The Wemyss Revival (1985 – present)

Wemyss Ware Galle CatThe Wemyss name was resurrected when Griselda Hill, who had been teaching art in London, became interested in pottery.  Her grandmother had owned a large Wemyss pig which she remembered from childhood.  In 1984 Griselda moved to Fife and realised that Wemyss was local to the area after seeing it displayed in Kirkcaldy Museum.  She was inspired to create a contemporary Wemyss Ware at an affordable price.  First a cat modelled on the Galle style Wemyss cat displayed in Kirkcaldy Museum was produced in 1985. From there the range of Wemyss style ware produced by the Griselda Hill Pottery in Ceres was gradually expanded.  Initially this was produced as a Wemyss style reproduction ware and was simply marked “Griselda Hill Pottery” or “GHP”.

Thomas Goode MayfairIn 1987 HRH the Prince of Wales (Prince Charles), presumably inspired by his grandmother’s enthusiasm for Wemyss Ware, initiated a project to provide employment around his Duchy of Cornwall Estate. He wished to recreate something akin to Wemyss Ware and enlisted the help of Devon antique dealer David Thorn.  Thorn in turn contacted Brian Adams his china restorer to see if they could recreate Wemyss faithfully. So the “Duchy Wemyss” project to recreate Wemyss was begun. Victoria de Rin (of Rogers de Rin) was appointed as a consultant and she introduced Esther Weeks (who had previously assisted her with the Doulton Wemyss goblet) to Brian Adams. Prince Charles discovered that Griselda Hill had also begun recreating Wemyss Ware and at the end of 1987 Rogers de Rin assisted the original London Wemyss agent Thomas Goode to stage an exhibition of contemporary Wemyss Ware which included pieces by Adams & Weeks, three pieces by Hill, and Wemyss recreation pieces from a small number of other contributors. Prince Charles was the main guest and this is where Esther Weeks met with Griselda Hill.

The original Duchy Wemyss project instigated by Prince Charles did not continue beyond the exhibition but Adams decided to proceed anyway.  In 1988 the Exon Pottery was established to produce an “original” Wemyss Ware. It was located a few miles from the old Bovey Pottery in Devon and was set up by Adams who was an accomplished painter as well as a professional china restorer and he was joined by Esther Weeks

Wemyss Ware plateBetween 1988 and 2005 some 2700 Exon Wemyss Ware pieces were produced.  Original Bovey Pottery moulds which had survived were used for some and others were produced using new moulds. The majority of pieces were made and decorated by Adams but Weeks also decorated a number of pieces. They are all marked ‘EXON’, most are marked ‘Wemyss’ and they are also numbered and signed either ‘B.Adams’ or ‘Esther Weeks”.  Adams boldly use the Wemyss mark since his research suggested that Doulton’s claim to it could not justified by the evidence.

homecoming pig BonhamIn 1990 Sotheby’s placed an Exon Wemyss pig by Adams and Weeks in their “Black Museum” claiming it to be fake and that “Wemyss” was copyright of Doulton.  Adams disputed this and it appears that Sotheby’s and Doulton were unable assert their claims.  An apology by Sotheby’s was subsequently published and this effectively legitimised Exon Wemyss Ware as authentic.  Legitimacy was further established by the auctioneers Bonhams who commissioned Exon Wemyss pigs for all of their showrooms worldwide and they have included many Exon pieces in their Wemyss Ware sales. Weeks fell out with Adams and so the all of the later Exon Wemyss pieces were produced solely by Adams.

Griselda Hill CeresGriselda Hill first met Esther Weeks at the London exhibition in 1987 and from 1993 Weeks visited the Griselda Hill Pottery a number of times and painted the decoration on some of their pieces. Perhaps more importantly, she has passed on the original secret of decorating “real’ Wemyss Ware.  In 1994 The Griselda Hill Pottery acquired the Wemyss Ware trademark and since that time the pottery has signed their pieces “Wemyss” as well as being signed with the pottery name.  Contemporary Wemyss Ware is currently being produced at the Ceres pottery where there is a shop and visitor centre.  Griselda Hill accepts commissions for specialist pieces of Wemyss Ware.

Queen Mum Loving CupLoving Cup BaseThe Griselda Hill Pottery has continued the connection with monarchy. A Loving Cup was produced to commemorate the Queen Mothers 100th Birthday in 2000. A tall cabbage rose vase was commission for the Queens 80th birthday.  The brief was to match an existing one from Balmoral Castle. This had been one of a pair but one had been broken.  Griselda Hill has continued to develop Wemyss Ware based on the original themes and decoration.  Some of the Plichta shapes, which were not part of the Bovey Wemyss range have now been incorporated within the catalogue.

Brian Adams is now semi-retired. He is the head curator at the Bovey Pottery Museum and concentrates on oil painting but may occasionally produce a piece of Exon pottery Wemyss Ware. He has permission to use the Wemyss mark (which remains a trademark of the Griselda Hill Pottery).

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