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Who were Bretby Art Pottery and Tooth & Co?

Vintage Bretby Art Pottery Nursery Rhyme Bookends Models 3262 and 3263

Who were Bretby Art Pottery and Tooth & Co?

Bretby Art Pottery was started in 1882 by Henry Tooth and William Ault. The company was actually known as Tooth & Co. Ltd.

Tooth and Ault designed and built their own pottery in Woodville, Derbyshire. Manufacturing began on 25 October 1883.

They entered the Crystal Palace Exhibition in 1884 and won a gold award. Not a bad result for a first attempt! The famous ‘Sunburst’ trade mark was registered in the same year.

Breathy Sunburst Mark
Bretby Sunburst Trade Mark

The partnership was dissolved on 1 January 1887 when William Ault set up his own pottery Ault & Co in Midland Road, Swadlincote.

Tooth & Co. produced both inexpensive pressed wares, and more expensive art pottery, in a variety of shapes and sizes from large jardiniere (1-2 meters) to trinkets. They also tried to emulate other types of surfaces e.g. metals such as pewter and copper, but using ceramic.  The range of objects manufactured was also huge, not just vases but famous figures, flora, fauna and bamboo-style decorative pieces.

There are a few examples in the images below. Their designs are quite distinctive and very tactile.

I especially love their 1930s ‘Kitchen Kupboard’  Bretby Ware. It is very similar to Cornish Ware made by T.G.Green, which I have collected over the years!

Bretby Kitchen Kupboard Advert

Bretby also produced a range called Clanta or Clanta Ware

Bretby remained part of the Tooth family until 1933. After WW2 they became known as Tooth and Company Limited, Bretby Art Pottery.

From the 1950s, Bretby moved into industrial pottery before finally closing in about 1996.

Backmarks for Bretby with the iconic sunburst.

Back Marks include the familiar rising sun over the name BRETBY (1884), and HT for Henry Tooth used from 1883-1900. Made in England is only found on 20th Century examples. The impressed mark usually includes the pattern/ Design number.

Year      Design number(s)
in use in that year

1891             917
1896            1065 – 1095
1897            1116
1898            1222
1907            1678
1908            1790
1911             1852
1924            2326 – 2701
1929            2985 – 3045

However, Bretby used the same moulds over several years, and reused them several times in years much later than their original registration. This makes Bretby very difficult to date!

The Clanta and Clanta Ware impressed marks were introduced in 1914.

The following images show the Bretby sunburst impression and design number.

The former Bretby Art Pottery building has been recently acquired by the Derbyshire based ‘The Heritage Trust’ . 

According to their website:-

We hope to find a sustainable new use that retains links to the pottery industry that once thrived in the area and using funding from The Architectural Heritage we are currently undertaking a project viability study.

Let’s hope they are successful in their endeavours and provide a fitting tribute to Bretby and Tooth & Co.

Please click on the following link for Bretby products available on our website.

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2 thoughts on “Who were Bretby Art Pottery and Tooth & Co?

  1. Great post! A wealth of useful information, thank you so much!

    1. You are welcome! Thank you for commenting, it is much appreciated.

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