Contact us today +44 (0)1782 638100

Wade Ceramics: The End of an Era

Debbie Porter

A cold, dark Monday morning in January saw a bittersweet moment come to pass, with members of the Potteries Auctions team visiting the premises of the now former Wade Ceramics Ltd.

Everyone within the world of pottery and ceramics will naturally be saddened by the recent demise of Wade Ceramics – it’s indeed the end of a household name. Owing to rising energy costs, exacerbated by the current economy and the falling-through of a major deal, the company had been faced with the difficult decision to cease trading and call in the administrators. The consequent loss of jobs for all members of staff is undoubtedly unfortunate, and those affected remain uppermost in the minds of Potteries Auctions staff.

The closing-down of the Wade Ceramics has, in turn, resulted in the need for all the assets from the company’s premises to be sold. It has, therefore, fallen to Potteries Auctions to facilitate the sale of the many unique items that resided in the factory archives, or decorated the interior of the offices and reception. This includes special and unique items from various moments in Wade’s great history – pieces that may have never been seen outside the company premises.

Wade Kelloggs Frosties Tony the Tiger advertising items

Many pieces produced by Wade were branded promotional items. These Kelloggs Frosties Tony the Tiger advertising items includes two money banks, along with three figures, and will be featured in our March Fine Art sale, estimated at £30-£60.

The earliest days of Wade began in 1810 with the Henry Hallen pottery established near Chesterton, producing items for the textile industry. The company traded successfully for nearly 100 years until 1905, when the company was taken over by George Wade & Son. George Wade & Son were themselves one of several ceramic businesses operated by various members of the Wade family, beginning 1867. These unified in 1958 as Wade Potteries Limited, eventually becoming Wade Ceramics Limited in 1987.

Wade whisky decanters

Wade produced a wide variety of whisky and similar decanters. This lot, for example, will be featured in our March Fine Art sale, with an estimate of £20-£40.

During the company’s long-lived tenure, a diverse combination of pieces were produced; their iconic gluggle jugs have become synonymous with the Wade name, as well as their broad range of Whimsies animal figures. On top of this, they produced industrial ceramics and licensed pieces, comprising ceramic bottles for various drinks brands, plus other branded drinkware such as carafes. Advertising figurines, souvenirs, teapots, vases and more besides also formed a significant part of their repertoire.

Among the items retrieved from the Wade Ceramics premises, several of the pieces to be featured in upcoming sales are special, unique items from significant moments in the company’s history. One item in particular is the product of an experimental endeavour, quietly set up to explore design concepts in isolation from commercial pressures: A highly stylised and large figure, known by many as ‘IVY’. The stunning item was produced as a symbolic figure, conceptualising thoughts and ideas surrounding the 1951 Festival of Britain and was officially titled ‘Festival 51’. Valued at £2,000-£4,000, the one-of-a-kind piece will be featured in our March Fine Art sale.

Wade IVY sculpture

The large Wade figure ‘IVY’, to be featured in our July Fine Art sale, estimated at £2,000-£4,000.

The same piece above, as pictured in ‘The World of Wade Book 2’ by Ian Warner and Mike Posgay, stood between Colin Melbourne on the left and George Wade on the right.

Another unique piece of Wade history collected from the premises is a mosaic feature, produced by artist Philip Hardaker. The piece portrays notable elements from company and factory’s history and is adorned with all manner of assorted pieces, summing up the history and diversity of what they produced. It had originally resided in the reception area at the Wade headquarters. The piece is valued at £1,000-£2,000 and is also to be featured in our March Fine Art sale.

The Wade mosaic by Philip Hardaker

The Wade mosaic, by Philip Hardaker, to be featured in our March Fine Art sale, with an estimate of £1,000-£2,000.

The items collected from the company’s premises naturally include a great many pieces, understood to have either been prototype or colour sample pieces, which had been kept in the factory archives. These include a variety of their easily recognised gluggle jugs in a myriad of colourways and sizes.

Wade gluggle jugs

To be featured in our March Fine Art sale, with an estimate of £40-£80, is this lot of three Wade gluggle jugs in different sizes and colours.

Among the various types of figures produced by Wade, their eminently collectible Wade Whimsies are also popular. Collections of differing types were received by our team from the factory archives, including coloured, pearl, dip white and dip gold finish items. Invariably, they feature handwritten notes to the bases, suggesting they may have been produced as prototypes or colour samples.

dip gold Wade Whimsies figures

This collection of dip gold Whimsies will be one of a range of lots featured in our March Fine Art sale, estimated at £30-£60.

The pieces highlighted here offer only a glimpse of what is to be featured in multiple upcoming auctions. They are products of an illustrious company – a household name and producer of easily-recognisable and popular items, which has sadly joined the growing list of prestigious ceramics companies that are no longer trading.

While Potteries Auctions considers it a great privilege to be custodian of these wonderful items, it remains a bittersweet occasion, tinged with sadness at the loss of a well-known, popular and innovative ceramic manufacturer.

Wade prototype limited edition Jack the Ripper figure for S&A Collectables Ltd

This prototype limited edition Jack the Ripper figure for S&A Collectables Ltd, featuring the handwritten date of 30/7/99 to the base, will be included in our July Fine Art sale later this year, estimated at £50-£100.

Selling Wade Pieces at Auction

Are you looking to sell Wade pieces? Our team of experts can value your items and provide advice on consigning to auction and which of our sales might be most appropriate. We hold valuations days every Tuesday at our Silverdale showroom. Please call 01782 638100 or email to book an appointment.

If you’re unable to attend, valuations are also available via WhatsApp on 07864 667940, or you can message our Facebook page. Additionally, we can arrange home visits to value your collections.

1 thought on “Wade Ceramics: The End of an Era”

Comments are closed.