Victoria de Rin is undoubtedly the best known of all Wemyss Ware dealers. Her shop, Rogers de Rin, in Chelsea, London carries a Royal Warrant (by appointment to HRH The Prince of Wales, Antique Dealer and Restorer) and has become a mecca for Wemyss Ware collectors across the globe. She was the driving force behind a Sotheby’s exhibition “Wemyss Ware c.1880-1930” held in London in 1976. She led the project to create the book “Wemyss Ware – A decorative Scottish Pottery” published by The Scottish Academic Press in 1986, which remained the only Wemyss Ware book for many years. As a Wemyss evangelist she has helped raise the profile of Wemyss Ware, not just in the UK, but internationally.
Victoria was born in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1931. When she was just two-and-a-half she moved with her family to London where her father was to teach students in mathematics and philosophy, but he also dealt in antiques and antiquarian books. Victoria went to a convent school followed by Watford Grammar School and on to a finishing school in Oxford. Her early career was in an architect’s office but she already had already developed an interest in buying English porcelain.
Clearly an enterprising young lady, in 1955 when in her early 20’s, she wrote to Vivian Fuchs who had started planning his big Arctic expedition back in 1953. She apparently sold him on the need for a London based operation to handle PR and media communications which she became part off. This connection led to a romance with expedition chief engineer, David Pratt. Fuchs’ Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1957-58 was highly successful and established that a land mass did exist beneath the Antarctic Ice and so confirmed Antarctica as a continent. Following the expedition Vivian Fuchs was knighted in 1958 and Victorian de Rin and David Pratt were married in 1960.
Victoria and David rented a stall in the recently established antiques market at Camden Passage in 1963 and growing trade led to the eventual lease of a shop in Chelsea, and so Rogers de Rin was established in 1970. Pieces for the shop were bought at auction or markets such as Bermondsay. The first Wemyss pieces were also bought around the same time in 1970 and growing interest in this unique and attractive ware seems to have encouraged Victoria’s interest. She sought to learn more about this unique Scottish Pottery and travelled to Huntly Museum in Edinburgh (now the Museum of Edinburgh) and Kirkcaldy Art Gallery & Museum where many original pieces were displayed and some of the history was understood.
In 1976 Victoria organised a large Wemyss Ware exhibition at Sotheby’s Belgravia in London. There were almost 400 exhibits, many of them were from her Roger de Rin shop and so the catalogue came with a price list with items ranging from £5 for a small cream jug to £475 for a tabby cat (extremely cheap by today’s prices). The exhibition catalogue, especially with its separate price list, is now quite sought after. In 1986, along with David Macmillan, Peter Davis and Robert Rankine she published a book “Wemyss Ware; a decorative Scottish Pottery”. The book, published by Scottish Academic Press, has around 400 colour illustrations and is the definitive publication on Wemyss Ware from the Fife Pottery era (1882-1930). Unfortunately, it has been out of print for many years and so is quite sought after. It has regularly appeared as a lot itself at Wemyss Ware auctions but can often be purchased on eBay.
Prior to the exhibition in London and the publication of the book most collector interest in Wemyss Ware was largely of a Scottish origin with a good few notable exceptions. Exceptions include Her Majesty the late Queen Mother (although she was Scottish by birth) and the former US President Roosevelt. Despite some high profile patronage there was surprisingly little international knowledge about this exceptional ware. There was vastly more international knowledge and collector interest in Staffordshire, Dresden, Meissen and French wares. Victoria has helped change that a little and has helped put Wemyss on a deserved international profile. Victoria de Rin was fortunate in being sole the agent used for sourcing Wemyss Ware for the Queen Mother’s collection and had established many connections to dealers including Iris Fox in Edinburgh where many pieces were obtained.
Although Wemyss Ware had not been produced since 1957, in 1980 to mark the Queen Mother’s 80th birthday a limited edition commemorative Wemyss Ware goblet was produced. This also marked the centenary (approximately) of Wemyss Ware and was produced by Victoria’s company, Rogers de Rin, in conjunction with Royal Doulton who then believed that they owned the Wemyss Ware rights. The goblet was modelled on the one produced by the original Wemyss Ware manufacturer, Robert Heron & Son, in 1887 for Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee. It was designed by the artist Alan Carr Linford and Esther Weeks (a Wemyss decorator trained by Joe Nekola). Another historical connection with the past was that the official retailer was Thomas Goode & Co of Mayfair, Heron’s exclusive Wemyss Ware dealer for England when the Queen Victoria goblet was produced. A limited edition of 500 goblets were to produced with the first being presented to HM the Queen Mother.
This new Wemyss Ware created in 1980 was the brain child of Victoria de Rin and seems to have been the catalyst for a Wemyss Ware revival. HRH Prince Charles has since encouraged artist to recreate traditional Wemyss designs and today Wemyss revival pottery is well established. If it was not for Victoria de Rin, the international reputation of Wemyss Ware would have been somewhat limited, and the revival may not have happened.
Victoria sold Wemyss Ware from her shop, Roger de Rin, located at 76 Royal Hospital Road in London until it closed recently. The residual stock of the shop was auctioned by Dreweatts at Donnington Priory on 16th September 2015. Victoria will continue to advise and purchase items for clients and trade online.