Antiques and Collecting: Desirable Pottery with a Romantic Welsh History

By Hawkes, Harry | The Birmingham Post (England), July 15, 2000 | Go to article overview

Antiques and Collecting: Desirable Pottery with a Romantic Welsh History


Hawkes, Harry, The Birmingham Post (England)


This year marks the 75th anniversary of the beginning of Portmeirion, that amazing romantic Italianate village in Wales. It also registers the 50th birthday of its famous up-market pottery products.

So, what could be more appropriate than a splendid new book to mark the occasion - a volume which will serve as a reference work for collectors of the popular range of pottery which bears the village name for many years to come.

Portmeirion Pottery by Steven Jenkins and Stephen P McKay is published by Richard Dennis of The Old Chapel, Shepton Beauchamp, Somerset TA19OLE (telephone 01460 240044). With 40 pages of colour, numerous black and white illustrations and hardback cover, it costs pounds 25.

Most people could well be surprised that Portmeirion Pottery products are made not in Portmeirion, not even in Wales but here within the Midlands in Staffordshire.

The story of how the architect Clough Williams-Ellis set about creating his own Italian-style village in North Wales has been told many times. He imported classic columns, arches and many other attractive features to construct the village of his dreams, starting in 1925.

It was not, however, Sir Clough Williams-Ellis who was the mainspring behind the venture into ceramics. Portmeirion Pottery was the brainchild of his daughter, Susan. It was her drive, initiative and imagination which started the business going, though to be fair, she gained her flair for design from her father who also gave Susan a great deal of encouragement.

The authors, Steven Jenkins, a 36-year-old Welshman living in London and Stephen McKay, a 37-year-old Yorkshireman, now living in Liverpool, knew of each other well before they met at an antiques fair in Loughborough. Both were ardent collectors of Portmeirion Pottery and of collectables associated with the 1966 television serial The Prisoner which was filmed in the village. This probably did more to put Portmeirion well and truly on the map with the resultant publicity than anything else in its history. The village still owes a debt of gratitude to Patrick McGoohan, star and director of the series.

In their research, the authors have had full access to all records and files of the pottery in addition to the first hand accounts of Susan, other members of the Williams-Ellis family, long serving employees and former workers in the business. …

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