At the end of the nineteenth century there were a great number of potteries in Scotland producing quantities of domestic ware. Activity was centred on the Clyde and the Firth of Forth, where potters along the coasts competed for a share of domestic and colonial markets.
The brainchild of Robert Methven Heron, Wemyss Ware was first fashioned in his factory in Gallatown, Kirkcaldy, between 1882 and 1930. Heron gained vital patronage and introductions from Miss Dora Erskine-Wemyss of nearby Wemyss Castle and subsequently named the pottery after the Wemyss family.
Heron particularly admired hand decoration and recruited highly trained European painters for his family business. One of the original designers, Karel Nekola, collaborated with his employer to produce the vibrant designs that quickly became popular in high-society circles. Nekola arrived in Kirkcaldy from Bohemia in around 1882 and went on to become the head decorator at the pottery. Developing his style of painting underglazed fruits and flowers, Nekola's cabbage rose design became one the most popular and iconic of the pottery.
Signed examples by Nekola like the signed and inscribed plate illustrated here are rare to find and sought after by collectors. The artists of the Wemyss factory brought the garden, orchard and farmyard into the house in an entirely original way and ensured a lasting popularity for this colourful and exuberant pottery. The 'Knox' in the inscription on the reverse of this plate may allude to the Knox Pulpit formation, an outcrop of sandstone on the lower slopes of the Lomond Hills in west-central Fife, an area known for its sheep grazing.
The Wemyss pottery thrived until the start of WWI, when it began to struggle and eventually closed in 1930. The rights were bought by the Bovey Tracey Pottery in Devon where it continued until 1957. Wemyss Ware, famously collected by the late Queen Mother, has always attracted a large fan base.
Held once a year, every August, our specialist auction that showcases the cross section of the arts of the Jacobite period that played such an important role within the movement; from the traditional portraits, miniatures, fine silver, antique arms and rare manuscripts to the romantic and provoking relics of the rebellion and people within.