Histories of UK potters and pottery manufacturers

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© Michael Perry 2011. Contact

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Last updated: 1st August 2011

Company History

Joseph Bourne & Son Ltd (c.1850–1970)

A stoneware and earthenware manufacturer at Bourne's Pottery, Denby, Derbyshire. The famous pottery at Denby was established in 1809, and its origins were documented in some detail by Llewellynn Jewitt in his book Ceramic Art of Great Britain first published in 1877. To quote Jewitt:

The works were commenced in 1809 by a Mr. Jager, on the estate of W. Drury Lowe, Esq., where, some time before, a valuable and extensive bed of clay had been found to exist. This clay, previous to the establishment of the Denby Works, was used at the Belper Pottery for the manufacture of stoneware ink, blacking, and other bottles. … In 1812 Joseph Bourne, son of William Bourne, of the Belper Pottery, succeeded Mr. Jaeger and the Belper and Denby works were carried on simultaneously until 1834 when the Belper Works were discontinued, and the plant and workpeople moved to Denby.

Other sources indicate that William Bourne gave the task of managing the new business to two of his sons John and Joseph Bourne, perhaps while he continued at the Belper Pottery. The business was originally known as J. & J. Bourne, however, John Bourne died in 1819 and Joseph Bourne then continued the business in his own name. The nearby Codnor Park Works were acquired in 1833 and the Shipley Pottery in 1845 and both were eventually closed and their plant and staff moved to the Denby site.

The business became Joseph Bourne & Son in about 1850 when Joseph Bourne entered a partnership with his son, Joseph Harvey Bourne.

Joseph Bourne died in 1860 and Joseph Harvey Bourne in 1869 and the business was then continued by his widow, Sarah Elizabeth Bourne, until her death in 1898. Joseph Bourne Wheeler, a nephew of J. H. Bourne, continued the business in association with other relatives of Elizabeth Bourne until 1907 and then, as the sole proprietor, until 1916 when the business was incorporated as Joseph Bourne and Son Ltd. Joseph Bourne Wheeler continued as the governing director of the company until his death in 1942.

On Joseph Bourne Wheeler’s death (1942) overall control and management of the business passed to members of the Wood and Dale families, both long associated with the Bourne family in the management of the business. In October 1959, in an attempt to increase production capacity, Bourne’s acquired Lovatt’s Potteries Ltd at nearby Langley Mill for a sum of £25,000. Lovatt’s Pottery continued in operation and in 1967 was renamed the Langley Pottery Ltd.

In March 1970 Joseph Bourne & Son Ltd became a public company, listed on the Stock Exchange under the new name Denbyware Ltd with Joseph Bourne & Son Ltd and the Langley Mill Pottery Ltd as subsidiary companies. Public use of the Joseph Bourne & Son Ltd name probably ended at about this time.

*Joseph Bourne & Son Ltd celebrated the centenary of the foundation of the company in 1909 (and Denby Pottery Co. Ltd the bicentenary in 2009). Whilst these dates are correct in respect to the foundation of the pottery at Denby, the Bourne family did not acquire the business until 1812.

Denbyware Ltd (1970–1981)

Manufacturer of earthenware and stoneware at Denby, Derbyshire. Formerly Joseph Bourne & Son Ltd. The long-lived Joseph Bourne & Son Ltd (established c.1812) converted to public ownership and listed on the London Stock Exchange in March 1970, adopting the new name Denbyware Ltd. Joseph Bourne & Sons Ltd, Langley Pottery Ltd and Millard-Norman Co. (a USA-based distribution company) operated as subsidiaries of Denbyware Ltd. The Crown House Group, an engineering group and owners of glassware manufacturers Edinburgh Crystal, Thomas Webb Crystal and Dema Glass acquired an interest in Denbyware Ltd in the mid-1970s and after an extended period of uncertainty gained control in 1981, renaming the business Denby Tableware Ltd.

Denby Tableware Ltd (1981–1990)

Formerly Denbyware Ltd. Crown House Group acquired the whole shareholding of Denbyware Ltd in 1981 and renamed the company Denby Tableware Ltd. One of the first acts of the new owners was to close the Langley Pottery which Joseph Bourne & Son Ltd had acquired in 1959. The historic pottery closed in December 1982 after 117 years of operation. In May 1987, Crown House sold the Denby Tableware business to the Coloroll Homewares Group, a Manchester-based manufacturer and retailer of wallpaper, textiles and homeware. As part of the Coloroll Ceramics Division, the company traded under the names Coloroll Tableware Ltd (Denby Tableware Division) and Coloroll-Denby Tableware. Coloroll went into receivership in June 1990 and Denby Tableware Ltd was purchased from the receiver by its management led by managing director Stephen Riley and three colleagues with backing from a private investment company. Riley and his management team invested £155,000 for a 55% stake in the new company, naming it Denby Pottery Co. Ltd.

Denby Pottery Co. Ltd (1990–Active 2009)

The former Denby Tableware Ltd, was purchased by its management in 1990 after Coloroll Homewares Group was placed in receivership. The new company, Denby Pottery Co. Ltd, originally a private company, converted to a publically listed company in 1994 through a public stock offering backed by Robert Fleming & Co. Proceeds of the sale of stock were intended to reduce the company’s £7 millon debt, fund capital improvements and strengthen Denby’s position in overseas markets.

In 1995 Denby purchased Wren Giftware Ltd, a Stoke-on-Trent manufacturer of bone china cups and mugs for £1.3 million. The venture was unsuccessful and Wren was sold to the Churchill Group in 1998 for £875,000, substantially less than its purchase price. In 1999 there was another management buyout and the business returned to private ownership with the operating company, Denby Pottery Co. Ltd and Denby USA Ltd, a North American distribution arm, becoming the subsidiary of a new holding company Denby Group plc.

There have been further ownership change and in March 2009 a management-led investor group, including managing director Garry Biggs, acquired Denby Pottery Company Ltd in a leveraged buyout.


Giblin, J & J (2002). Langley Mill Pottery: Its History and its Wares. (J & J. Giblin Publishing, 2002, ISBN 0-9542250-0-7).

Jewitt, L. F. (1883). The Ceramic Art of Great Britain. Second Edition* (R. Worthington, New York). A new printing of this edition was published by Paul P. B. Minet in 1971 and printed by Redwood Press Limited, Trowbridge and London.

Hopwood, I & Hopwood, G. Denby Pottery, 1809-1997: Dynasties and Designers. (Richard Dennis Publishers, 1997, ISBN 0-9036585-52-3).

Key, G. & Key, I. Denby Stonewares – A Collectors Guide. (Ems and Ens Ltd, 1995, ISBN 1-874558-03-5).

Key G. & Key, A. (1998) Bourne at Denby. (Ems and Ens Ltd, 1998).

On the Web


Official site of the Denby Pottery Co. Ltd.


Specialists in discontinued Denby tableware run by the authors of Denby Stoneware - A Collector’s Guide. The site has a comprehensive picture index to Denby tableware patterns.


©Michael Perry 2011



Joseph Bourne & Son Ltd (c.1850-1970

Denbyware Ltd (1970-1981

Denby Tableware Ltd (1981-1990)

Denby Pottery Co. Ltd (1990-present)


Denby people

Denby wares

Denby marks