Investor needed to rescue ailing Wemyss Ware

Griselda Hill's Wemyss Ware pottery in Ceres is under threat.  Picture Ian Rutherford
Griselda Hill's Wemyss Ware pottery in Ceres is under threat. Picture Ian Rutherford

One of Britain’s most famous pottery firms, which has close links with royalty, could be on the brink of collapse unless a new investor is found.

Griselda Hill, who runs Wemyss Ware from a studio in Ceres, paid off her entire workforce - two painters, one potter and two shop staff - at New Year.

The firm, which was established by Robert Heron in Kirkcaldy in 1882, was revived in 1985 by Griselda Hill, who still produces its distinctive range of pigs, cats and dogs today.

She said: “I feel very sad because my staff had built up such a very good skill base and it was so sad to see them go.

“It was also a horrible time to have to go, being at the end of the year, but I had to make a decision.”

Ms Hill, who now works alone, said that despite relatively healthy sales, rising costs, which included VAT, rates, pensions and the living wage, left her with “not enough to live on.”

“When I first started there were so many more Americans and tourism was a mainstay of the pottery,” she explained.

“I’ve been through a recession twice and, although I don’t want to get political, the government keeps piling pressure on small employers.”

She added: “What I would like is a backer or a buyer. Or to move premises to an established tourist attraction in Scotland, ideally Fife.”

Wemyss Ware - so called by Robert Heron in honour of the local Wemyss family - was particularly loved by the late Queen Mother, who reputedly amassed the largest private collection in the UK.

The original Fife pottery closed in 1930 during the Great Depression and the rights to Wemyss Ware were bought by the Bovey pottery in Devon.

In 1957 Bovey Pottery closed after a protracted strike by the workforce and little of note was produced until Griselda Hill revived the style in 1985.

Early pieces of Wemyss Ware are highly sought after by collectors but contemporary Wemyss Ware still has links with Britain’s royal family today.

“The Queen had a cabbage rose vase and for her eightieth birthday somebody commisioned us to make a second one,“ said Ms Hill.

“She liked that so much she bought two more for Balmoral.”

Ms Hill added: “I’m older than I am younger and I would feel proud to pass this legacy on.”