Established in 1965, the World of Groggs had a somewhat humble beginning. In what was first a desperate attempt to escape the rat race, founder John Hughes entered the world of ceramics via a back garden shed, and the first of the Groggs were born. From this makeshift studio came an army of weird and wonderful creations – mythical creatures from Welsh legend, small animal caricatures and ashtrays, along with the now unmistakable sporting ‘Uglies’, clay rugby figures which would become the template for the future.
John working in the Groggshop early 70's ~ The 'Shed' in Llantwit Road late 60's ~ An early glazed Clown.
With the increasing success of Welsh rugby, a shed was no longer enough to sustain this developing ceramic community. The World of Groggs was growing fast and needed a suitable home. The derelict Dan-y-Graig pub on the Broadway in Pontypridd provided the space and location for the Groggs to flourish and became a permanent base in 1971. The building was converted, painted in Welsh colours and given a name. The Groggshop gallery and studio had begun.
The former 'Dan-Y-Graig Arm's now John Hughes Pottery early 70's ~ Richard (12) working on his favourite subject.
The following years saw the tradition of the Groggs develop into a family legacy. After choosing a career in ceramics over further education, Richard and Cathy followed their father into the business. Combining talent and years of paternal encouragement, Richard joined forces with John to keep the Grogg Hall of Fame growing ever faster, taking over making the faces in 1978. As Welsh rugby entered the Golden Era, the World of Groggs followed, celebrating the Welsh team with figures of Wales ’ sporting heroes, including Gareth, Barry, Gerald, Phil, JPR, Mervyn and the legendary Pontypool Front Row. This won the Groggs global recognition, not to mention a few famous fans! The list of supporters has become even bigger since, with a legion of avid collectors and an array of household names who love being a part of the World of Groggs’ heritage.
Richard works on Dai Morris ~ Cathy paints a large action JPR in 1983.
Over time, the range at the Groggshop has grown to encompass many different subjects. These include sporting heroes, stars of the film and music world, humorous animals and professional characters. Also, a nod towards Welsh history; representations of the famous dragon and a reminder of our industrial past in the Land of My Fathers Collection . These figures, depicting traditional colliers from a bygone era, are true to life and were modelled on the coal-mining ancestors of the Hughes family. The Grogg family is steadily increasing every year to include more old favourites and the stars of tomorrow, but the World of Groggs keeps its focus firmly on creating highly collectible pieces of outstanding quality and workmanship. Customers can be assured that every figure has been individually designed, created and made in Wales and the low production increases the product’s desirability and value.
The Grogg Team 2011 & 2015.
Despite boasting an excellent website and worldwide mail order service, the Hughes family love collectors, new customers and tourists to visit the Groggshop itself. Here one can view the full collection of figures along with the museum, a monument to Grogg history spanning the shop’s 55 year establishment. A vast range of treasured memorabilia can be found here, including shirts, socks and boots of rugby and soccer stars alongside the famous autograph wall where many famous visitors have left their mark. Photographs of personalities with their prized figures can be seen at every turn, making the World of Groggs a must-see for any Grogg fan. There is always a warm welcome waiting for visitors, along with the opportunity to chat about your favourite Groggs!
For an in-depth view of our history take a look at A Grand Slam of Groggs, a visit to each Welsh Grand Slam in Grogg form while detailing how Groggs are made and stories from our 55 year old family business.
The Golden Groggshop
In 1971 my parents, John and Pamela, took the brave and somewhat risky decision to move from our family home at 26 Llantwit Road to the derelict public house on the Broadway, then called the Danygraig Arms. Dad had been working with clay since the early 1960s from his ‘two sheds’ at the back of the house in Llantwit Road. Following some small but encouraging sales through an agent, he quickly realised direct contact with customers was the way forward and in 1965 he began looking for new premises.
Photo Uncredited - believed to be The Griffin Arms circa 1900's
He needed a property which could serve as a family home, ceramic studio and a gallery which would be accessible to the public. My mother was working as a teacher in Parc Lewis school which was directly opposite a derelict pub, and encouraged Dad to give it the once over. There had been a public house on the location since the mid nineteenth century, its name having changed many times over the years. Latterly known as the Griffin Arms, then the Danygraig Arms, the pub had been empty since 1967 as the brewery who owned it had decided the ancient cellar was too small. The property was in a terrible mess - everything of any value had been stripped from it but, determined to seize the day, my parents decided to make an offer of £2000. The offer was accepted, and renovations began.
The Danygraig Arms - Photo credit the David Beilby collection https://davidbeilby.zenfolio.com/ - Dated 1963
Dad attempted to make it habitable, in part by drafting in us children to help strip the old wallpaper from the walls and clean the mould from the windows with toothbrushes, while doing some of the heavier work himself. This led one day to him getting stuck between two floors like a character in a cartoon. He’d been working in an upstairs bedroom when the inside door handle fell off, leaving him locked inside.
Freezing and hungry, he decided to try and squeeze through the hole in the floorboards, only to get stuck half way through like a bearded Winnie the Pooh. After hours of struggling, he finally wriggled out of his overcoat and dropped Houdini-like into the saloon bar below. Scratched and shaken, he managed to walk down the road to Bruno’s cafe where he was revived with a hot cocoa stiffened with a drop of brandy! At this point, Dad realised it would take professional skills to get the project off the ground. Luckily, one of his first collectors, Byron James, was a property developer, and he took over the project, organising the gutting, rewiring and plumbing of the rather cold and spooky shell of a building.
To us kids it was amazing. The place still had its bar intact, a smoking room, a ladies lounge and two pianos upstairs in the function room. Even a young Dame Shirley Bassey had sung at the Danygraig, borne out by her signature and phone number scribbled on the wall next to the pay phone! Sadly the pianos had to be broken up to get them downstairs.
As time moved on, the shop began to take shape, when an unforeseen setback almost halted proceedings. Dad had applied to the local council to convert the shop into a working pottery only to have his application denied as kilns were deemed too dangerous. Once it was pointed out that the kilns being used were electric, the council approved the change of use, and the Groggshop was up and running.
The Danygraig becomes the John Hughes Gallery in 1971
1971 had been a significant year for many reasons, but most importantly, Wales had won a Grand Slam in the spring. Dad had already turned his focus from esoteric figures based on the Old Testament, the Mabinogion and animals to making rugby figures. The first of these were Gareth Edwards and JPR Williams, who had starred in the success of the young and super-talented Welsh Team at the dawning of the ‘Decade of the Dragon’.
Coincidentally, Dad had already met a certain young Welsh fly half by the name of Barry John who also frequented Bruno’s cafe just down the road. Before Barry was crowned King John, taming the mighty All Blacks in his Lions shirt later that summer, he was kind enough to encourage Dad in his dreams over cups of milky coffee and even visited the ramshackle work-in-progress to give it his approval.
Slowly, word spread about the eccentric artist on the Broadway with a love for rugby. With Wales winning Grand Slams and Triple Crowns almost every year in the 70s, the Groggshop started to receive more visitors and sometimes even the players themselves. Needless to say, growing up in this environment, us kids were in seventh heaven and watching the old pub transform into Dad’s idea of an art gallery soon had us making our very own Groggy figures!
Photo reproduced by kind permission Rhondda Cynon Taf Libraries - circa early 80's and painted yellow and brown!
The building itself went through several transformations over the years both inside and out. The exterior of the shop has been many different colours, from bottle green to yellow and brown, before Dad decided to wear his heart on his sleeve and finally opted for the colours of the Welsh flag. The iconic red, green and white Groggshop had arrived.
Inside, the rooms have changed use many times - some of the walls have come and gone and then come back again. The former garage is now the Groggshop museum, but for most of its life was our moulding room, with shelves full of moulds bearing the names of the world’s greatest rugby stars. The famous ‘Wall of Fame’ signature wall - now in my studio - was once in the firing room, which for many years housed two giant kilns. Simon’s packing room, in a former life, was the ladies powder room. The original main bar was Dad’s first studio, but over the years the shop space has grown to encompass the whole of the front of the building, its ceilings entirely covered with shirts (and shorts and socks) generously donated to us by international players from the past 50 years.
The building has served us well as a home, studio and shop and retains its unique character and atmosphere. I love the place and can’t imagine it being anything other than the Groggshop. It has been my home and my life and holds so many amazing memories for us all.
Cheers Groggshop and a happy 50th Birthday!
Some Famous quotes from the past.
'There's nowhere else in the world quite like the Groggshop. It's one of a kind' - Graham Henry 2019
'Richard Hughes is the Michelangelo of Welsh Rugby. Like his father John before him, he's carved out a very special place in the game, contributing to its culture as much as anyone who donned the red jersey' - Carolyn Hitt 2019
"....The most famous pieces of rugby pottery on Earth!" - First XV Rugby Magazine
"In Welsh Rugby, to win an International Cap is to achieve a lifetime's ambition; to get 19 caps, is to prove yourself as an International among internationals; but to have a Grogg made of yourself is the rarest of honours and the surest sign that you have entered the myth." -Nick Pitt, The Sunday Times 1995
"To be selected for immortality in the pantheon of Groggs in this way, (Neil) Jenkins says, is perceived by many sportsmen as an honour somewhere between a knighthood and an appearance on Desert Island Discs. 'A Welsh Cap comes first,' he grins. 'Then becoming a Grogg, and third comes selection for the Lions.'" - Alan Road, The Times 1999
".....The Madam Tussauds of the Valleys...." -South Wales Echo
"Many nations have their rugby cartoonists but none boasts a potter caracaturist like this son of a miner who took up his unique craft after becoming tired of local government. John Hughes' products are treasured by the player themselves, they sell to rugby folk all over the world, and some fanatics have even asked to be buried with 'Gareth' or 'Barry' beside them in the coffin."-David Parry Jones, The Rugby Clubs of Wales
"Forget all the accolades heaped on Will Carling by the critics, the true test of fame is the popularity of his Grogg Shop figure." -Rugby News 1991
"One of the places I always like to take them (visiting friends) is to the Groggshop - although it's not a large shop you can spend ages browsing as there is so much to see and the Hughes family are not only clever in they do, they are also extremely friendly - and rugby mad!" - Raewyn Henry, South Wales Echo 1999