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The Wonderful History of Wade Pottery

Debbie Porter

We sell many different Wade pottery items, figurines and collectibles at auction. Get in touch if you are looking for something in particular or if you are looking to sell at auction.

Originally founded by furniture maker John Wade in 1810, Wade produced products for the textile and wool spinning industry, as well as manufacturing bottles for the beer breweries in Staffordshire.  

Wade Ceramics was originally made up of three different companies founded by various members of the Wade family and was only united as Wade Potteries Limited in 1958. The original companies were:

  • Wade & Myatt (later became George Wade & Son, who made industrial ceramics and Wade Whimsies). Established 1867.
  • John Wade & Co (later became Wade Heath & Co, who made decorative ware, particularly art deco vases in the 1930s). Established 1867.
  • J&W Wade (later became AJ Wade Ltd, who made tiles, notably the original tiles for the London Underground). Established 1891.

Sir George Wade was born George Albert Wade on the 19th July 1891 in Burslem. His father, also George, owned a pottery in Burslem. When George Jnr returned home after the First World War, (he was awarded the MC for Valour in December 1917 with a Bar added in January 1919), his father made him a partner in the company and thereafter the company was called George Wade & Son Ltd.

A prototype Art Deco figure of a lady by Jessie Van Hallen, sold at auction by Potteries Auctions

Lot 964 – A prototype Art Deco figure of a lady by Jessie Van Hallen, sold for £420 at our November 2019 Rare 20th Century British Pottery, Antique Auction.

Wade produced a wide range of wares, from jugs, bowls, vases, fancies, commemorative ware, moulded jugs, teapots, cheese dishes and nursery ware. In the 1920s and 30s, they released a cellulose range of Art Deco figurines designed by Jessica Van Hallen, featuring breathtaking Art Deco dancing ladies, ladies with dogs and many other figure studies. In the late 1930s, the figures were also produced in an underglaze range that today prove most popular with collectors and often fetch high prices in our rooms.

The underglaze range continued with the addition of animals and birds, and in the 1930s Wade commissioned Faust Emanuel Lang, a German sculptor who settled in St Ives, Cornwall, to design a series of wild animals and bird studies. These models that mostly appear with the Wade 1939 backstamp are the most valuable and sought after Wade figures, and in 1997 here at Potteries Auctions we sold a rare Faust Lang model of Ermine on a rock for £1700, which is a world record price for a single item of Wade pottery. We have sold many other Wade Faust Lang models over the years including the Polar Bear, Brown Bear, Panda Bear, Grebe, Panther, Parakeet, Parrot, Budgerigar and more.

A Wade Faust Lang underglaze Polar Bear figure and a Wade Faust Lang underglaze Brown Bear figure, both sold at auction by Potteries Auctions

Lot 622 – A Wade Faust Lang underglaze Polar Bear figure, sold for £380 at our February 2017 Rare 20th century Pottery, Antique, Collectors and Fine Art Auction, and Lot 1304 – A Wade Faust Lang underglaze Brown Bear figure, sold for £550 at our September 2016 Auction of Antiques, Fine Art & Rare Pottery, Militaria, Jewellery & Collectors items.

The 1930s Art Deco jugs and shapes under the Wadeheath Flaxman ware backstamp continued to be produced into the 1940s but, following the War, the introduction of a range of comical nursery rhyme characters, animals and birds and more really captured the hearts and minds of the nation. The range was known for its animal and bird characters that became known as the George Wade moulds, comical duck families dressed in clothes, pig lady and pig gentleman cruets and kissing rabbits.

In the 1950s, Wade began working with the talented modeller William Harper, who worked on developing the now famous Wade whimsies concept which are now known and highly-sought the world over. Figures such as the British Character set, consisting of the Pearly King & Queen, Lawyer and Fishmonger, were soon followed by Walt Disney characters from the classic movie Sword and the Stone, including Madam Min, Archimedes the Owl and Merlin as a caterpillar, turtle and hare. In 1959, the Hanna-Barbera Cartoon Classics whimsies featuring the likes of Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear and Mr Jinks, were produced for only two years, and in 1958 the popular Noddy set of Noddy, Big Ears, Mrs Fluffycat and PC Plod proved very popular and collectable.

A Wade Walt Disney Whimsies Hat Box Series, sold at auction by Potteries Auctions

Lot 495 – This Wade Walt Disney Whimsies Hat Box Series included first issue figures The Colonel, Sergeant Tippes, Rolly, Lucky, Madam Mim, Merlin Turtle, Archimedes, Merlin Hare, Girl Squirrel and Merlin Caterpillar. This impressive collection sold for £180 at our July 2019 Rare 20th Century British Pottery & Antique Auction.

The 1960s saw the introduction of Lady and the Tramp and Bambi characters to the Walt Disney whimsies range. Some of the character from this series such as Bambi, Dachsie, Jock, Trusty, Thumper and Lady, to name a few, went on to be produced in a larger 5-7inch model, known as blow ups. Prices for these models are lower now than the prices achieved during the height of their popularity during the 1990s, but they are still highly collectable throughout the world today.

Nowadays, Wade are famous for producing advertising and promotional ceramics such as whisky decanters, teapots, and butter dishes, to name a few. In 1966, for example, Wade started to work with Red Rose Tea from Canada, making whimsies for their tea brand which was the start of a 50-year working relationship for both these companies In 1968, they produced a set of small figures for Guinness using British characters such as Tony Weller, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, Nelson’s Boot and the Mad Hatter. These were promotional and produced for pubs to display at the back of the bar. In 1978, under licence by Survival Anglia Ltd, Wade produced a range of wild animals named The World of Survival Series to commemorate the award-winning TV series, which were on sale at London Zoo and only produced until 1982, so there’s not too many of these around today.

A set of Wade Guinness advertising figures, sold at auction by Potteries Auctions

Lot 414 – A set of Wade Guinness advertising figures, all in their original plain brown box with Guinness compliment slips introducing each character, sold for £220 at our March 2019 Rare 20th Century British Pottery & Antique Auction.

In 1999, there was a management takeover from Beauford PLC and Wade ceramics again began to flourish. The company opened a brand new state-of-the-art £8million factory in 2010 in Etruria and continue to work with many famous brands around the world today.

Selling Wade at Auction

If you have Wade pieces you’re looking to sell, their pieces consistently perform well at auction and our staff is well-placed to provide valuations and advice on selling your items. Call 01782 638100 or to book a valuation appointment to attend one of our Tuesday valuation days. We also provide valuations via WhatsApp, simply send some clear photographs of your items via the app to 07864 667940. Additionally, we can send you links to our catalogues via WhatsApp–message the above number via the app and ask to receive our catalogues. Make sure you are subscribed to our email newsletters, too!