Dewsberry Gilmore Guest

The Staffordshire potteries

Two talented artists, a couple of thriving businesses and three houses in Staffordshire: Thomas Chapman Dewsberry (1817-1892) was the head of a prosperous Victorian family.  But life had not always been so easy for the Dewsberrys.  His father Thomas Dewsberry (1783-1826) had gone to sea as a cabin boy and through his own endeavour risen to be a sea captain, living in a large house in Liverpool. He was master of the brig Constitution when he drowned off Demerara on the north coast of South America.  According to an account written by his grandson  the proceeds of the sale of a plantation were lost with his body and his wife and children were left penniless as a result.

Sent to live in lodgings, Thomas Chapman worked in the Herculaneum Pottery in Liverpool. Food was in short supply and he often faced near starvation. It was at a pottery in Saint Helens that he met Richard Guest (1803-1862), married his daughter Sarah (1823-1897) and set out on foot with the Guest family to Burslem where the families fortunes were to change once again.

Thomas became the first employee of James MacIntyre, the man who went on to run the Washington Works which later employed William Moorcroft.  He fired MacIntyre’s ovens and as the business grew the family thrived on the proceeds.  Thomas and Sarah had twelve children, seven of whom survived. Two of their sons were talented artists.

David Dewsberry

Richard Dewsberry

David Dewsberry (1851-1929) was world famous for the orchids he painted for the Doulton factory where he worked between 1889 and 1919. Examples of his work change hands today for tens of thousands of pounds. George Henry Dewsberry (1857-1939) started a business decorating tiles, some of which are said to be in Osborne House,  Queen Victoria’s home on the Isle of Wight.

Richard Dewsberry (1841-1906) moved to South Wales to run the Llanelly Pottery with his uncle David Guest (1825-1892).  Richard was one of the leading lights in Park Church, the chapel set up to cater for the growing number of English speaking pottery workers in Llanelli.  Margaret Dewsberry (b1848) married another potter William Walker (1844-1903), Thomas Dewsberry (1862-1921) lost an arm in a railway accident in 1874 at Black Bull railway station: he later became stationmaster at Congleton in Cheshire.  Sarah Dewsberry (b1856) stayed at home caring for her sister Elizabeth (1846-1916) who had a learning disability.

Thomas had been introduced to the temperance movement by his father-in law Richard Guest (1803-1860), described by his son George as “a great drunkard” before he signed the pledge.  George Henry Dewsberry later became involved in the Christian Science movement. David Dewsberry conducted the Burslem Congregational Choir for thirty years. His gravestone at Burslem Cemetery bears the words ‘gone to join the choir invisible’.

In 2018 a daguerreotype was sold at auction in Cardiff, now believed to be of Thomas, Sarah and Richard

Thomas Chapman, Sarah and Richard Dewsberry

Robert Gilmore (1811-1881) was another fire man who became a pottery manager and accumulated a substantial estate.  Born in Glasgow he moved to Stoke and then to Burlsem.  In his will he leaves twenty houses, four in Lyndhurst Street in Burslem, four in nearby Orme Street in Burslem and 12 in Bradwell Street in Longport as well as a ‘piece of land he has lately purchased in Joseph Street in Burslem’.

According to a report in the Staffordshire Daily Sentinel, more than 200 people attended his funeral including members of the temperance and overmen’s society.  When he retired in 1869 at the age of 58 he was presented with a portrait by the ovenmen of the potteries.  He sat on the Board of Arbitration ‘as a member of which he had won the respect of both employers and workmen by his manly straightforwardness and conciliatory bearing’.  ‘A zealous Christian’ He was a member of the New Methodists at Dalehall, the local temperance society and the Burslem Board of Health.

A painting by George Henry Dewsberry – a gift to Irene Bloor nee Rogerson on her 21st Birthday in 1937

A plate painted with orchids by David Dewsberry


  • David Woolliscroft
    November 23, 2016 - 6:40 pm | Permalink

    Do you know where you got the information about Thomas Dewsberry loosing an arm in a railway accident from ? Your web site mentions a BoT accident report, but not a date or other reference for it, and I can’t find it. I have the same story about him, but I have no idea where I heard it. As I understand it, he was already a railway employee at the time, aged 12, working in the North Staffordshire Railway Telegraph Office.
    I published a book with Mike Fell about this time last year, on the men commemorated on the North Staffordshire Railway’s war memorial at Stoke (“Gone to War: The North Stafford’s Fallen Railwaymen” Lightmoor Press) and researched his son Reg, who died in France in 1916. You are right that Thomas was stationmaster at Congleton, but before that he had been stationmaster at Pipe Gate, and then Rocester. Reg also went on the railway before the war, as did his older brother, Thomas Jnr. I am now writing a piece on the NSR’s attitude to disabled employees, which was distinctly enlightened for the time, so am looking at Thomas more closely.
    Many thanks. David Woolliscroft.

  • Cate Garratt
    November 28, 2016 - 11:13 pm | Permalink

    Hi David,
    The info on Thomas Dewsberry may have come from me originally – I found it online, and the notes I’ve made read:

    “Source: S-2121915331 Title: Report: Railway Accidents – Thomas Dewsbury Publication: Board of Trade Accident Returns, 1874, p193 Note: 1874: North Staffordshire – cont, CONT 6 Nov: As a good train was passing through Black Bull Station, Thomas Dewsbury, a lad telegraph clerk, attempted to jump on the step of the break van, but stumbled and fell, and the wheel of the van passed over his arm, which was so severely injured that it was afterwards amputated.”

  • Sandra Dewsberry
    May 7, 2017 - 3:10 pm | Permalink

    David Dewsberry was my great great uncle. George Henry Dewsberry was my great great grandfather. They were both artists for Royal Doulton. I can confirm that some of George Henry’s painted tiles are in Osborne House on the Isle of Wight.

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