Anna Edith (Nancy) Catford 1905 - 1992

Nancy, as she was universally known, (Illustration 7) attended Sidcot School, Somerset, as a boarder where her lifelong interest in art began. After experimenting herself she learned woodcarving from Mr Parker at Letchworth, subsequently attending the School of Woodcarving in South Kensington. In the 1930s she moved to the Staffordshire Potteries where she designed a range of pottery, including toby jugs for Enoch Wedgwood. She also wrote and illustrated a series of six books for children.

Early in the war her Quaker background led her to join the Friends’ Relief Service which involved travelling to refugee camps in Hungary. She then worked for the Nursery School Association, when she demonstrated and wrote about the making of simple toys. In the 1950s she was a regular contributor of illustrated articles to the Daily Mail Annual.

In 1953 she married Jack Stone and worked with him on various projects, notably the renovation of Portsmouth Guildhall. She continued working independently after his death in 1979. An active member of the Society of Wildlife Artists, she loved wildlife and throughout her life specialised in drawing and carving animals and birds. (Information kindly supplied by nephew John Capper)

In a letter dated 22nd July 1980, Mrs Stone recalled her first contact with Gray’s Pottery:

“I was exhibiting wood carvings at Glasgow’s McLellan Galleries (in 1933 or 34) and with typical enthusiasm for new ideas, AE (Gray) thought that pottery animals similar to my carved ones, in the material he was experimenting with, would make a good combination. I think that they could have developed quite a lot, but unfortunately for that particular firm, I got really interested in modelling (of) which I had done very little before 1935, and I decided I would move to the Potteries and freelance, while continuing my carving at the same time. As I learned later, Mr Gray really wanted an exclusive modeller and not a general freelance. For me it was a very good development and I did a lot of work, mostly birds and animals for a number of firms, until the war diverted my activities elsewhere.”

Illustration 7
Nancy Catford engaged in her primary work - sculpting. Probably taken in the 1930s.

Free standing animal studies (Illustration 8) and various wall-mounted sculptured masks (Illustration 9) and animals (Illustration 10). These products were made in a buff-coloured earthenware, somewhat like a stoneware body, possibly by Winkle & Co at the Colonial Works in Stoke (on the opposite side of the Trent & Mersey Canal from the Gray’s works (Illustration 11). They were unique to Gray’s Pottery and were a departure from the firm’s typical products. In March 1935 the Pottery and Glass Record referred to ‘the life-like eyes in the animals’ and to ‘nut-holders’ (Illustration 12) and ‘bird-baths’ in a report on the Gray’s stand at the British Industries Fair.

Illustration 8
  • A2606 toucan, 290 high, no mark (sourced from the factory).
  • A2608 penguin, 241 high, mark N2, 6/3 (31p) in pencil on base.
  • A2611 owl, 260 high, mark N2, 9/11 (50p) and 6/- (30p) on price label on base - (these two probably denote the retail and wholesale prices).
Illustration 9
  • A2601 'rustic', 187 high, mark N2.
  • 'Sunny boy', 145 high, part-mark N2.
  • A2600 'old salt', 163 high, mark P1.
  • Photograph from Nancy Catford with a caption on the reverse:
    "I seem to have been in doubt about this - but am pretty sure it was done for AE Gray as he, I think, really preferred my rustic type carvings to animals."
All three of these masks are known to exist in slightly differing colourways eg A2602 is a coloured version of A2600.
Illustration 10
  • A2604 fox, 166 high, mark N2.
  • Pair of budgerigars, 179 high, marks N2, P1.
  • Kingfisher, 190 high, mark P1
Illustration 11
An early 1930s aerial photograph of the Gray's Whieldon Road site (centre foreground: two joined single-storey buildings with one bottle oven attached).
The Trent & Mersey canal runs behind (left to right), separating the area from Whieldon Sanitary Potteries, formerly F Winkle & Co's Colonial Works.
Photograph courtesy English Heritage (Aerofilms archive).
Illustration 12
Nut-holder, 341 high, mark N2.

A selection of postcard images of Nancy Catford’s work was offered for sale on ebay in 2012 by Andrew Dally. The following are some of his images and they help to show Nancy’s style of work as seen in the Gray’s Pottery pieces.

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