Bristol Victoria Pottery

Posted on: January 30th, 2017 by webfooted

(also known as the Victoria Pottery)
Feeder Road, St Philip’s Marsh, St Philip and Jacob parish.

Summary of operating dates and proprietors

c1867-1872 The Bristol Victoria Pottery Company Limited.
1873-1878 Halsted Sayer Cobden, trading as Pountney & Company.
1878-1883 Patrick Johnston and Mr Rogers, trading as Pountney & Company.
1883-1884 Patrick Johnston, trading as Pountney & Company.
1884-1905 Thomas Bertram Johnston, trading as Pountney & Company.

The pottery closed in 1905 when Pountney and Company moved their production to a new factory at Fishponds.

In about 1864 a prospectus was published for the sale of share capital in the Bristol Victoria Pottery Company Limited.  The directors of the new company were a number of prominent Bristol citizens and the managing director was John Ellis II, the proprietor of the Redcross Street Pottery.  The company had been formed for the purpose of ‘purchasing from Mr John Ellis, the new erections, buildings and works now nearly completed, in St Philip’s Marsh … called the Victoria Pottery and of carrying on there the business of a pottery in all its branches‘.

Problems were encountered in completing the construction of the pottery on St Philip’s Marsh and in March 1866 it was reported that the ‘directors had taken the business, with stock and plant, of Mr J. Ellis, at Redcross Street, on terms they consider satisfactory, and the business of the company was commenced there on 8 December 1865.  The pottery is in full operation and the business of the company will continue to be carried on there until the premises at St Philip’s Marsh are completed.  The works at St Philip’s Marsh are progressing most satisfactorily, and it is expected that the mill and engine house will be completed by May next …‘.  In August 1866 it was reported that ‘a hope was expressed [in March] that the mill and engine-house would be completed in May, which expression has been fully realised as far as the building and machinery for the mill house are concerned; but the directors regret that a portion only of the steam engine has yet been delivered at the company’s works …‘.

In August 1867 it was again reported that ‘the building and machinery were still incomplete, and had consequently been only partially employed‘.  Despite the company paying a dividend to their shareholders at a rate of 6% in 1868 John Ellis, the managing director, remarked ‘they had not yet got more than half their works employed’. A serious fire destroyed the interior of the printing room and its roof in August 1869 and in the same month it was noted that John Ellis had left the company ‘in consequences of differences between him and his co-directors‘.  Ellis went back to running his Redcross Street Pottery leaving the Bristol Victoria Pottery still in only limited production.

Troubles at the pottery continued and in January 1870 a part of the premises known as the saggar house was almost entirely destroyed by fire.  In August 1870 the directors had to report that they ‘are compelled to express their disappointment that their anxious efforts have not been more successful, and that an actual loss has accrued on the trade of the year.  They believe this may be attributed to the alterations in the manufacture consequences on changes in the management.  The repairs and additions for the year have been very heavy.  Very heavy repairs have been necessary by the sinking of the foundations in the boiler and engine house, causing great damage to the engine and machinery.  New foundations have just been constructed under the boilers, which have been raised in such a manner that the directors hope this cause of evil will be arrested.  Raising the boundary wall for security of the premises, building a new hardening kiln, and some minor additions, are properly chargeable to capital if any were available … and, as additional capital must be provided, they propose to issue 141 of the unissued shares to the proprietors at £10 each …‘.

Further misfortune followed when in September 1870 another fire broke out in the saggar and printing rooms destroying a large amount of property, so it probably came as little surprise that in May 1872 the Bristol Victoria Pottery Company Limited was declared bankrupt and the pottery and its stock in trade were advertised for sale:
In Chancery. In the matter of the Companies Acts 1865 and 1867. In the matter of the Bristol Victoria Pottery Company (Limited). To be sold by private contract, all that very valuable pottery works and premises, called or known as the Bristol Victoria Pottery Company, situate in St Philip’s Marsh … together with the stock-in-trade, machinery and fixtures belonging thereto. The works, which are freehold, are situated immediately opposite the Feeder, having a water frontage of over 200 feet, and cover an area of about two acres.  They are built in a most substantial manner, and the offices and rooms are exceedingly commodious and well designed. The stock-in-trade consists of printed, sponged and cream coloured earthenwares. The machinery consists of horizontal steam engine, with cylinder 27 inch diameter, stroke 4 feet 6 inches; two Cornish boilers, 20 feet long, 7 feet diameter, with domes, furnace doors, and frames, double safety valve, etc; throwing wheels, turning lathes, squeezing press and dies, jiggers and benches, stoves and piping, three jollys, steam lathe, crab winch, flint and stone mills, two patent clay presses, with all necessary fittings, etc.; and there are capital kilns on the property. The works are in the fullest and most complete working order, and afford an opportunity rarely to be met with. They have, besides, an extra advantage in adaptation to uses of other business where space is of importance’.

The pottery was again advertised for sale in July 1872 and in August 1872 the stock in trade was advertised for sale separately:
In Chancery, in the Matter of the Bristol Victoria Pottery Company Limited … to sell by public auction on Monday the 4 day of November 1872 and following days, the whole of the stock-in-trade now lying in the warehouses of the pottery … consisting of pheasant soup tureens, vegetable dishes, gravy dishes, salad bowls, plates, dishes, and bakers; willow soup tureens, sauce tureens, gravy dishes, vegetable dishes, dishes and bakers, mocha and printed measure jugs, cream coloured dishes and bakers, cane jugs and spittoons, white and cream coloured jugs, brown top mugs and jugs, printed wash bowls, ewers, chambers, brush trays, soaps and sponge trays, of various patterns; printed soup tureens, sauce tureens, vegetable dishes, butter boats, dishes, bakers, gravy dishes and plates of various patterns; toy cans and jugs, dipped, sponged and printed jugs; cream coloured stool pans and bed pans, printed and sponged tea and breakfast cups, milk pans, printed bowls and mugs, sponged and cream coloured wash bowls‘.

In 1873 the pottery was purchased by Halsted Sayer Cobden who already owned the Water Lane Pottery where he traded as Pountney & Company.  In August 1873 it was reported that ‘the workpeople employed at the Bristol Pottery and Bristol Victoria Pottery, numbering upwards of 300, had an excursion to Burnham … Mr Cobden by whom both potteries are now carried on, was present throughout the day, and, engaging with his employees in their amusements, added much to their pleasure‘.

In 1878 Pountney & Company was taken over by two London solicitors, Patrick Johnston and a Mr Rogers.  Rogers retired in 1883 and Johnston died in July 1884, when the business was acquired by Patrick Johnston’s nephew, Thomas Bertram Johnston, who closed the Water Lane Pottery in 1885, concentrating production at the Bristol Victoria Pottery.

On the morning of 13 April 1900 a fire occurred in the machine-room at the Bristol Pottery.  The machine-room and its contents, and also a staircase, were severely damaged but the cause of the outbreak was not known (Western Daily Press, 14 Apr 1900).

Pountney & Company moved to the newly built pottery at Fishponds in 1905 and the Bristol Victoria Pottery closed.

On 9 June 1906 the Bristol Victoria Pottery was advertised for sale by auction and was described as:
‘Lot 1. A valuable freehold property comprising warehouses and offices, with kilns erected thereon, situate at Feeder Road … to which it has a long and valuable frontage, at present forming part of the property recently occupied by the Victoria Pottery Company, and containing 2,878 square yards.
Lot 2. A valuable property adjoining, situate on the south side, and adjoining the last Lot, comprising sheds and buildings erected thereon, having a frontage of 117 feet to Glass House Lane, and containing 2,242 square yards.
Lot 3. The desirable site adjoining Lot 2, also forming part of the before-mentioned property, having a frontage to Glass House Lane and York Street, and containing 2,245 square yards.
Lot 4. The long warehouse, situate immediately opposite Lots 2 and 3, adjoining Glass House Lane, and containing 654 square yards.
Lot 5. Fourteen cottages [in Atlas Road and Atlas Terrace], situate adjoining the last Lot, in the occupation of various tenants.
Lot 6. Two dwelling-houses, situate almost adjoining Lot 5.
Lot 7. The warehouses and sheds, with cottage, situate adjoining Lot 6, having frontages both to Feeder Road and Glass House Lane, containing an area of 775 square yards’ (Western Daily Press).
On the 23 June 1906 it was reported that the cottages and sheds did not sell and that the Victoria Pottery was withdrawn at £8,000 (Western Daily Press).

On 30 January 1909 Pountney and Company offered nos, 9 to 25 Atlas Street, St Philip’s Marsh for sale (Western Daily Press) and on 14 July 1915 the whole of the pottery site and the associated dwellings were again advertised for sale by auction (Western Daily Press).

On 26 December 1905 the Western Daily Press published the following description of a celebration held to commemorate the opening of the Fishponds factory:
‘To celebrate the opening of the fine new works, the directors of the company had the pleasure of entertaining their employees to a tea and concert on Friday evening in the Vestry Hall, Pennywell Road.  There were upwards of 400 people present, and they were treated to a substantial repast.  During the evening souvenir boxes of chocolates were presented to each of the ladies, whilst the gentlemen regaled themselves with cigars and cigarettes at the invitation of the directors.  After full justice had been done to the good things provided, the tables were quickly cleared and rearranged for the musical part of the entertainment.  Mr T. Bertram Johnston (managing director) opened the proceedings with a few well-chosen remarks and called upon Mr W.H. Bell (director) to address the employees.  In the course of his speech he remarked that three things were necessary in a big undertaking such as the Bristol Pottery.  For instance, capital, brains, and labour.  Well, they had capital, and certainly brains, and it behoved the workpeople to do their utmost in the matter of workmanship and economy in production.  Then there would be no reason why the undertaking should not attain the highest success and become one of the first-rank concerns in the pottery industry.  All the items on the programme were admirably rendered, and several encores were demanded.  The second part of the programme was the signal for much excitement and enthusiasm, this being the occasion of the presentation of illuminated addresses to Messrs T.B. Johnston and Chas. Burn (joint managing directors) who have been associated together in the business for upwards of 20 years.  Mr G.F. Golding, the senior representative of the firm, made an admirable speech, in which he particularly drew attention to the kindness and forbearance that could always be expected from Messrs Johnston and Burn, and in mentioning the fact that their new pottery was one of the finest – if not the finest – in the world, he sincerely hoped and believed that if the employees would continue to work hand in hand and shoulder to shoulder, the name of Pountney and Co. would be known all over the world as manufacturers of the highest class of pottery (Applause).  Mr Golding then introduced Messrs H. Bullock and T. Blake (two old employees) to make the presentation on behalf of the workpeople, which duty they carried out in a satisfactory manner.  The addresses were most tastefully designed and executed by Mr W. Moore-Binns in the Adams style, with a characteristic old Bristol design introduced, and were worded as follow:

“To T.B. Johnston, Esq., and to Charles Burn, Esq., upon the occasion of the opening of the new pottery, Fishponds, Bristol, 1905: Dear Sir, We, the undersigned members of the staff as representing the whole body of the employees of Messrs Pountney and Co. Ltd., desire to take this opportunity of offering our respectful congratulations upon the gratifying progress of the business during the last few years, under the able management of yourself and your co-director, Mr Charles Burn or Mr Johnston.  We feel also that so important an epoch in the history of the Bristol Pottery as the opening of the new factory at Fishponds should not be allowed to pass without an expression on our part of the most hearty appreciation of the energy which has resulted in so great an undertaking.  We earnestly trust that the success which has attended your efforts in the past may be greatly supplemented in years to come, and we desire to assure you of our loyal co-operation in our respective departments, believing that you will see in the added prosperity of the business an adequate return for the anxious care and labour which you have bestowed upon it”.

In acknowledging the handsome presents, both Messrs T. B. Johnston and Charles Burn – who were received with loud cheers and musical honours – expressed in suitable terms their appreciation of the artistic and beautifully executed addresses, assuring the employees that they would always be cherished by them.

A vote of thanks to the principals for their kindness in providing such a splendid repast and pleasant evening’s amusement, was proposed by Mr J. Marks, which proposition was most ably seconded by Mr W. Flook.  Another vote of thanks to the committee for the trouble they had taken in arranging such an excellent programme was responded to by Messrs A.L. Adams and G.A.C. Thynne, who remarked that if the entertainment had given satisfaction, they felt amply repaid for what they had done.  The animated photographs by Mr Bromhead, of Clifton, gave immense satisfaction, and in no small measure contributed to the enjoyment of the evening.  The whole proceedings were under the presidency of Mr T. Bertram Johnston, who, bye-the-bye, is the Unionist candidate for Bristol East at the forthcoming general election, and he was ably supported by his co-director Mr Charles Burn.  Among the numerous guests were Mrs Bell, Mrs Burn, the Misses Burn, Mr and Mrs H. Green, Mrs Adams, Mrs Golding, Miss Harley and Messrs W. Moore-Binns, J.H. Watling and G. Pike.  The proceedings came to a close with the singing of Auld Lang Syne and the National Anthem, and the pleasant evening will undoubtedly by long remembered by those present’.

Wares produced

General earthenwares, including transfer-printed, hand-painted and sponged wares.

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