Woods Ware was manufactured by Wood & Sons established in 1865 by Absalom Wood and his son T. F. Wood. By the 20th century the company had grown to encompass a number of potteries using the brand names Wood and Sons, H.J. Wood, Bursley Ware, Manor Limited Editions, E. Radford (in the 1920's Radford was a pottery artist who worked for H J Wood), Tony Wood Studio 82, Wood Potters of Burslem. Up until the 1930s H.J. Wood was being run as a separate company however the Woods company took complete control during the war years and then onwards. Sadly the Woods family closed the company in 2005.

One of the key ranges Wood and Sons produced was
 ‘Beryl Ware,’ this was manufactured from the 1940's. Beryl ware is a pale green earthenware, and the range includes cups, saucers, plates, bowls, dishes, egg cups, jugs, sugar bowls, teapots, coffee pots, serving dishes and much more. It is now collected by many people for use everyday in their homes.

During the war years and well into the 1950s, the government strictly controlled items 
produced in the UK. The government's 'utility' scheme was designed to cope with shortages of raw materials and rationing of consumption. Domestic wares had to be cheap, durable and functional, rather than being decorative. However this did not mean that tableware had to be unattractive. Woodsware Beryl owes much to the Art Deco style (a design style Wood & Sons had worked with successfully for many years prior to the war.) 

When viewed from the side, this is particularly evident; although constrained by the utility scheme rules, the handles on Beryl ware cups are very ornate, and rather than coloured stripes, the cups have debossed banding. In the photo above a large breakfast cup is shown against a regular teacup. Very small espresso cups were also made.

Below is a pair of ultra rare Berylware cups in a more curvy shape. We have only ever found or seen these two! Have you ever seen any, or perhaps you own some?

Because the utility scheme lasted until 1952, many homes bought and used Beryl, and as a result lots of people can recall their parents or grandparents owning it. I think this is one of the reasons why people avidly collect it today - Beryl ware brings with it a nostalgia for the special people in our lives, and times gone by.

Below...a stunning example of a two handled sugar bowl with lid, which matches the shape of the teapot.

One of the most sought after pieces from the Woods ware range are the Cheese Dishes. Recently we have, over several months had two in the yay retro! shop, these were on sale for a matter of minutes such is the elusive nature of these tableware items! 

Collectors are always on the look out for these marvellous pieces of war time utility wares. Below is the cheese dish in the blue glaze Iris which is even rarer to find.

Another reason Woods utility ware is so popular could be that the colours Woods produced are all pastel, so they match in with patterned tableware you may already have, even if this is modern in design.

Alongside the green Beryl earthenware. Two other glazes were also produced. Woods Iris which is a cornflower blue...

and Woods Jasmine ware which is pale buttery yellow...

With the popularity of pastel ice cream colours right now (brought about by Cath Kitson etc), it is no wonder that Woods Ware continues to be as popular today as it once was. 

As we mentioned above, some of the more unusual Woods ware items people love to find are lugged bowls like those below.....


and cheese & butter dishes...below is one in the Piazza polka dot pattern. The overall shape is identical to that of Woods Berylware.

Cheese & butter dishes are very rare possibly as people did not invest in them at the time (a luxury item?), or perhaps because through continued use they were broken (one cheese dish per home versus lots of cups and saucers, means that cups and saucers are more likely to survive in higher numbers.)

Below a very rare lidded butter dish we sold a few years ago.

We love the understated design of Woods Ware, which is particularly evident in the cruet set...

...and also with the toast racks which are very sought after...

Some shapes are much more decorative such as this coffee or hot water pot we found just recently. If you know please do drop us an email hello@yayretro.co.uk:

This floral cheese dish is the same shape as the classic Woods dish, it is hand painted with anemones. We believe this would have been made pre-war possibly in the 1930s due to the green colouring and style of decoration. It has been signed by E.Radford.

Edward Thomas Radford, worked for H J Wood Ltd from the 1920s to the end of the 1940s. Woods marketed Radford's work with the backstamp 'E Radford, England, Hand painted', and this is one of his pieces for the company.

Woods also made ornamental pieces in the 50s such as this unusual black polka dot Piazza-ware curvy jug.

As an aside, an interesting fact is that Bursley Ltd is associated to Wood & Sons, Bursley was later renamed Susie Cooper Pottery Co. Ltd, at the Crown Pottery, Burslem - so there you go! 

Key Books:

Handbook of British Pottery 1900-2010, Michael Perry

Woods Ware in the yay retro! shop

Buy Woods Ware on our website