Redcliff Back Pottery 1

Posted on: August 9th, 2016 by webfooted

(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).

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