Marlow was an easy choice for our flagship store. Our owner Tamra lived in Marlow as a child and, in her previous property investment role, she had been an integral part of the curation of the retail offering in Marlow town centre for over 10 years. Marlow is very close to Tamra’s heart.
With her team of builders, Tamra spent six months carefully renovating the White House building, located right in the middle of Marlow high street. The store opened in March 2022
EARLY HISTORY OF THE WHITE HOUSE
Built in the 1730s, this beautiful Georgian building was originally built as two merchant's houses. In the late 1700s, it became the home of a young local surgeon, George Trash, and his wife, Ann. He eventually moved his business into the White House and it became an apothecary's shop and surgeon's office.
Unfortunately, George Trash died in 1796, leaving Ann with several children, including a one-month-old baby. However Ann and her older daughters used their home to set up a boarding school for young ladies. In honour of her, one of Keeeps' kilns that is now housed in the White House is named 'Ann'.
In 1821, the Wethered Brewery family bought the freehold from Ann. After that, it was for many years the home of parts of the Wethered family, from younger brothers to widows and maiden aunts. In the 20th century, the house was added to the brewery offices, and eventually became the brewery off-license.
RECENT HISTORY OF THE WHITE HOUSE
The building was sold by Berkley Homes as part of their residential development of Wethered Brewery at the rear in 1996. The White House then became a military clothing and accessories shop, with coats of armour and guns aplenty, and offices above. In 2007 the clothes store brand Jack Wills took a lease on the building. In 2018, Jack Wills went into administration and the store was let on a temporary basis to Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley, who continued to trade the building with the Jack Wills brand until a new tenant was found.
Keeeps Pottery took a lease on the building in 2021 and, together with the landlord Sorbon Estates, spent six months restoring it to its former glory and making sure it was fit for purpose for the next 300 years.
HISTORY OF POTTERY IN MARLOW
In the 18th century, there was a pottery in Davenport Wood, between Henley Road and Marlow Common which went out of business when cheap china headed down from the Midlands in the early 19th century. However, in 1895, the Sunlight Soap magnate Robert Hudson (who lived down the river at Medmenham Abbey) purchased the land and old kiln at Marlow Common (see photo taken in 1930), in order to "foster rural crafts and encourage local talent".
Hudson brought in London-born Conrad Dressler as director of the newly formed Medmenham Pottery. Dressler was a famous ceramic sculptor . A photograph of Dressler has been put up in the White House, and one of Keeeps' kilns, 'Conrad', is named after him.
Medmenham Pottery specialised in Art Nouveau decorative tiling, some of which we now have on display in our Keeeps store, and which is well sought after today. Hudson also renovated his new home Danesfield House (now a hotel), and every bathroom at that point was decorated with Medmenham Pottery tiles. One of these stunningly tiled bathrooms remains (see photo).
Dressler is also renowned as being the inventor of the first commercial tunnel kiln, with the first being built at Marlow .
Conrad Dressler and his family lived in Marlow Common at the White Cottage (now called Monk’s Corner) and whilst the pottery closed in 1906 due to lack of profitability, the family remained in Marlow until 1917 and his ceramic frieze on their home can still be seen today.