Upchurch Pottery in Rainham
Named after the village of Upchurch the business started in Rainham when Seymour and Dora Wakeley owned a bottle and kiln workshop constructed in a chalk pit just off Seymour Road on Wakeley family land.
With help from designer Edward Spencer, Dora spent her free time finding Roman and other clay pots from the Upchurch marshes.
Dora’s designs were made into her own wares and exhibited at places like Crystal Palace.
Dora gave account of her pottery business to the East Kent Gazette (March 20th 1920).
“I was first interested in the potter’s art as a hobby. When I started in a very small way before the war I little dreamt that it would develop into a revived history. I enjoyed hunting round museums for designs and most of my models have been copied from Chinese and Korean wares of the 15th century. I supply Upchurch pottery to several West-End firms and as a result of this fair I have been asked to accept far more orders than I can ever hope to execute.”
At the beginning the workshop had no gas or electricity, kick wheels were used to turn the pots and water was brought to the workshop from a nearby pond. The coal fired kiln and local clay was unpredictable but despite these problems Upchurch pottery became well-known.
Potter, Ted Baker of Upchurch helped underpin the reason why pottery became famous. He’d once worked with his father in the family flower pot business when he left school and he also worked in Reginald Wells’s pottery in Chelsea, London. Wells became Seymour Wakeley’s personal friend.
In 1913 Ted Baker returned to Kent from London and Seymour Wakeley employed him as a potter. Baker’s designs were influenced by Greek and Roman vases and he used a style of soft colours with a matt finish in his work. A characteristic of Upchurch Pottery.
Baker’s glaze recipe books show that he used a boracic to intensify colour of the glaze to prevent cracking. The pots were fired up to 2,000 degrees, causing unexpected colour effects. Dora Wakeley continued to be responsible for the designs behind Ted Baker’s work and the designer Edward Spencer advised on glaze recipes.
In the 1920s Upchurch glazes became less sought after, described by some as being sombre and stolid. However after 1933 the glazes became more pastel and aesthetically softer. Ted Baker perfected these pots and they were exhibited at major trade fairs. Bakers work became very popular and the pottery obtained so much fame that Queen Mary became a patron.
The original site for the Upchurch Pottery was demolished in 1936 and Seymour Wakeley sold the business to Oscar and Grace Davies who opened the Roeginga Pottery in Rainham High Street. It only operated under them for two years but they recruited Ted Baker’s son Edward to manage it.
Alice Winnecott then purchased the pottery, hired the services of Ted Baker and developed the popular Claverdon Range of pottery.
During the summer months travellers on the way to the coast frequently stopped to watch Ted Baker at work in the pottery. After making enough money he eventually purchased the business from Mrs Winnecott in 1953.
After running the pottery as his own business with his two sons and making pots for clients all over the world Ted Baker died in 1955.
Edward Baker junior then bought the business in 1956 and renamed it Rainham Pottery.
It finally closed in 1963 mainly due to the competition and the construction of the M2 motorway which allegedly took trade away.
Edward Baker junior continued to run the Roeginga pottery until he retired in 1975.
Information Source: Rainham-History Website