The Heritage Trust has now aquired the freehold of The Bretby Art Pottery Showroom

The Heritage Trust

Bretby Art Pottery was founded in 1883 and traded initially as “Tooth & Ault” in premises at Church Gresley which was provided by Mr T G Green.  The co-founders Henry Tooth and William Ault made an impressive start and in 1884 they won a gold award at the Crystal Palace Exhibition. In the same year they registered their “Sunburst” trade mark which featured on their wares and was made up of a rising sun and the word “Bretby”.

After suffering many years of neglect, repeated arson attempts and vandalism The Heritage Trust is working towards finding a sustainable new use for the building that retains links to its historic past. To achieve this goal the building needs lots of work to bring it back to a useable condition and urgent attention is required to first make the shell waterproof and prevent further damage to the interior. It is our intention to apply for funding for the main works from the Heritage Lottery Fund, but in the short term there is a desperate need to repair the building’s roof and to make it secure and we would welcome any donations that would help us achieve this.

With ever-increasing success, they quickly outgrew the premises at Church Gresley and moved to the former brickyard site at Swadlincote Road Woodville Derbyshire. The partnership between Tooth and Ault dissolved in 1887 and the company became “Tooth & Co” for the next twenty-five years until the company was registered as “Tooth & Co Ltd” in 1912. Henry Tooth passed away in 1918 and his son William continued to run the pottery until 1933 when it was sold to Frederick Parker. Being forced to close and used for a storage depot during the Second World War meant that things had to start from scratch in 1947, but the hard work of the owners allowed the firm to recover and re-establish itself in world markets. The firm continued successfully until September 1996 when the doors finally closed for the last time.


The main pottery works where demolished approximately 15 years ago leaving the grade II Art Pottery Showroom has the only remnant of the once successful pottery business.


Bretby Pottery was once a major employer in the area with over 100 members of staff and a very important part of the local community’s industrial past. Though the Heritage Trust now working towards saving the building we are also interested in capturing the story that it can tell.


During the project we will be piecing together items of available information and tracking down those with links to the former works who can provide memories to include in the story.


If you did work at the factory or have a linked to the business in another way, we would love to hear from you so please contact us.  

When built, the showroom would have been at the peak of design with elements incorporated to showcase the design talents of Henry Tooth.


Henry Tooth was a talented individual who originally worked as a master decorator and scene painter until being befriended by Christopher Dresser who invited him to establish Linthorpe Pottery at Middlesbrough in 1879 and to stay on as the works manager. Before taking up the position Tooth, who knew little about pottery spent several months at Stoke-on-Trent studying production and he soon became very highly skilled and produced wares which won many awards. Along with painting and pottery, he like many others, during the arts and crafts movement could turn their hand to various traditional skills and whilst designing the showroom building he incorporated any of these elements into the design.


The building must have looked very grand indeed when first opened with elaborate joinery including pyrography doors, deep mouldings, pediments, fire surrounds and panelling. Within the showroom “Lincrusta” wall covering added to the opulent feel and the vaulted ceiling incorporated panels painted by Henry himself. Other items from the era including plaster and papier-mâché and stained glass were included in the design and large shop window on the front elevation was used to display the potteries wares.


A robbery soon after the business closed resulted in all of these decorative items being lost except one of the painted panels which is now restored and can be seen in the Sharpes Pottery Museum’s café.


During our restoration work it is our intention to replace these missing items and bring the building back into a state which is true to Henry Tooth’s original design.


Being a not-for-profit organisation which is run by volunteers we need your help to carry out this work and also that of the Trust. To help to save the Bretby Art Pottery Showroom donations up to £10 can be made by simply sending a text BAPS16 followed by the amount including the £ sign to 70070. For other amounts we offer several different methods and to find out more please click here.

Want to find out more about the early years of Bretby Art Pottery download a brief history here

Follow the story of the former Bretby Art Pottery Showroom on our blog, Twitter and Facebook pages. If you would like more information about this and other projects please contact us.

If you have any great ideas for fundraising event or wish to donate from an event you already planned let us know.