EVERY day many thousands of motorists pass a rather grubby old building at the bottom of Newtown Road, Worcester, just before the traffic light tunnel, probably unaware of the slightly dubious part it played in the city’s fine china industry.

Indeed, for an industry of high quality and high class clientele, the fine china world could dive low at times. In fact a newspaper report in 1891 described one of the city’s main practitioners as having a very low moral atmosphere!

But back for the moment to Newtown Road, for it was here in 1896 that Edward Locke set up his porcelain business. Locke had worked in the modelling department of the city’s world famous Royal Worcester factory, which stood less than a mile away, and knew the production process well. He then decided he wanted a slice of the action for himself.

So he left and started his own firm in the Shrub Hill area. Not surprisingly Locke’s pottery produced porcelain wares similar to some of those made by Royal Worcester at the time.

Although the quality may not have been quite as good, it was still excellent and almost certainly Locke & Co benefited from the high profile and reputation of Royal Worcester.

However Edward Locke didn’t sail along in the slip stream for very long. By 1902 Royal Worcester decided he was making too much use of the Worcester brand and gained a High Court injunction preventing Locke & Co. from using the title ‘Worcester’ on its wares without making it clear the items were not produced by the main Worcester factory.

Operating under this handicap, Locke’s business went into decline and his company eventually closed in 1914. The following year the building was taken over by noted Worcester print firm Ebenezer Baylis (now gone too) and in more recent times has had a series of industrial uses.

In 1854 Locke married Catherine Mary Lamb. Nine of their ten children survived and three of the daughters were employed in the china trade. In the 1891 census 18-years-old Kate was working for Graingers, another of Worcester’s major porcelain firms, in St Martin’s Gate as an artist.

Her father had earlier been a foreman with Graingers but by Kate’s time conditions at the factory were not favourable. The premises was criticised in the Worcester Chronicle for its “very low moral atmosphere”. Make of that what you will.

Graingers eventually sold out to the Royal Worcester Porcelain Co. and even in the early 21st century some of the moulds and designs from Grainger’s factory were still being used by Royal Worcester.