The Bovey Pottery (1930-1957)

Bovey Pottery, Bovey Tracey, Devon The Bovey Pottery in Bovey Tracey, Devon, England had made some ‘Wemyss like’ ware called Fruit Ware since 1916. However, in 1930 they were fortunate in being able to buy the rights to the Wemyss name along with moulds from the now defunct Fife Pottery. The key to the production of the Bovey based Wemyss Ware was their head Wemyss decorator, Joe Nekola. It appears that Joe actually instigated the moved of Wemyss from Kirkcaldy to Bovey Tracey in 1930, presumably in order to continue fruitful employment using skills which had been passed down from his father Karel.  As a lower volume ware at Bovey it seemed to be viable and still had some level of demand from discerning consumers. One advantage that the production of Wemyss Ware in Devon had was that the supply of light coloured clay was from local clay pits in Devon and Cornwall.

Bovey Wemyss Ware pigThe production at Bovey continued largely unaltered in general appearance to that of Fife Pottery. Indeed the quality of the traditional Wemyss pieces was high. Harder firing within the kilns at Bovey led to reduced crazing. The output tended to focus on the larger pieces, the large pigs were especially popular as were large vases such as the classic Lady Eva. Demand for items such as candlesticks, chamber pots, and basin & ewer sets had diminished with the introduction of electric lighting and better indoor sanitation. Also, inkwells, preserve jars, honeycomb boxes and hatpin containers were out of favour in these more modern times. What did not change was the traditional appearance and the same motifs such as rose, thistle, clover and cherry which continued to be popular. It is documented that US President Eisenhower bought Wemyss Ware from the Bovey Pottery and it is rumoured that a Wemyss tea set was commissioned by the White House.

Plichta catAs head decorator for the Bovey Wemyss Ware, Joe Nekola trained a number of younger decorators including Esther Clark. Joe died in 1952 and Esther Clark (Esther Weeks after she married) took over as head decorator. The Bovey Wemyss Ware is often associated with the name Plichta. Jan Plichta was an enterprising Czech who ran a glass and pottery wholesale company in London. He commissioned many pieces, typically small animals, from the Bovey Pottery and these were normally marked ‘Plichta’. He also sold Wemyss Ware which was marked both ‘Wemyss’ and ‘Plichta’. The small Plichta pieces are generally of inferior quality to Wemyss but were much cheaper and very popular. There has been confusion between the two wares, not helped by the fact that sometimes the Wemyss decorators were made to work on Plichta pieces. Wemyss Ware pottery remained expensive and never regained its former popularity during the Bovey Tracey years although much of it has survived and many pieces sold at auction are from the Bovey period. The Bovey Pottery closed in late 1957 after a short and disastrous strike by the workforce and a subsequent action for voluntary liquidation by the owners.

 

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