, Joseph. Known as 'Joseph Bourne' the pottery prospered and soon built up an international reputation for its quality bottles and jars. These bottles held anything from ink, polish and medicines to preserves and even ginger beer. Salt glazing was a popular method of decorating stoneware at this time. Common salt was thrown onto the kiln fires when the embers were at their hottest. The salt vapour combined with the surface of the pot to produce a shiny brown surface coating.
Times were changing and in the late 1800's glass bottles became less expensive and replaced ceramic containers. Denby Pottery diversified by extending its kitchenware range and developed richly coloured glazes which were to become Denby's trade mark.
By the 1920's Denby's functional kitchenware (from pie dishes, jelly moulds and colanders to 'hot water bottles') could be found in many homes along with decorative vases, bowls and tobacco jars which were all stamped 'Danesby Ware'. This was the generic name given by Denby Pottery to all its decorative and giftware ranges.
In the 1930's 'Electric Blue' (shiny blue) and 'Orient ware' (matt blue/brown) became classic giftware ranges and today are popular with collectors. Kitchenware became more colourful with Cottage Blue, Manor Green and Homestead Brown - all of which remained popular until the early 1980's.
Radical steps to change Denby's product range were taken in the 1950's when the pottery became predominantly a producer of tableware (ranges now included cups, saucers and plates). Denby continued to employ the best designers to ensure the transition was successful and this expertise produced such best sellers as Greenwheat (1956), Echo and Ode (1950's), Studio (1961) and Arabesque (Samarkand in the USA - 1964).
The 1970's brought a revolution in 'oven-to-tableware' - Denby's striking designs and practicality alleviated the need for separate cooking dishes and more decorative plates for serving. Denby could withstand oven temperatures and Gypsy (1971), Troubadour (1971), Cotswold (1973) and Romany (1970's) all graced the 1970's table with flair. By the 1980's 'casual dining' became more popular and ranges such as Imperial Blue and Regency Green were able to fit into both formal entertaining and family gatherings.
We continue to build on this proud heritage with our contemporary ranges such as Jet, Azure and Caramel which reflect today's informal style. We owe much of our present success to the skills of earlier generations of craftsmen. Most importantly, Denby has not lost sight of the reasons for its popularity as generations have grown to expect leading designs combined with a tradition of quality and durability.
If you would like to know more about our history, there are two books available:
Denby Pottery 1809-1997 Dynasties and Designers By Irene and Gordon Hopwood Richard Dennis Publishers : ISBN 0-9036585-52-3
Denby Stonewares By Graham and Alva Key Ems and Ens Ltd : ISBN 1-874558-03-5
These books were not published by The Denby Pottery Company, but our Museum Curator assisted the authors. They can be obtained from bookshops or from our Visitor Centre in person or via mail order. Click here for details. Regrettably Denby Pottery is unable to offer a valuation service.