John Beswick Ltd, formerly J. W. Beswick, was an earthenware and pottery manufacturer, founded in 1894 by James Wright Beswick at the Baltimore Works in Albion Street, Longton. By 1898 two more premises were in operation, the Britannia Pottery, High Street and the works in Gold Street, both in Longton.
Beswick was a family run business, James’s elder son John joined his father and was associated from the start with the Gold Street Works. His brother Gilbert Beswick appears to have played a lesser role in the business.
In 1918 the Warwick China Works in Chadwick St, Longton was purchased allowing the business to manufacture bone china ware and high-quality ceramic items in addition to its extensive domestic earthenware.
James W. Beswick died in May 1920, and John Beswick became the proprietor and driving force behind the expansion of the company.
In 1926, two important figures joined the company, Jim Hayward, the future Art Director, and Albert Hallam, who was later acknowledged to be the most talented mould maker in the potteries.
In the 1930’s the prices for wares continued to be aimed at a level to sell quickly in the cheaper markets, but the quality of the products was maintained. Due to the less prosperous times of the 1930’s John Beswick turned his attention away from ornamental wares to tableware.
John Beswick died in October 1934 after a prolonged illness at the age of 65.
In 1936 the company was made a limited company – John Beswick, Ltd. His son John Ewart Beswick or Mr Ewart as he was known, became Chairman and Managing Director. Gilbert (Ewart’s uncle) became the sales director.
The years that followed were ones of great activity. Despite the outbreak of the war in 1939, Beswick seized their chance to expand their markets overseas. The stimulus was the need for Britain to export in order to survive.
In 1939 Arthur Gredington was appointed chief modeller in 1939 and production of farm animal figurines was started. Arthur Gredington’s range of 190 Rearing Horsemen is one of the largest (and most popular amongst collectors) ever produced by the company. Under decorating manager Jim Hayward, there was a shift towards lifelike animal pieces, including cats, dogs, farm animals, fish and wild animals.
When Arthur Gredington retired in 1968 he left a legacy of creations which are still collected today.
Oval Beswick England Backstamp
In 1940 extensive reconstruction was necessary for the growth of the business and modernisation to the working conditions. In 1945 the adjoining factory was acquired and this acquisition made it possible to convert the Gold Street factory to accommodate offices, potting and firing. The new premises provided the decorating, finished products, packing and despatch.
Twelve child figures were introduced in 1942 as the ‘Kindergarten Series’. The similarity of these to the corresponding Hummel figures is obvious. It appears that the man responsible for the production of the Hummel figures in Germany had escaped to England just before the outbreak of the war and had approached Beswick with the idea of continuing production of some of the figures. After the war when production was resumed in Germany, these figures were withdrawn by Beswick around 1952.
Strolling Along – Designed by Arthur Gredington
In 1947, Lucy Beswick, Ewart’s wife, suggested bringing to life the illustrations in the Beatrix Potter books. In 1948, John Beswick secured the right to reproduce a range of 10 Beatrix Potter earthenware characters, the first of which was Jemima Puddle-Duck, modelled by Arthur Gredington.
Benjamin Bunny with Gold shoes and gold backstamp.
In 1952, Beswick began manufacturing a range of Disney characters, including Snow White, Mickey Mouse and Bambi. Along with the designs of James Hayward, the high-quality pieces they produced are highly sought-after.
In 1969 John Ewart Beswick wished to retire, sadly he had no heir to continue the family business and he sold the entire share capital to Doulton & Co. Ltd.
Royal Doulton continued to produce the Beswick animal models and figurines under the Beswick name, although the range was reduced and only a few new models entered production. From early-1989 Doulton ceased using the Beswick trade name, although the Gold Street factory continued to produce the same models now with the Royal Doulton / Royal Albert backstamp.
The Beswick mark was briefly resurrected for the centenary of the name in 1994. Doulton ceased production of the ‘Beswick’ models and closed the Gold Street factory in 2002, the site was sold for development in the following year.
In 2004 the Beswick name and product design rights were sold off, the John Beswick name is now owned by Darlington Crystal, and they continue to produce animal figurines using some original production moulds from the Gold Street works, they also produce vases under the John Beswick name. The Snowman and The Gruffalo figures are just some of the nursery figures still being produced.