Bristol Potters and Potteries

Research by Reg Jackson

Chapter 6

The Brislington and Bristol Potteries’
Regional and International Trade in
Tin-Glazed Earthenware

Regional Trade

Few details survive concerning the transfer of earthenware from manufacturer to consumer; no documentary evidence has been found for the regional sale and distribution of tin-glazed earthenware produced at the Brislington and Bristol potteries. What little that can be said about this aspect of the potters’ business must be inferred from the few references discovered elsewhere in England.

It is assumed that earthenwares could be purchased or ordered directly from the pottery where the vessels were displayed in some form of warehouse. While this might have been possible where the potters were working in close proximity to a large number of potential customers, as with those located within Bristol, the Brislington pottery was rather inaccessible for that type of trade. However, it lay close to a stretch of the River Avon navigable at high tide which would have given the potters comparatively easy access to Bristol and sales to its citizens must have initially been a major source of their income. It seems likely that the Brislington potters had outlets for their wares in the city and probably used retailers as a means of selling to customers.

Wares would have been sold to customers in surrounding towns, villages, outlying farms and houses by itinerant vendors carrying baskets and crates of pots – the ‘poor cratemen’ – who probably worked on commission for particular potters.

Although no sales records of tin-glazed earthenware potteries are known to survive, a fragment of a late 18th-century pottery account book, preserved within a parish register of St. John’s church, Bedminster, provides some information concerning the distribution of wares, although the utilitarian red earthenwares involved were not intended for such a specialised market as tin-glazed wares and they were almost certainly subject to more competition from other locally and regionally based red ware potters. The pottery concerned was situated in Bedminster, one kilometre south-west of Bristol, and was owned by the Room family; the surviving accounts being for the period September 1788 to October 1789. A large proportion of the wares were sold in Bristol with smaller amounts going to villages in Somerset, such as Yatton, Rodney Stoke, Chew Stoke, Shipham, Chilcompton, Wells, Whitchurch, Brislington, Timsbury, Langford and Bath.

None of these were further than 40 kilometres from the pottery. Those destinations further afield were all accessible by ship or flat-bottomed vessels – up the River Wye to Chepstow, Llandogo and Ross, along the River Severn to Broadoak and Tewkesbury and down the Bristol Channel coast to Minehead.

Similarly, the Brislington and Bristol tin-glazed earthenware potters were well placed for the distribution of their wares by means of ships operating out of the Port of Bristol, which provided links with the towns and villages on the River Severn and its tributaries and with all the coastal ports around the south-west of England and Wales.

Local fairs and markets were probably also an important way of selling earthenware and obtaining orders from customers. St. James’ Fair in Bristol was the largest fair in south-west England and Defoe in his A Tour through … Great Britain of 1724 to 1726 could well have been describing St. James’ Fair when he wrote: ‘Wholesalemen, from London, and all parts of England, who transact their business wholly in their pocket-books, and meeting their chapmen from all parts, make up their accounts, receive money chiefly in bills, and take orders. They say they exceed by far the sale of goods actually brought to the fair, and deliver’d in kind; it being frequent for the London wholesale men to carry back orders from their dealers for ten thousand worth of goods a man and some much more’.

In theory the examination of tin-glazed earthenwares recovered from archaeological excavations carried out in south-west England, Wales and the Midlands should give some idea of the extent of distribution of Brislington and Bristol made wares. However, until such wares can be positively distinguished from those made in London and elsewhere by means of an extensive comparative study of kiln waste from the various manufacturing centres, the place of origin of excavated wares cannot be stated with certainty. For this reason the excavators of pottery groups have generally exercised caution with their attributions of tin-glazed earthenwares, ascribing them to ‘London or Bristol’ or just simply calling them ‘English’ (for example, Allan 1984).

International Trade

The Port Books

The series of documents in the Public Record Office known as the ‘Port Books’ are records of custom duties paid at particular ports that were sent to the Exchequer between 1565 and 1799, and were established under an Exchequer Order of November 1564 in an attempt to tighten up the administration of the customs in England and Wales (PRO class E190). They begin at Easter 1565, although Bristol was not treated as a separate port from Gloucester until 1575, and continue until the late 18th century when the series was ended by a Treasury Order of 14 March 1799. The books are made of parchment and range in size from a few folios to massive volumes of up to 700 folios; the largest for Bristol during the period covered by this study being that for the year 1683 at 311 folios. The books were written entirely in English rather than Latin but are often difficult to read because of the vagaries of phonetic spelling, foreign place names being particularly difficult to understand, and numerous abbreviations were used, but these become clear with experience.

Normally separate books were used to record internal coastal trade and overseas trade. There are also different series of books created by different types of local customs official – the Collector or ‘Customer’ who had to make a return of all goods exported or imported and all moneys received, for which he issued a ‘cocket’ (receipt); the Controller who had to make a similar return but did not receive the payments; and the Searcher, appointed to prevent fraud, who had to make an independent return based on his examination of the goods and also return a warrant that he had done so. The writer’s research has shown that the most comprehensive and detailed information on cargoes is to be found in the records of the Collector and Controller and, except where those series of Port Books are missing for particular years, the records kept by the Collector and Controller have been used in this study wherever possible.

In making their entries in the Port Books the customs officers tended to follow a common pattern. They noted down the date on which duty was paid (not the date of loading or unloading the cargo); the name, tonnage and home port of the ship; in the 18th century whether the ship was British built; the name of the ship’s master; the ship’s destination or port to which it was sailing next; the names of the merchants who were supplying the goods being loaded (sometimes giving a merchant’s mark); and a detailed description of the cargoes that were being shipped. Finally they give the amount of duty paid, based on the official valuation laid down in the Book of Rates (not the real value of the goods), which was revised periodically. For example, in the year 1700 duty was levied on English earthenware shipped through the port of Bristol at a rate of one penny per fifty pieces.

Altogether nearly 20,000 Port Books have survived, although some, including those from Bristol, are in too dilapidated a condition to be consulted. There are some major gaps in the series: for example, the London Books for the period 1697 to 1799 were destroyed in the 1890s because, it was argued, the series was incomplete and many of the existing books were decayed or illegible. Many for the period of the Civil Wars and Interregnum are unfortunately missing – a period which is important in a study of the early development of the tin-glazed earthenware industry. For the period from the establishment of the Brislington pottery in about 1652 until 1678, the only overseas Port Books surviving for Bristol are those for the years 1662, 1668 and 1672. Between 1672 and 1700 the books for 1689 to 1693 inclusive are missing and those for the years 1684 and 1698 are incomplete. The Port Books for 1703 to 1705 are also missing but are present for all years after that date, although those kept by the Collector and Controller have not always survived.

The Use of the Port Books

The Port Books have been mainly used in tracing the development of the trade of individual ports, groups of ports, regions, or the country as a whole. Port Books can reveal, among other things, the changing geographical structure of trade, the growing or declining importance of particular commodities in the import and export trades, the proportion of trade conducted by particular merchants or carried by particular ships, and the dominance of certain merchants over the trade of a port. In the case of the present study, the Port Books are being used to show the fluctuations in the export of English earthenwares over the period 1662 to 1726, the international distribution of that commodity and the changing importance of overseas markets over that time.

It would be a mistake to assume that the officially collected and very detailed data contained in the Port Books is completely accurate. The information should be used with caution for a number of reasons. Many historians have pointed out that the Port Books under-recorded the volume of trade because of two types of fraudulent activity; smuggling and the deliberate failure of the officers to record some cargoes in order to augment their somewhat meagre stipends by pocketing the duty paid to them by the merchants, although in the case of bulky and relatively inexpensive items such as pottery it seems unlikely that smuggling was a major problem. Some exports may not have been recorded due to simple oversights on the part of officials or merchants. The quantities given to particular commodities in cargoes may have been mis-recorded due to administrative errors. Thus it has been suggested that Port Books do not provide trade statistics but only a record of a part of the trade passing through particular ports, albeit the major part of that trade (Clarke 1938, 55). Nevertheless, despite these shortcomings, the Port Books are the most valuable, and only, extensive source of information on overseas and coastal trade in this country and without them it would be extremely difficult, and often impossible, to make any meaningful statement about the development of trade, especially in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Published Research on the Bristol Port Books

The Bristol Port Books have been used as a source of information on trade by a number of researchers, but their published material mainly comprised specimen entries from selected Port Books to illustrate the nature of coastal and overseas trade through Bristol during the sixteenth (Vanes 1979), seventeenth (McGrath 1955) and eighteenth centuries (Minchinton 1957). Sacks (1991) in his study of Bristol’s connection with the Atlantic trade from 1450 to 1700 made considerable use of the Port Books for providing statistics on customs duties and destinations. Only one specific trade – the slave trade between Bristol, Africa and America for the period 1698 to 1807 – has been studied in detail through use of the Port Books and that was mainly concerned with the ships involved in the slave trade, their period of operation, the number of voyages they undertook and their destinations (Richardson 1986, 1987, 1991 & 1996).

Published Research on Ceramics Using the Port Books

In 1960, C. Malcolm Watkins published his research on the export of North Devon pottery to America during the 17th century. In this he pioneered the use of Port Books in documenting the export of pottery, in this case from Barnstaple to North America, and confirming the extent of the trade in pottery already suspected from the discovery of North Devon earthenwares during archaeological excavations on colonial sites such as Jamestown and Plymouth.

Alison Grant (1983) carried out further research on the Barnstaple Port Books as an aspect of her research into the North Devon pottery industry. She extracted earthenware shipments for the period from 1640 to 1700, although only 26 coastal and 18 overseas Port Books survive for those years. Grant paid particular attention to the coastal and Irish trade; evidence in the Port Books for transatlantic trade being very limited. The main destinations for North Devon pottery shipped through Barnstaple were Milford, Carmarthen and Swansea in Wales and Gloucester, Bristol and Padstow in England. The trade in earthenwares to Ireland rose to a peak in the 1680s and then declined during the period of study, the major recipient of the wares being Dublin. The Port Books show only a very modest trade with North America and the West Indies, a total of 1,045 dozen earthenwares in 1683 being by far the greatest number exported to North America for any of the recorded years up to 1700.

John Allan (1984) used the Port Books to study the seaward distribution of pottery from Exeter, which in the late 16th and early 17th centuries primarily acted as a re-distributor of Rhenish and Dutch ceramics to other ports in the south-west of England and, occasionally, to Ireland. In the late 17th and early 18th centuries a trade arose in supplying New England, Virginia, Carolina and Barbados with re-exported ceramics originally imported through Exeter from continental Europe. After the 1730s the trade with America declined while the trade with Barbados ceased altogether after 1722. The Port Books only contained a scatter of late 17th- and early 18th-century references to the export of English pottery, principally to the American colonies but also to Portugal, Italy and Madeira. Some of the 17th-century shipments were of tin-glazed earthenware, for example 300 ‘gallipots’ sent to Virginia in the 1680s and 100 to Barbados in 1678. Local south-western coarsewares were shipped, the most popular destinations being Virginia and New England between 1680 and 1720. However, this trade was always a small one: the total exports from Exeter rarely averaged more than a hundred ‘parcels’ a year, fewer even than those from the port of Barnstaple.

Only one researcher has used the Port Books as a source of information specifically on the export of tin-glazed earthenware. Peter Denholm (1982), in his study of the products of the Delftfield Pottery in Glasgow, extracted details of all ceramic exports from Port Glasgow for the period 1743 to 1774. For the first ten years a variety of terms were used to describe the quantity of pottery involved: cask, crate, dozen, hogshead – it was not until the 1750s that the terminology hardened into pounds and pieces. Denholm attempted to define these terms in order to try to quantify the information gained from his study and those definitions are considered below. Perhaps because of the difficulty experienced over terminology, Denholm gives no trade figures to show the relative importance of the destinations or to show trends in trade between destinations, although he does provide charts showing the destinations each month over the study period and a graph showing the overall figures for exports measured in ‘pieces’. The total number of pieces described specifically as delftware exported from Port Glasgow between 1743 and 1774 was 305,510, with the likelihood that much tin-glazed ware was described as ‘earthenware’ in the early records. The Port Books show that the overseas trade of the Delftfield Pottery centred on Virginia and Maryland in North America. There was some degree of trade with Boston, Carolina, Philadelphia, New York, Quebec and, in the West Indies, Antigua, Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Kitts, Guadaloupe, Martinique, Montserrat, Tobago and St. Vincent, with only a minimal trade to Ireland.

Some ‘Problems’ in Interpreting the Port Book Evidence in Relation to Pottery Exports

Descriptions of commodities

The officials who entered the information in the Bristol Port Books generally described the ceramics shipped through the port as either ‘earthenware’ or ‘English earthenware’, the two different terms often being used in the same Port Book, although the word ‘English’ ceased to be used after the first decade of the 18th century. Occasionally, the terms ‘gally potts’, ‘earthen potts’ and ‘earthpotts’ were used, and there is one reference to ‘sugar potts’. It is not known what the difference in the terms ‘earthenware’ and ‘English earthenware’ implies as the known tin-glazed earthenware manufacturers are listed as exporting both sorts of earthenware so it is unlikely that the ‘earthenwares’ they were dealing in were made anywhere other than Bristol, let alone England. Exceptionally, there are references to ceramics being re-exported, but these were clearly described as such – for example, ‘100 of French Earthenware’ sent to Youghal on 18 January 1688 – and were subject to a higher rate of duty, while ‘earthenware’ and ‘English earthenware’ both had the same rate of duty levied on them.

After 1700 the owners of some of the largest potteries exported earthenware under their own names: for example, Edward Ward, Thomas Frank, Mary Orchard, Henry Hobbs and the Brislington potter, Thomas Dickson.

During the period covered by the writer’s study of the Port Books the extensive documentary research carried out by the writer and others has shown that the known potteries operating in Brislington and Bristol were producing tin-glazed earthenware, with the possible exception of Edward Crofts although his period of production probably did not extend much beyond 1671. There is some evidence to suggest that, by the very end of the 17th century, the tin-glazed earthenware potters may also have been producing yellow slipwares and earthenwares covered with an iron-enriched glaze (Price forthcoming) and, from that date, those wares may have comprised some of the ‘earthenware’ and ‘English earthenware’ exported. It is also possible that potters working elsewhere were transporting their wares to Bristol for export, although the only known rural pottery working in the Bristol area in the late 17th and early 18th centuries was that at Westbury-on-Trym, some five kilometres to the north of the city (the writer, unpublished research).

Nevertheless, it seems safe to assume that almost all the pottery being exported through the Port of Bristol, certainly until the end of the 17th century, was tin-glazed earthenware although after 1700 other types of ware made by the tin-glazed earthenware potters could have formed some part of the cargoes.

Definition of Quantities

The Bristol Port Books almost always quantified the pottery exported as a certain number of ‘parcels’ or ‘pieces’. Only occasionally are other terms used, generally during the 17th century, such as ‘gross’, ‘hundredweight’ or ‘dozen’. These terms are also recorded from Barnstaple, Exeter and Glasgow, although in Branstaple the most commonly used term was ‘dozen’ while in Glasgow they were ‘pounds’ or ‘pieces’.

It is possible to define the actual quantity of vessels represented by the commonly used terms ‘parcels’ and ‘pieces’ by comparing the duties paid in each case, bearing in mind that the duties were standardised across the country and remained unchanged for long periods.

The Bristol Port Book for 1679 mentions ‘600 pieces of English earthenware’ and ‘600 English earthen potts’ and records that the duty for both were the same: one shilling. Given that it is safe to assume that ‘600 English earthen potts’ literally means 600 individual vessels, then one ‘piece’ of English earthenware must be one individual vessel.

Unfortunately, the Bristol Port Books which refer to ‘parcels’ do not give the duty paid for those items. However, a comparison with the Barnstaple Port Book for 1681 show that there ‘750 parcels of earthenware’ bore a duty of one shilling and three pence or one shilling for 600 parcels. This was the same duty as was being paid for 600 ‘pieces’ of earthenware in Bristol, so that we can be sure that one ‘parcel’ of earthenware was the same as one ‘piece’ of earthenware which has already been shown to be one vessel.

The duty on ’20 dozen of earthenware’ at Barnstaple was one shilling which was the same as that on 600 parcels or 600 pieces. Thus one ‘dozen’ of earthenware is the same as 30 pieces of earthenware, or literally 30 vessels. Grant (1983, 85) also reached the conclusion that one dozen of earthenware was the same as 30 pieces, although she did not go on to quantify the term ‘piece’ in view of the limited information available in the Barnstaple Port Books.

Similar calculations show that the term ‘hundredweight’ (‘cwt’) or ‘hundred’ means literally one hundred vessels. The writer’s and Grant’s quantification of these terms do not correspond with the definitions given by Denholm (1982, 72-73) who, although dealing with records dating from the 1740s to the 1770s, states that one ‘dozen’ was 12 ‘pieces’, one ‘parcel’ was 120 ‘pieces’ and one ‘hundredweight’ was 80 ‘pieces’.

From the information obtained from a comparison of Port Books and duties paid we can be confident that despite the different units of measurement used in the books, these units can be quantified and can be safely used for statistical purposes. A ‘piece’ or ‘parcel’ of earthenware equalled one vessel, whether that be a plate, charger, dish, bowl or tankard. Sometimes, because the duty on earthenwares and glass vessels was the same, those two types of commodity were lumped together (for example, ‘300 pieces of English earthenware and glass bottles’) and in those cases, for statistical purposes, it has been necessary to assume that half the given quantity related to pottery.

The Destination

The final port of destination of a ship needs to be treated with caution as it is possible that merchants sometimes gave false information to disguise the fact that they were infringing the rights of a monopoly trading company. It is also possible that parts of a cargo were off-loaded elsewhere as the vessel may have traded with more than one port during a voyage. Very occasionally two ports of destination are given, for example ‘Cork and Antigua’ or ‘Cork and Newfoundland, for statistical purposes, it has been necessary to assume that half the given quantity of pottery was off-loaded at each port.

In some cases the destination given, for example ‘Fyall’ and ‘Pentavedia’, cannot be identified and then it has been impossible to ascribe the cargo to a particular country or area.

The Merchants

During the 17th century pottery was mainly exported under the names of merchants rather than the potters themselves. The typical merchant’s business had three aspects: that of wholesaler, that of factor, and that of shipowner. Either the ship’s master would act as an agent for the sale of the goods at the port of destination or the merchant would appoint an agent at a particular port to look after their interests (Minchinton 1957, xvii). Presumably potters were fulfilling orders received from overseas markets either directly or via merchants, rather than involving themselves in the complicated administration of shipping and marketing their wares. Therefore it is generally impossible to attribute any particular exports to the Brislington or other early Bristol tin-glazed earthenware potteries in the 17th century. During the 1680s the potter Edward Ward was sometimes named in the Port Books, so he was obviously becoming involved in exporting at least some of his wares under his own name rather than through a merchant. During the latter part of the 17th century and through the early 18th century his example was followed by the other tin-glazed earthenware potters and the names of Thomas Frank, Mary Orchard, Thomas Dickson, Henry Hobbs, James Ward and John Weaver appear in the Port Books as exporters of pottery with increasing regularity.

Definition of a Year

Each Port Book covers a one year period, but they run from 25 December to 24 December in the following year.

The Trade in Earthenware from the Port of Bristol

All available Port Books for the period 1662 to 1687 and thereafter the Port Books for approximately every fifth year (depending on the availability of records kept by the Collector and Controller) have been studied up to 1726. Full details of the exports for each year, including the date, name of ship, potter as exporter, quantity and destination, are given in Appendix B below.

In the following section the statements made are dictated by the limitations of the study period and the years examined within that period. They may be subject to refinement, and even change, when all the available Port Books have been studied – a course of research which the writer is continuing.

Overall Trends (Fig.25)

The study of the Port Books shows a generally upward trend in the export of earthenware from Bristol during the period of study. In 1662, some 10 years after the founding of the Brislington pottery, a total of 4,823 pieces of earthenware were exported and this steadily increased by just under 2,000 pieces until at least 1672. The Port Books for 1673 to 1677 are missing, but by 1678 there had been an inexplicable drop in exports to 4,674 pieces – lower than the figure 16 years previously – the trade to Ireland, the West Indies and North America all showing a decrease. This downward fluctuation seems to have been short-lived for the following year shows the greatest rise in the number of exports since 1662, an increase of 8,967 pieces over the previous year at 13,641 – the largest increase being in shipments to Ireland.

Between 1679 and at least 1682 the total number of pieces exported hovered around 13,600, the year 1681 showing just a slight increase to 14,512. The Port Books for 1683 and 1684 are missing, but in 1685 the number of pieces exported had more than doubled to 31,566. This dramatic rise may have been due to the increase in output of tin-glazed earthenware resulting from the establishment of the Water Lane pottery by Edward Ward, which factor in itself had probably been stimulated by increased demand from the expanding colonies in the West Indies and North America. After 1685 the trade in earthenware rose steadily to 43,636 pieces in 1700.

The Port Books for the early 1700s are missing but the next book studied, that for 1707, records an enormous fall in exports to just 27,060 pieces. It is clear that this serious turn of events was caused by the war with France, the ship-owners being reluctant to risk their ships and the merchants their cargoes to marauding Spanish men-of-war and privateers. The Port Book of 1707 gives details of ships and cargoes taken as prizes: for example, the Harte Gally in 1705 bound for Venice ‘which said ship in her intended voyage … was taken by the French and all the goods therein laden made prize by the Enemy’ and the Hayward Gally taken in 1706. The purpose of recording in the Port Books the loss of vessels resulting from the war was the requirement to make an allowance for customs duties paid by merchants on lost cargoes. Only the trade in earthenwares to Ireland remained relatively unaffected by the war; the West Indies and North American trade declined significantly while that to Europe ceased completely. The devastating effect this war, which had started in 1702, must have had on the potters can only be guessed at, although none of the potteries went out of business during this period.

Although peace was not declared until the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, it seems that by 1710 the war, which had virtually run its course after the Battle of Malplaquet in 1709, no longer posed a threat to merchant shipping as the export of earthenware leapt to 86,735 pieces, almost twice the number exported in 1700. It increased by over 40,000 pieces during the following five years and by 1726 it had reached 154,585 pieces. By then, although the numbers were still increasing, they were doing so by only some 13,000 over each five year period studied.

Ireland (Figs.26-28)

Ireland seems to have provided the tin-glazed earthenware potters with a regular and dependable market for their goods. In 1662 this amounted to 85% of the total exports from Bristol but it declined steadily in relation to the increasing importance of markets elsewhere – down to 23% in 1685, 30% in 1700 and 10% in 1715, but rising to 17% in 1726.

Between 1662 and 1678 the number of pieces exported to Ireland each year remained around four to five thousand, rising sharply to 11,226 pieces in 1679 before falling gradually to 7,035 pieces in 1682. It had risen slightly to 9,265 pieces by 1688, reached 14,031 pieces in 1700 and then declined again to 11,929 pieces in 1710. After that, during the years studied, the number of pieces exported increased to 13,157 in 1715, 16,134 in 1721 and 26,111 in 1726.

The Irish ports favoured by the Bristol merchants as destinations for their cargoes were, as might be expected, those nearest to Bristol; in particular Cork, Waterford, Youghal and Wexford. Cork was the most popular destination, often taking over 50% of the total trade in earthenware with Ireland: of the 11,226 pieces exported to Ireland in 1679, Cork took 7,040 pieces (62%); of the 7,349 in 1685, Cork took 4,750 (67%) and of the 13,538 in 1707, Cork took 1,838 (80%). Kinsale on the south coast, Dublin on the east and Limerick on the west were the only other ports to receive frequent shipments of earthenware, although there were some years when they received none at all.

Of the more distant ports in Ireland, Belfast and Londonderry occasionally received a few shipments but these never amounted to more than a few hundred pieces: at best Belfast accounted for less than 6% of the total shipments to Ireland in 1682 and Londonderry less than 6% in 1672. Rarely shipments were made to other ports: Dungarvan, Ross and Bantry in the south, Dingle, Galway, Sligo and Ballyshannon in the west and Drogheda in the east.

The West Indies (Figs.29-31)

As only five Bristol Port Books have survived for the third quarter of the 17th century it is difficult to determine when the tin-glazed earthenware trade with the West Indies commenced. There were no shipments to the West Indies in 1662 but a hundred pieces were sent there in 1668, 1,600 pieces in 1672 and 300 pieces in 1678. Thereafter the Port Books show a steady increase in the export of earthenware from 1,875 pieces in 1679 to 12,383 pieces in 1700. After a significant fall in exports during the war with France – only 5,250 pieces being shipped in 1707 – there was a substantial increase from the 1700 figure of over 200% to 38,386 pieces in 1710. The figure for 1715 shows a drop in exports to 24,987 pieces but the following years studied, 1721 and 1726, both show large increases in trade at 40,263 pieces and 53,388 pieces respectively.

In 1679 the trade with the West Indies accounted for 14% of the total export of earthenwares from Bristol. In 1685 this had increased to 21%, in 1700 to just over 28% and in 1726 to 35%.

The islands of Jamaica, conquered by the British in 1655, and Barbados, which became a British colony in 1652, were the major destinations for earthenware, regularly accounting for about 70% or more of the total exports to the West Indies. As far as can be ascertained from the surviving documents Barbados had started receiving earthenware cargos by 1668 while Jamaica did not receive any until 1679. However, by 1688 Jamaica had outstripped Barbados in the quantities of earthenwares received: in one case, 1710, by over 700% at 23,061 pieces.

The adjoining islands of Nevis, settled by the English in 1623, and Antigua frequently received cargoes of earthenware although the quantities fluctuated constantly, ranging between 400 pieces in 1688 and 4,780 in 1710 for Antigua and between 50 pieces in 1700 and 6,350 in 1710 for Nevis.

Montserrat and St. Christopher were occasional destinations for earthenware, although St. Christopher was not involved in the trade until the second quarter of the 18th century. At best Montserrat, colonised by Irish settlers in 1632, received no more than 8% of the total West Indies trade and St. Christopher less than 2%. The island of St. Martin, under Dutch and French occupation, received two cargoes amounting to 1,100 pieces of earthenware in 1688 but was otherwise untouched by the trade. The general term ‘Leeward Islands’, which included Antigua, St. Nevis, Montserrat, St. Christopher and St. Martin, was used in 1715 and 1721 but the combined cargoes under that heading only amounted to 950 pieces.

North America (Figs.32-34)

Since the first English settlement was founded in 1607 at Jamestown in Virginia it is perhaps not surprising that Virginia became the regular destination for cargoes of earthenware during the study period. New England, named as such by the explorer John Smith in 1614, and comprising the area now occupied by the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut on the north-east coast, was also a frequent destination. Until 1682 Virginia and New England were the only destinations in North America for the earthenware sent from Bristol although, at quantities ranging from 24 pieces in 1681 to 925 pieces in 1668, they only accounted for a small proportion of the total earthenware exports during that period: 15% in 1662, 5% in 1678 and 0.2% in 1681. At best Virginia received 8,060 pieces in 1715 and New England 7,250 pieces in 1721.

As far as we know from the surviving documents, Carolina and Pennsylvania became destinations for the first time in 1682 although the numbers were very small at 25 pieces and 125 pieces each. Newfoundland received 2,000 pieces of earthenware in 1685, despite not formally coming under English rule until 1713, and became a frequent, though never a large, consumer of earthenware from Bristol.

It was not until the early 18th century that the North American colonies became the major destination of earthenware shipped from Bristol and, by at least 1715, they far exceeded the West Indies in the quantities they imported: indeed in 1715 and 1721 they exceeded the combined imports of the West Indies and Ireland. Boston, New York and eventually Philadelphia became destinations for earthenware and were the largest importers in North America. For example, Boston took 33,526 pieces of earthenware in 1715 (39% of the North American total) and 45,180 pieces in 1721 (48% of the total); New York took 28,784 pieces in 1715 (33%) and 23,300 pieces in 1726 (33%); and Philadelphia took 11,540 pieces in 1721 (12%) and 7,710 pieces in 1726 (11%).

The quantities of earthenware taken on each ship bound for the major North American ports were often considerable. For example, the ‘Bedminster’ destined for Boston was loaded between early February and mid March 1715 with 13,876 pieces of which 2,100 pieces were named as being shipped by the potter John Ward, 4,000 pieces by Mary Orchard, 1,200 pieces by Thomas Frank and 900 pieces by Thomas Dickson.

There was only one other destination in North America, that of Maryland, which received 400 pieces of earthenware in 1710. The total exports of earthenware to North America showed a large fall of 22,598 pieces between 1721 and 1726; the exports to Boston falling by over 50%. However, the exports to Carolina and New York increased substantially during that period so the overall reduction in exports may have been a minor fluctuation rather the start of trend; only research on subsequent Port Books will determine this.

Other Destinations (Figs.35-36)

Bristol’s export of earthenwares to destinations other than Ireland, the West Indies and North America was sporadic and generally insignificant; at its height in 1688 it only amounted to 18,346 pieces and in 1726 it only accounted for 2% of the total exports shipped from Bristol. No exports to other destinations were recorded until 1680, and after rising to a peak in 1688 they then levelled out at between 2,000 and 4,000 pieces in the first quarter of the 18th century.

In Europe the destinations receiving earthenware were Gibraltar and Guernsey; Rotterdam in the Low Countries; Bordeaux, Brest, Calais, La Rochelle, Morlaix, Quimper and St. Malo in France; Bilbao, Cadiz, San Sebastián and Vigo in Spain; and Figueria and Oporto in Portugal. Bordeaux was the major destination in France, receiving 350 pieces in 1681, 2,650 in 1685, 1,150 in 1688 and 1,000 in 1700. However, the trade with France never resumed after the war of 1702 to 1713. In Spain, Bilbao was the major port of entry receiving 150 pieces in 1682, 2,600 in 1685 and 2,106 pieces in 1688; and although trade with Spain ceased during the 1702 to 1713 war it resumed thereafter, but then never amounted to more than a few hundred pieces annually.

Madeira, Bermuda and the Cape Verde Islands received a few shipments, the most significant being 3,250 pieces sent to the Cape Verde Islands in 1715.Tangier in North Africa was sent 100 pieces of earthenware in 1681 while Africa and ‘Guinea’ received a few minor shipments, the quantities sent to the latter destination increasing in 1721 to 560 pieces and in 1726 to 814 pieces probably due to earthenware being one of the goods exchanged for slaves in the growing transatlantic trade in human cargoes.

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