The Wileman Shelley Pottery: A brief history

Shelley CountrySide Chintz

In a nod to all those wonderful & dedicated Shelley collectors, we’re starting off our history series on English Potteries with the Wileman Shelley works.

The Shelley pottery was prolific in producing a large variety of very fine patterns in fine bone china. As the Shelley Pottery, it operated from 1925 to the late 1960s. However, the pottery got its start under Henry Wileman. Around 1860, he was producing earthenware products at the Foley pottery in Staffordshire, England. He started a second pottery for the production of fine china which became the Shelley pottery.

The Shelley name comes from Joseph Shelley who joined the Wileman family as a salesperson. In 1870, Joseph became a partner with James Wileman, Henry’s son, in Wileman & Company. James ran the original earthenware pottery and Joseph focused on the fine china production. Joseph Shelley worked hard to produced the finest quality china and expand foreign export. His son, Percy, joined the business in 1881.

Example of Shelley Backstamp

Percy Shelley brought in top artists and litho designers thereby improving the appearance of the fine china wares. He was so successful that the reputation and demand for Shelley china grew both at home and abroad. Both Wileman and Shelley wares are still avidly collected today and the value of many patterns remains high.

Wileman Foley Demitasse Empire Shape

Upon the death of his father, Percy took full control of the pottery and ran the company for about 50 years. Around 1910, he became involved in a legal battle over the use of “Foley” in his backstamp which was the name of a pottery region. After losing, he renamed his manufacturing works Shelley around 1925. Thus the Shelley brand was born.

As is true of other major English chintz manufacturers, production and creativity was greatest from the 1920’s through the 1950’s with a brief drop in the years surrounding World War II. In 1966, the company was sold to Allied Potteries.

Wileman Shelley collectors have at least three collector’s clubs accessible online with a wealth of information on history, shapes, patterns and backstamps. For detailed histories & further research, please check out the following club sites as well as the reference books listed below and available on Amazon.

Example of Wileman Foley Backstamp

Online Club Sites:

Australasian Shelley Collector’s Club

The Shelley Group

National Shelley China Club

Book Resources:

Shelley Chintz: Unlocking the Secrets of the Pattern Books by Kelly Moran

Shelley China: Schiffer Book for Collectors by Tina Skinner

Shelley Tea Ware Patterns by Sheryl Burdess

More Shelley China: Schiffer Book for Collectors by Lee Jones & Russ Nicholas

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