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Wemyss WareAuthor: Joan Ranzenhofer
( Article orginally published December 1962 )
One of the most charming of Victorian wares is the gaily decorated pottery known as Wemyss ware (pronounced weems). This interesting pottery, made from the 1880s to about 1905 shows none of the excesses of Victorian design, but is beautifully and simply decorated in a bold forthright style.
Wemyss ware was the product of the R. Heron & Sons Fife Pottery in Sinclairtown, Scotland. Its name derived from Wemyss Castle, an ancient landmark in the locality. The brilliant white earthenware was decorated underglaze in vivid polychrome and given a smooth and very glossy glaze. The quality of this ware is high indeed.
The distinctive decoration of Wemyss ware was inspired by the Northern Scottish countryside, and includes objects, flora, and fauna that were dear and familiar to the people who bought and used the wares. The Scottish national emblem, the thistle, appears on many pieces. Hens and cockerels, beehives, sloe plums, wild roses and wild strawberries are other popular themes. These basic decorative themes are found combined with deep green foliage. The same deep green was frequently used to border each piece, and to make a ribbon decoration for handles. Some pieces are found with rim or border in the typical deep Wemyss rose color.
Wemyss ware is usually found in the "useful" wares, including jam pots, honey pots (often decorated with beehives), plates, bowls, and a wide variety of mugs, ranging from small child-sized mugs to giant threehandled presentation mugs. (Mention of this ware was made in Spinning Wheel for May 1954, page 8, though no pictures were shown.)
Black and white photography cannot do justice to the group of charming and colorful Wemyss ware pieces, pictured above. The large mugs are 5 1/2 inches tall and 4?/z inches in diameter. The mug on the right is painted with three enormous wild roses in vivid pink tones; the one on the left, with sprays of Scottish field flowers in pink and mauve. Both have typical 4Vemyss greenery - leaves painted in a rich dark green and bright yellow green, with yellow enamel veining. Borders and ribbon bands on the wide handles are in the dark green. Both are incised Wemyss, with the word Wemyss also painted in green by 'the decorator. The plate is 61! inches in diameter, decorated with a cluster of deep purple sloe plums. The characteristic leaves complement the dark green rim. Mark is incised R. H. & ,S., with Wemyss Ware in a semi-circle.