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Shelley History - Chronology of 'The Foley' Potteries

The following events are significant in the history of 'The Foley' potteries:-

John King Knight and his Brothers in law Thomas and George Elkin established a pottery manufacturing business near Stoke-on-Trent in an area called "The Foley" which lies between Fenton and Longton adjacent to King Street.

Messrs. Knight and Elkin were joined by John Bridgwood.

In his book "History of the Staffordshire Potteries"-1829, Simeon Shaw writes "The Foley has only a few houses and three Manufactories in it. The Manufactory of Messrs. Elkin, Knight and Bridgwood, is a new and very complete establishment; having in addition to the customary buildings a powerful Steam Engine and Flint Mill".

Thomas Elkin Retired from the business

John Bridgwood retires.

George Elkin retires.  John King Knight now sole proprietor.

John King Knight invited Henry Wileman to join him in partnership.

John King Knight retired and so Henry Wileman became the sole proprietor of the Foley Potteries, which had produced earthenware, trading under various names, since 1822. At that time the factory employed about 220 workers.

Foley China Works built by Henry Wileman, alongside his existing Foley Potteries.

Joseph Ball Shelley (born 1836) joined the company as a travelling salesman.

Henry Wileman died and his two sons James and Charles took over the business trading as J & C. Wileman.

The partnership was dissolved with Charles taking over the china works and James the earthenware works.

Charles retired and James became the sole proprietor of both factories, trading under his own name.

James Wileman took Joseph Shelley into partnership in the Foley China Works, trading as Wileman & Company. The Foley Potteries continued separately under James Wileman’s control until it was closed in 1892.

Percy Shelley (Joseph’s son, born 1860) joined the firm.

James Wileman retired from the china works which then became a Shelley family business.

James Wileman retired completely and the original earthenware works, Foley Potteries, was closed and its contents sold by auction.

Percy Shelley visits the Chicago Exhibition to study the American market. Showrooms were subsequently opened in Holborn, London and agents appointed in Australia and North America to facilitate increased trade.

Wileman & Co. built new earthenware works with offices, showroom and warehouses adjoining the existing works.

Joseph Shelley died and Percy Shelley became the sole proprietor. Frederick Rhead (Father of ceramics designer Charlotte Rhead) appointed as Art Director. Rhead had previously worked for Minton under Louis Solon, Wedgwood and as Art Director for a number of smaller potteries. His major contribution to Wileman & Co. was the development of (Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau) decorative art pottery and in particular the "Intarsio" range. Dainty shape ware, designed by Rowland Morris, registered and launched. This ware continued to be manufactured until the factory closed 70 years later.

Works expanded to include earthenware production.

Factory reported in “The Artist” magazine, to employ “two hundred lady and girl artists and a score or so of male designers”, plus the production workers.

Walter Slater succeeded Frederick Rhead as Art Director. Slater had previously worked for Derby, Minton and Doulton. Slater’s major contribution to the firm was in fine china, Art Deco designs, ornamental earthenware and a range of lustre ware.

Trade name changed from Foley China to Shelley China and the Shelley name, contained within a shield shape, was used as the identifying trademark backstamp. For a few years “Late Foley” was incorporated into the trademark.

Percy Shelley’s sons, Percy Norman and Vincent Bob joined the firm but left during the war years.

Norman rejoined the firm and took over production control with Bob taking over the warehouse and stock control.


The third son, Kenneth Jack, joined the business from university and took charge of finances. Eric Slater joined the firm to work in design with his father, Walter. A major success being Harmony Ware.


A new office block and showroom were built alongside the factory, fronting onto King Street.

The registered name of the company was changed from Wileman & Co. to “Shelleys”. Smedley Services took over the advertising for the company producing many successful advertising and marketing campaigns, most notably the “Shelley Girl.”

Shelleys became the limited company “Shelley Potteries Ltd.”


Percy Shelley retired.

Jack Shelley and Frederick Rhead died.


Percy Shelley died. Walter Slater retired and died shortly after. Eric Slater succeeded his father as Art Director.

The Second World War led to government involvement in the potteries, releasing men for military service.

The Government “Concentration Scheme” brought regulations whereby larger firms were formed into nucleus companies with smaller ones attached to them thus concentrating production. Shelley remained open, taking over the production of Jackson & Gosling, who’s Grosvenor Works were adjacent.

China for home consumption was restricted to white ware with decoration only allowed for export sales.


Bob Shelley died and Shelley discontinued the manufacture of earthenware. Bob’s two sons, Alan and Donald joined the company as Sales Director and Technical Director respectively. Donald’s particular interest lay in developing electric kilns to replace the coal fired bottle kilns.

Restrictions on decorating for home consumption lifted.

Shelley Electric Furnaces Ltd. formed to manufacture “Top Hat” kilns, developed by Donald Shelley, for use by Shelley and for sale to other potteries.


The last of the coal fired bottle ovens was demolished and all firing was conducted using electric kilns including “Top Hat” kilns.

The name was changed from Shelley Potteries Ltd. to Shelley China Ltd.

Shelley China Ltd. was taken over by Allied English Potteries and the factory was renamed Montrose Works and used for the production of Royal Albert bone china. For a short time a few Shelley shapes and patterns were produced labelled “Richmond.” Norman Shelley died.

The company became part of the Royal Doulton Group.