Bedminster Pottery

Posted on: July 5th, 2016 by webfooted

(also known as the Boot Lane Pottery)
Boot Lane, Bedminster parish.

Summary of operating dates and proprietors

c1784-1790 Richard Room.
1790-1821 Peter Dean.
1821-1823 Margaret Dean.
1824-1848 Charles Cook.
1848-1851 Emma Cook I.

The Pottery closed.

It is not known when the pottery was established. Richard Room became a free potter in 1784 and took an apprentice in 1786, so it presumably started production between those dates.  A Day Book which recorded the income and expenditure for the pottery survives, covering the period from 29 September 1788 to 17 October 1789.  The Day Book does not give the owner’s name, but one of the employees was Samuel Sheppard, Richard Room’s apprentice.  (The Day Book has been published in full in Jackson, R. et al 1982, Bristol potters and potteries, 1600-1800.  Journal of Ceramic History 12, 213-226).

The Day Book showed that the main markets for the pottery produced were Bristol and north Somerset, with other shipments going to places on the River Severn transport corridor, as far away as Minehead, Chepstow and Tewkesbury.

Richard Room probably died in May 1790 and the Bedminster Pottery was certainly being run by Peter Dean by 1792. In 1817 he exported 2,300 pieces of earthenware to Dublin. Dean was recorded in the directories as a potter in Boot Lane until 1821 when it is assumed he died, the pottery being taken over by his wife, Margaret.

Margaret Dean died in 1823 and the pottery was then operated by Charles Cook. He exported earthenwares, including flower pots, to Waterford, Jersey and Jamaica.

Charles Cook died in March 1848 and the pottery was taken over by his daughter, Emma.  She was recorded in the directories as a potter in Boot Lane until 1851, when it is assumed that the pottery closed.  It was advertised for sale in September 1854 when it was described as ‘a valuable piece of freehold ground, situate in Boot Lane … with the buildings and erections thereon, formerly occupied as a pottery‘.

Wares produced

Red earthenwares, including flower pots, bread pans, milk pans, salting pans, sugar pots and basins.

Excavation of the kiln and finds of waste pottery and kiln material

Parry, A. 2004. Archaeological excavation of land at Squire’s Court, Bedminster Parade, Bedminster, Bristol.  Bristol and Region Archaeological Services unpublished report no. 957/2004.
The excavated area included part of the north side of Boot Lane and this contained the demolished substructure of the Boot Lane Pottery kiln.  The circular, slightly domed, base of the kiln was constructed from a single layer of brick 0.06 metres thick and 2.9 metres in diameter.  This structure rested upon a 0.25 metres thick bedding layer of fragmented stone, brick and buff coloured mortar.  The 0.8 metres thick outer kiln wall was built of randomly coursed pennant sandstone rubble and brick.  The inner lining of the wall, which formed the circular kiln chamber, was composed entirely of firebrick.  Three of the four vaulted fireboxes used to stoke the kiln were partly preserved. The fourth had been completely removed by a later structure. Each firebox was 0.35 metres wide and 0.42 metres in height.  A metal bar located at the entrance to one of the fireboxes presumably formed part of a grate.  The floor of the kiln, which would have supported kiln furniture and the pots intended for firing, was missing although a shelf in the kiln chamber level with the fireboxes indicated its former position.  Other walls found may have been part of the building surrounding the kiln.
The kiln was thought to have been a coal-fired updraught kiln, fairly typical of a light-industrial pottery of the period.
Red ware pottery that could constitute production waste from the pottery was found scattered across the site.  This material included many garden pots as well as internally lead-glazed hollow-wares and a few unglazed sugar moulds.  Some vessels were misshapen and on others the glaze had not fired correctly. The location of the stacking scars showed that the larger vessels were fired upside down.  A feature interpreted as probably the backfill of a clay pit produced a small but clearly defined group of production wasters. Aside from a small bowl and a jug, the sherds all appeared to come from deep steep-sided vessels with a hammerhead rim form. Some had two large external vertical handles.  They appeared to be three sizes with handles only evident on the larger ones. Ten vessels are illustrated in the report. The fabric of the pottery was fine, firing pale orange to red with a scatter of iron inclusions and occasional irregular fragments of ?limestone (up to 7mm) which were erupting and causing sections of the surface to flake off.  The glaze colour variation was likely to have more to do with irregular firing than specific glaze recipes.
(HER no. 21035; BRSMG accession no. CMAG 2002.0001).

Comments are closed.