Story of Sharpe’s

Sharpe’s Pottery of Swadlincote in South Derbyshire is unique for having remained on the same site for 200 years

Did you know?

The Grade II listed original bottle kiln, together with substantial attached workshop buildings are believed to be the oldest surviving sanitary pottery works in the country and maybe the world.

The founder was Thomas Sharpe. He came from a farming background and established the pottery in 1821.

Starting with the manufacture of functional wares such as tea pots and pie dishes the family business quickly responded to a growing demand for making ceramic sanitary wares including toilets, wash basins and urinals.

In 1855, family member Edmund Sharpe designed, then patented an item of sanitary ware that we all still use today; the ‘Wash-Down’ water closet, more commonly known to us as a toilet.

Sharpe’s wasn’t the only pottery to produce these products. The Stoke on Trent potteries including Wedgwood and Minton amongst others, were supplying similar goods to a growing wealthy and elite clientele from the 1800’s onwards.

Sharpe’s entered the sanitary market at exactly the right time

The Health Legislation Acts of Parliament passed during the years 1848 to 1875 came into effect and created an enormous demand for sanitary ware of every description.

Edmund Sharpe’s invention of the ‘Wash-Down’ water closet (toilet) enabled Sharpe’s Potteries to become the world’s leading manufacturer of ceramic sanitary ware.

However, the Clean Air Acts between 1956-1967 together with international as well as local competition from companies such as Doulton and Twyfords resulted in a decline in production. Coal fired kilns became redundant, as did many people.

The inability to sustain the necessary investment required to expand and modernise meant that Sharpe’s Pottery finally closed in 1968.

Today, Sharpe’s Pottery Museum reflects the legacy of its founder Thomas Sharpe.

The inventive mind of Edmund Sharpe is still with us now though!