Bristol Potters and Potteries

Research by Reg Jackson

Bristol Potteries - R

Research by Reg Jackson

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Redcliff Back Pottery 1

(also known as Frank’s Pottery)
Redcliff Back, St Mary Redcliffe parish.

Summary of operating dates and proprietors

1705-1706 James Margerum had converted William Clark’s glasshouse into a pottery.
He may have been in partnership with Thomas Frank I.
c1707-1708 John Franks (possibly a mistake for Thomas Frank I).
c1709-1738 Thomas Frank I.
1738-c1744 Thomas Frank I and Richard Frank.
c1744-1765 Richard Frank.
1766-1777 Richard Frank and Thomas Frank II.

The pottery closed and Richard Frank moved his business to the Water Lane Pottery.

The land tax and poor rate records for St Mary Redcliffe parish show that James Margeram took over a glasshouse belonging to William Clark and that, in 1705, he was paying rates on a ‘pothouse’.   This may have been the ‘James Margarinn’ who was apprenticed to the London potter John Campion on 13 October 1681.  The land tax and poor rate books are missing for 1706 but in 1707 and 1708 a John Franks was paying rates on the pothouse.  Nothing else is known about John Franks and these entries could have been a mistake for Thomas Frank I, who was paying land tax on the pothouse from 1709.

Thomas Frank I had become a free gallypotmaker in June 1698 and took his first apprentice to the trade in July 1698, although it is not known where he was working at that time.  He was exporting earthenware from at least 1705 which strongly suggests that he was involved with the Redcliff Back Pottery 1 from that date, perhaps in a partnership with James Margerum.  Between 1709 and 1736 he took a further fifteen apprentices and continued paying various rates on the pothouse, a warehouse and a dwelling house on Redcliff Back.  In 1704 Thomas Frank I was paying rates on St Anne’s Mill in Brislington, which had previously been owned by the potter Edward Ward I, and it is assumed that he used this mill for grinding materials used in his  glazes. From 1705 until 1726 (the Port Books studied to date) he was regularly exporting earthenware to Nevis, Montserrat, Jamaica, Antigua, Barbados, St Kitts, Boston, Carolina, Pennsylvannia, New York, Philadelphia and ports in Ireland.

From 1738 Thomas Frank I was running the Redcliff Back Pottery 1 with his son, Richard Frank, and they were both paying rates on the pottery.  This continued until about 1744, from which date Richard was paying the rates and operating the pottery alone, his father presumably having retired from the business.

In 1754 Reinhold Angerstein from Sweden described in his travel diary a mill for stamping and grinding pottery glazes which was located on the bank of the River Avon opposite the Hotwells.  He said that the mill belonged to ‘Mr Franco’, presumably Mr Frank (Richard Frank), who had a ‘glass’ furnace near St Mary Redcliffe church.

In 1759 the poor rate returns referred to ‘Richard Frank’s stone pot house’, which is the first known reference to the production of stoneware at the Redcliff Back Pottery 1.

In June 1760 a lease of land on Redcliff Back mentioned ‘all those two messuages or tenements and potthouse sometime since erected and built thereon now in the several possessions or occupations of James Cox, limeburner, John Hope, potter, and Richard Frank, potter …’.  A further lease in March 1762 of void ground on Redcliff Back referred to it being bounded on the south by a warehouse belonging to Richard Frank, potter.

From 1766 the rates on the pottery were being paid by Richard Frank and Son, Richard having entered into partnership with his son, Thomas Frank II.  The Port Books show that the firm was importing stoneware bottles, ‘worp’ [thrown] mugs and jugs, and chamberpots from Rotterdam in 1770 and 1775, and those were almost certainly manufactured in the German Rhineland.  They were also obtaining ‘Irish clay’ from Carrickfergus in Ireland.

From 1767 the Franks were employing Magnus Lundberg, who had previously worked at the Rörstrand Pottery in Sweden before moving to England and running a pottery warehouse in Bristol, as foreman at their pottery and a description of the Redcliff Back Pottery 1 was given at that time in the Swedish newspaper, the Goteborgska Spionen: ‘There are forty-two persons at work here, whose different tasks we watched. The work is very extensive and repays description.  The clay of which this [ware] is made, and which is quite up to our blue and white Stockholm clays in fineness, is obtained partly here near Bristol, at Dondery [Dundry] and Stacent; partly fetched from Ireland. The clay which is found here is altogether fat, and no work could be done with it alone; they have to mix it with the lean Irish clay. These clays are sieved, wetted, and kneaded together. Before the piece of clay can be put on the turning-machine it must be worked on like a piece of dough. First the dough-lump is shaped on a stool into whatever form it is to assume, jug, can, bowl, basin, punch-bowl, or whatever is desired.  It is subsequently sent to another workman to be shaped more neatly, and is finally fired for the first time.  Every piece is set in a sort of case made of sheets of clay, which are fastened together with little nails also made of clay. These often burst, but are tied together again with sail-thread.  Little ‘positures’ as well as tea-cups, etc., can be put in the containers alongside the larger vessels, and so be fired at the same time.  Great quantities of wood are expended in this. Coal is unserviceable. All the wood comes from Wales, and is sold here at a much higher price than in London.  On this stone are placed all manner of colours, which takes place in the drawing-room.  This work goes slowly.  Afterwards it is glazed, N.B. after the first firing has taken place, the plate is dipped in a sort of substance which looks like white lime: as soon as this has run over it, it becomes immediately dry again.  The vessels which are to be brown [presumably stonewares], are similarly dipped in a lime-substance composed of reddle, etc. … The substance for the glaze is composed of ‘frätt’ which is made of one part of soda and three parts sand, tin-ash of one part tin and three parts lead, cobalt, salt, arsenicum alb.  All this is mixed together and burned to a flux, then crushed and ground, mixed with water, and applied to the glazing of the porcelain’.

In May 1777 the Bristol Gazette advertised that the following property was to be let from midsummer: ‘a house and several large warehouses situated on Redcliff Back adjoining the River Avon, now and for many years past in the occupation of Messrs Frank & Co., potters … the premises lie close to the river, where there is a slip for loading goods, and are very well adapted for the business of a potter, a brewer, a distiller, or any other business that requires room’.

In June 1777 Richard Frank and Son advertised in the Bristol Gazette that their ‘earthen and stone pot works are removed from Redcliff Backs to Water Lane [the Water Lane Pottery] where they continue the same business in all its branches’.

The Redcliff Back Pottery 1 did not operate again after this date.  The land tax return for 1779 shows that it had become a prison.

Wares produced

Tin-glazed earthenwares and, later, stonewares.

Finds of waste pottery and kiln material

Barton, K.J. 1961. Some evidence for two types of pottery manufactured in Bristol in the early 18th century.  Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society 61, 160-168.
Waste pottery was recovered from a pit in Ship Lane, Cathay, in St Mary Redcliffe parish.  It was not a stratified deposit, but lay mixed in sloping tip lines.  The pottery types represented were slip wares, lead and tin-glazed wares, iron stained ‘tigerskin’ salt glaze stoneware and fine white salt glazed stoneware.  The salt glazed wares comprised six pieces of kiln furniture and 96 fragments of ware including tankards, half-pint tankards, jugs and globular vessels all probably dating to the first quarter of the 18th century. The slip ware vessels included posset pots and drinking mugs, one bearing the date 1743.  It seems likely that these were made at the Redcliff Back Pottery 1, due to its proximity to Ship Lane.

Dumps of tin-glazed earthenware waste have been found in Redcliff Caves and it seems likely that these came from the Redcliff Back Pottery 1:
Fowler, P.J. 1972. Archaeological review no. 6 for 1971. University of Bristol.
In 1971 a collection of 17th/18th century kiln furniture and wasters, including salt-glazed, tin-glazed and slipwares, was recovered from the Redcliff Caves.
(BRSMG accession no. 72/1970).
Russett, V. 1990/91. Archaeology in Avon 1990/91. Bristol and Avon Archaeology 9, 64.
In 1988 several fragments of tin-glazed earthenware wasters, including saggar, tile and girder fragments, fragments of chamberpots and small bowls, and contemporary stoneware and pantile fragments were recovered from waste heaps in the Redcliff Caves. The fragments were deposited in Bristol Museum.
(HER no. 483).

Jackson, R. 2005. The tin-glazed earthenware kiln material, In Cullen, K. 2005. Redcliff Wharf, Bristol: Archaeological evaluation. Cotswold Archaeology unpublished report no. 05143.
The evaluation produced nine fragments of kiln shelves, a single girder fragment and seven pieces of saggars, the latter of two types: cylindrical vessels and those of an unknown shape but with ‘lobed’ indentations in their sides which have parallels found at Norfolk House, Lambeth.  There were sherds of storage vessels, bowls, cups or teabowls, plates and a tankard. It seems most likely that the tin-glazed kiln waste from this site can be attributed to the Redcliff Back Pottery 1 and that it dates to after about 1720.
(HER no. 4261; BRSMG accession no. CMAG 2005/0085).

Jackson, R. 2007. The tin-glazed earthenware and stoneware kiln waste, In Collard, M. 2007. Redcliff Wharf, Bristol: Archaeological evaluation phase 2. Cotswold Archaeology unpublished report no. 07080.
Tin-glazed earthenware waste:
The evaluation produced fragments of kiln shelves, girders, trivets and saggars, the latter of three types: cylindrical vessels with U-shaped openings in their sides cut down from the rim, cylindrical saggars with triangular holes cut in their sides and those with ‘lobed’ indentations in their sides.  There were sherds of storage containers, bowls, plates, cups or tea-bowls, saucers, posset pots, chamber pots and wall tiles.  It seems most likely that the tin-glazed kiln waste from this site can be attributed to the Redcliff Back Pottery 1 and that it dates to after about 1720.
Stoneware waste:
The evaluation produced fragments of stoneware saggars covered in a thick grey-green glaze.  They all had cuts in their sides and down from their rims.  The saggars are similar in form to those of 18th-century date from the Fulham Pottery, London, where they were used almost exclusively for the firing of tankards.  A thin, apparently circular pad of clay, again covered in grey-green glaze, was probably used to separate saggars.  There were only four sherds of definite stoneware vessel waste and these were all apparently parts of tankards.  It seems likely that the stoneware waste came from the Redcliff Back Pottery 1 and it is known that stoneware was being produced there by 1759.
(HER no. 4397; BRSMG accession no. 2007/36).

Redcliff Back Pottery 2

Redcliff Back, St Mary Redcliffe parish.

Summary of operating dates and proprietors

c1756-c1759 John Harwell.
c1759-1760 Richard Frank.

The pottery closed.

The poor rate books from March 1756 to March 1759 referred to ‘John Harwell’s warehouse and tenement’ on Redcliff Back and the lamp and scavenging rate books for September 1760 to September 1761 recorded the same premises as ‘John Harwell’s pothouse and tenements’.

John Harwell had become a free gallypotmaker in 1740 and in 1754 the poll book noted him as a gallypotmaker in St Mary Redcliffe parish.  He took an apprentice in February or March 1758 suggesting that he was then operating his own pottery.

The rate books are confusing about when Harwell left the Redcliff Back Pottery 2 as, although the lamp and scavenging rate book listed it as his pothouse between 1760 and 1761, both the poor rate and the watch rate show it as occupied between March 1759 and September 1760 as ‘Richard Frank pothouse & tenement’, ‘Richard Frank stone pot house’ or ‘Richard Frank’s small pot house’.

Between September 1760 and September 1761 it was listed as ‘Richard Frank’s pot house void’ and then between September 1761 and September 1762 as ‘Step. Bagg warehouse late Franks’.

It is clear that the Redcliff Back Pottery 2 operated for only a short time and had gone out of use by September 1760.

Wares produced

Probably tin-glazed earthenwares and, under Richard Frank, stonewares.

Redcliff Street Pottery 1

108 and 109 Redcliff Street, St Mary Redcliffe parish.

Summary of operating dates and proprietors

c1660-1670 Edward Crofts was living in Redcliff Street.
1668 Edward Crofts was renting a ‘work house’ in St Mary Redcliffe parish.

Crofts had died by May 1671 and the pottery probably closed.

Edward Crofts was first recorded as a potter of St Mary Redcliffe parish in December 1660 when he was one of the persons required that they ‘doe hang out a lanterne and candle lighted at their respective doors during this season from six to nine of the clock evy. night upon paine for forfeiting for evy. default 3s.4d’.  In December 1665 he was a bondsman to a marriage licence granted to John Weston, a clothworker.

Crofts clearly had a close association with the Brislington potters as, in her will made in December 1666, Ann Bissicke, the widow of the Brislington gallypotmaker John Bissicke, bequeathed ‘unto Edward Croftes my great household bible in token of my love … I doe give and bequeath unto Sarah the wife of Edward Croftes one small booke called the Sanctuary of a Troubled Soule. Item I doe give and bequeath unto Sarah the daughter of the said Edward Croftes my silver cuppe with my husbands name and myne ingravin thereon.  Item I doe give and bequeath unto Elizabeth the daughter of the said Edward Croftes tenne shillings in moneys to buy her a ring. Item I doe give and bequeath further unto Sarah the wife of the said Edward Croftes my gold deathes head ring … Item I doe give and bequeath more unto Sarah Croftes daughter as aforesaid of Edward Croftes my small box of drawers …’

In March 1668 Edward Crofts, potter, leased a tenement in Redcliff Street from the Dean and Chapter of Bristol which was bounded on one side by another tenement occupied by Crofts. An analysis of other Dean and Chapter documents showed that the tenement can be identified as what was, in the 20th century, 108 Redcliff Street.

An assessment for St Mary Redcliffe parish for the period from June 1668 to September 1668 included Edward Crofts’ dwelling house and also his ‘work house’.

Crofts was again mentioned as a potter of St Mary Redcliffe parish in January 1770 which referred to a property he had recently built on Redcliff Back.  However, by May 1671 his house in Redcliff Street was in the tenure of ‘Widow Crofts’ so Edward had obviously died by that date.

The reference to Edward Crofts having a ‘work house’ in Redcliff Street strongly suggests that this was a pottery which he had probably been running from at least 1660 to his death which occurred between January 1770 and May 1771.

Frank Britton wrote an article on Edward Crofts entitled ‘Another early delftware connection between Southwark and Bristol’, which was published in 1986 in the Transactions of the English Ceramic Circle, Volume 12, Part 3 (pages 191-192).  In this he suggested that Edward Crofts might be the same Edward Croft who married a Sarah Mills at Allhallows, London, on January 1651.  However, although it is possible that Crofts came from London, there is no evidence to suggest that the Edward Croft married in 1651 was a potter.  Britton also suggested that Crofts worked at the Brislington Pottery, travelling there daily from his home in Redcliff Street, and that ‘he must have been a very important figure in the Brislington pottery, being the only Southwark-trained potter there’.  This argument seems highly tenuous as there is no documentary evidence to suggest that he ever worked in the Southwark Pottery (or, indeed that he came from London at all) or that he worked at the Brislington Pottery, and completely ignores his obvious connection with Redcliffe and the unequivocal reference to him having a ‘work house’ there.

If Edward Crofts did have a pottery in St Mary Redcliffe parish between 1660 and 1670 and this was producing tin-glazed earthenware, then that would make him the earliest known tin-glazed earthenware potter to have been working in the city.

Wares produced

Tin-glazed earthenwares.

Redcliff Street Pottery 2

Redcliff Street, St Mary Redcliffe parish.

Summary of operating dates and proprietors

c1733-c1756 Joseph Taylor I was taking apprentices and noted as a gallypotmaker in Redcliff Street.

The pottery closed.

Joseph Taylor I became a free gallypotmaker in March 1722 and was taking apprentices to the trade between 1733 and 1756.

He was variously described as a gallypotmaker, a mugmaker and a potter living in St Mary Redcliffe parish and more specifically in Redcliff Street.  He was paying rates on at least two properties in Redcliff Street, one of which was described as a ‘shop over ye way’ and another as a warehouse.  The warehouse was ‘void’ in September 1756 and he last paid rates on another property in Redcliff Street in September 1759 suggesting he was either dead or had moved away after that date.

The fact that he was taking apprentices and was paying rates on a shop and warehouse strongly suggests that he was operating a pottery in Redcliff Street.

Wares produced

Probably tin-glazed earthenwares, although the reference to him being a ‘mugmaker’ indicates he may also have been producing stonewares.

Redcliff Street Pottery 3

56 Redcliff Street, St Mary Redcliffe parish.

Summary of operating dates and proprietors

1836-1841 John Milsom.

The pottery closed.

John Milsom ran the 124 Temple Street Pottery until 1835 when he moved his business to the Redcliff Street Pottery 3.  From 1836 to 1840 he is listed in the directories as a stoneware and patent water pipe manufacturer at 56 Redcliff Street.  He was probably the John Milsom who was buried at Temple church in July 1841 as he was not mentioned in the directories after 1840.  There is no further reference to this pottery so it is assumed that it closed.

Wares produced

Stonewares, including patent water pipes.

Redcross Street Pottery

Rich’s Buildings, Redcross Street, St Philip and Jacob parish.

Summary of operating dates and proprietors

c1823-1829 Possibly Joseph White I.
1829-1839 Joseph White II and James White I, trading as J. & J. White, possibly in partnership with Joseph White I.
1840 White & Doubting.
1840-1850 William White.
1852 The pottery was vacant.
1853-1855 John Ellis II.
1856 only John Ellis II and probably James George Hawley, trading as Ellis, Hawley & Company.
1857-1865 John Ellis II.
1865-1866 Bristol Victoria Pottery Company Limited.
1869-1871 John Ellis II.

The pottery closed and John Ellis II moved to the Crown Pottery at St George.

It is not known when this pottery was established.  It seems to have been started by Joseph White I in about 1823 when he was recorded as paying rates on a pottery at 13 Rich’s Buildings, Redcross Street.  However the directories listed him as a tobacco pipe manufacturer with, from 1829 to 1845, china and glass warehouses at Rich’s Buildings, and it is possible that although Joseph White I owned the pottery, it was his son, also called Joseph, who was operating the pottery, perhaps even from as early as 1823.

Certainly from 1829 to 1839 the directories showed that the Redcross Street Pottery was being run by Joseph White II and James White I, trading as J. & J. White.  It is possible they were both Joseph White I’s sons, although we have no details of the birth of James White I. They were producing yellow wares and, later, black ware tea-pots.  It seems likely that Joseph White I retained a financial interest in the pottery as his will of May 1854 recorded that he still owned the ‘plant, utensils and implements used in the trade of potter which shall by in or upon the pottery in Redcross Street’.  The Port Books recorded the White family exporting earthenware to Dublin, Waterford, Cork, Jersey, Guernsey, Jamaica and Barbados from 1830 to 1838.

The directory for 1840 showed the Redcross Street Pottery as being run by White and Doubting, although the identity of Doubting is not known.

In 1840 Joseph White II and James White I started the Baptist Mills Pottery and the Redcross Street Pottery was being operated by William White, who was also a son of Joseph White I.  From 1841 to 1850 William White was described as a black and Rockingham tea-pot manufacturer and later as a stone jug, fire-clay chimneypot and tobacco pipe manufacturer.

In 1851 William White was living in New Jersey in America when his daughter Emma was born, so he had obviously given up the business by then.  In March 1851 the pottery was advertised to let ‘with immediate possession’ and was described as ‘that old established pottery, Redcross Street, carried on successfully for upwards of thirty years by Messrs Joseph White & Sons, the kilns and all the working utensils being in good condition; with dwelling house and good stabling on the premises; warehouses and workshops, plentiful supply of water, a mill, and every convenience … up to the present time there has been a good wholesale and retail Staffordshire ware and glass trade successfully carried on’.  Another advertisement in May 1851 is worded similarly although it mentions a horse mill and states that application should be made to ‘Joseph White, senior, Prospect Place, Baptist Mills’.  This again shows that Joseph White I still retained a financial interest in the pottery.

The pottery was noted as ‘void’ in a rate book of 1852 but by 1853 it had been taken over by John Ellis II. The directories listed John Ellis II at the Redcross Street Pottery from 1853 and stated that he was an Egyptian black and Rockingham tea-pot, stone jug and ware manufacturer.  In January 1857 the following advertisement appeared in the Bristol Mercury: ‘The best and cheapest house in Bristol for china, glass and earthenware, is Ellis & Company’s, manufacturers of stone and earthen ware, Redcross Street Pottery.  Wholesale and retail dealers in British and foreign china and glass.  Export orders promptly attended to.  Offices and ware rooms, 14 Bath Street’.

In 1856 there was a reference to a firm known as Ellis, Hawley and Company working in Redcross Street.  This indicates a partnership, though perhaps a brief one, between John Ellis II and James George Hawley in the Redcross Street Pottery.

In 1861 John Ellis was described as an earthenware manufacturer, employing 33 hands.

It is possible that John Ellis II was in partnership with Joseph Ellis, the latter apparently having paid rates on the pottery between 1853 and 1863.  However, as Joseph Ellis probably died in 1854 it is most likely that ‘Joseph’ may have been a mistake for ‘John’ in the rate books.

The pottery was advertised for sale in July 1863: ‘To potters. To be disposed of, with immediate possession, in full work, Redcross Street Pottery … Principals only treated with. Capital required, about £1,500 to £2,000. Satisfactory reasons will be given for the present occupier wishing to decline the business’.  John Ellis II established the Bristol Victoria Pottery Company Limited between 1864 and 1865 and constructed a new pottery at St Philip’s Marsh.  Despite this the Redcross Street Pottery was operated briefly in 1865 by the Bristol Victoria Pottery Company, the business being transferred to their new premises by the end of 1866.  When Ellis left the Bristol Victoria Pottery Company in 1869 he apparently resurrected the Redcross Street Pottery as it still seems to have been still operating when John Ellis II opened the Crown Pottery in December 1870.

However it then closed and was finally advertised for sale in April 1871: ‘To builders, manufacturers & others, about 8500 superficial feet of freehold land, Redcross Street … for sale by auction, the 8 day of May 1871. The following very valuable freehold property: All that messuage or dwelling-house, office, warehouses, kilns, furnaces, and other erections and buildings, and the two large cellars under part thereof, situate in Asher Lane, Redcross Street and until recently used as a pottery, and known as the Redcross Street Pottery.  The pottery contains in length, from Asher Lane to the River Froom, by which it is bounded to the northwest side, 170 feet or thereabouts, and has an average width throughout of 50 feet or thereabouts. The arching of the River Froom will give it a double frontage.  It forms a most eligible site for building either a manufactory, warehouse, or cottages, which latter are in great request in the neighbourhood, and always let well.  The bricks and stones at present in the kilns and other buildings are, it is considered, sufficient for the rough stone and brick work for the number of cottages which could be erected on the ground’.

The pottery was eventually demolished.

Wares produced

Earthenwares, yellow wares, black tea pots, Rockingham tea pots, chimney pots and stonewares, including stone jugs.