The Evolution of Wileman and Shelley

This page describes how the Foley Potteries evolved into Wileman & Co., then became Shelley Potteries.

  • 1820’s A new earthenware pottery was set up in the Foley district of Staffordshire, England, to make mainly transfer decorated domestic wares.  Although proprietors changed as partners were added, retired, or family members joined the management, there were no complete changes, but rather a thread of continuity from the beginnings to the sale of the business in 1966. 
  • Early proprietors were Elkin Knight & Co. (1822-26), Knight Elkin & Bridgwood (1826-40, backstamps KEB and EKB), Knight Elkin & Co. (1840-47) and J.K.Knight (1847-52). Some used Foley Potteries in their backstamps. (Do not confuse with some other local potteries which also used Foley in their trade names or backstamps, such as E Brain, James Kent Old Foley).
  • 1852  John King Knight took Henry Wileman as a partner. (Backstamps K&W and Knight & Wileman).
  • 1856  Knight retired, Henry Wileman became sole proprietor, and added a china works in 1860. (Backstamp H. Wileman)
  • 1862  Joseph B. Shelley joined the firm as a traveller.
  • 1864  Henry Wileman died and sons James F. and Charles J. became proprietors. (Backstamps J&CW and J&C Wileman). 
  • 1866  The business was divided and Charles ran the China Works, James the Earthenware Works. (Note that post 1872 Wileman & Co. backstamps, which have a large W and a large C, are sometimes misattributed to Charles Wileman, who is believed to have used C.J.W.).
  • 1870  Charles retired and James became sole proprietor of both works. (See backstamps page).
  • 1872  James Wileman (Henry’s son) and Joseph Shelley became partners to run the china works trading as Wileman & Co., mainly making fine teaware, tableware and small china items. James ran the earthenware works separately until it closed in 1892, making heavier table wares, toilet sets, etc. (See backstamps page).
  • 1884  James Wileman retired from the china works which became a Shelley family business, still trading as Wileman & Co., often with Foley China in the backstamps. A new earthenware factory was added in 1894 to make decorative larger items such as vases, pots, jugs, wall plaques, toilet sets & jelly moulds. 
  • 1910  Wileman & Co. introduced the Shelley backstamp.
  • 1925  The company name was changed from Wileman & Co. to Shelley Potteries.
  • 1940’s The earthenware factory was converted to china production.
  • 1966  The company was sold to Allied English Potteries and the potteries were used to produce other brands of china.