Petrus Regout (1801–79)
Regout was called the ‘pottery king’ of the Netherlands. He established a powerful family business at Maastricht producing ceramics and glassware. He diversified into other industries and led the industrialisation of the city.
His family for several generations before him were merchants who dealt in pottery and glass. After his father died when he was 13 his mother continued the shop and he left school to help her. A few years later he added a crystal engraving workshop where employees could cut crystal that he brought from a factory at Seraing in Belgium.
His marriage in 1825 gave him capital from his wife’s family. He invested in a site on the new basin on the Zuid-Willemsvaart canal, where he could receive raw materials easily and send out his products. In 1830 a Dutch ban on importing Belgian goods following the Belgian Revolution led Regout to begin manufacturing glass himself. He attracted skilled workers from Belgium and France and installed a steam engine. In 1834 he established a partnership to make wire and nails. In 1836 he began a pottery factory that by 1848 employed 600 people. Most of the pottery it produced was simple tableware based on models from the Staffordshire potteries in England. Some decorative and commemorative ceramics were made for specialist markets. During the 1840s, he diversified further and founded with partners a rifle factory, a gasworks and a papermill. By the early 1860s the pottery and glass factories employed 2,000 people. Regout marketed his products internationally with great success. He built housing for his workers, notably the seven-storey Cité Ouvrière apartments.
In 1870 Regout passed the management of the business to his three sons, led by his eldest son, Petrus II. At the time he died the factories covered 10 hectares. In 1899, when the glass and ceramic company was renamed as De Sphinx v/h Petrus Regout & Co, it was one of the largest producers in the world.
Regout’s reputation in Maastricht for the treatment of his workers is debated. Unusually, he built houses and provided health insurance for them. However, his son of the same name was notorious for his hostility to his employees.