Antiques column, Michael Dowse: How Potter characters were captured in clay

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The Beswick Pottery in Loughton, Stoke-on-Trent was founded in 1894 by John Beswick and his father James Wright Beswick, producing domestic bone china and earthenware. In the 1930s it expanded into making animal figures and some time later came the famous Beatrix Potter figurines.

In 1948, Beswick launched the Beatrix Potter range following a suggestion from Lucy Beswick, wife of the chairman and managing director.

Mrs Beswick was from Cumbria and returned many times to the Lake District to holiday. It was during one of these holidays, which included a trip to Hill Top Farm, Beatrix Potter’s home, that the idea is said to have come to her.

So, Arthur Gredington, chief modeller, set about creating a model of Jemima Puddle-Duck, with great care being taken to be as true to the original illustrations as possible. The model of Jemima was quickly approved by Mr Beswick and the other directors and copyright was sought and successfully obtained from Frederick Warne & Co, publishers of the Beatrix Potter books.

Jemima Puddle-Duck formed the first piece in the original ten character collection launched in 1948. The other characters in the series were Tom Kitten, Timmy Tiptoes, Squirrel Nutkin, Mrs Tittlemouse, Little Pig Robinson, Benjamin Bunny, Samuel Whiskers, Mrs Tiggywinkle and of course, Peter Rabbit!

The collection was incredibly popular and still is today. Beswick was bought out by Royal Doulton in 1969 but the Beswick backstamp was in use until 1989 when it was replaced by the Royal Albert backstamp. Despite a change in ownership, Potter figures continued to be made and by 1977 all her characters had been captured in clay.

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