It’s little known that for about 18 months between1866 and the autumn of 1867 a company in Bishops Waltham made upmarket table ware.
In the early 1860s a top-ranking civil servant and successful writer, Arthur Helps, was buying up land to enlarge his estate. Within a year or two he discovered he had bought the rights to a deposit of fine terracotta clay, not far from where he lived at Vernon Hill House. For him this wasn’t just a business opportunity, but the chance to experiment with a liberal approach to industrial relations which till then he had only been able to write about.
The Bishops Waltham Clay Company started in 1862, making bricks and tiles, but the money Helps invested in schemes such as workers’ housing and in a local branch line was quite quickly lost. In an attempt to avert disaster he went into making wares like those shown here. Even so the company failed completely in 1867, and he was obliged to retire to a house in Kew granted to him by Queen Victoria. Subsequently, Blanchards (Bishops Waltham) Ltd, were to make bricks on the site with rather more success well into the 1950s.
Hampshire Cultural Trust has about two dozen pieces of this ware acquired from various sources. The best items are displayed at the Allen Gallery in Alton.