Water Lane Pottery

Posted on: September 21st, 2016 by webfooted

(sometimes known as the Temple Back or Bristol Pottery), Temple parish.

Summary of operating dates and proprietors

c1682-1710 Edward Ward I.
1710-1712 Edward Ward II.
1712-1732 James Ward.
1732-1738 Thomas Ward I.
1738-1746 Frances Ward.
1746-1756 Thomas Cantle II.
1756-1777 William Taylor I.
Probably at some time during this period he was in partnership with his brother Joseph Taylor II.
He may also have been involved with his cousin, Thomas Taylor II, from about 1760 to 1768.
1777-1785 Richard Frank.
He may have been in partnership with his son, Thomas Frank II, from 1777 to about 1778 as the firm was trading as Richard Frank & Son.
1785-1788 Joseph Ring I.
1788 Joseph Ring I in partnership with Henry Carter and William Taylor I, trading as Ring & Taylor.
1788-1791 Elizabeth Ring in partnership with Henry Carter and William Taylor I, trading as Ring, Taylor & Carter.
1792-1797 Robert Ring in partnership with Henry Carter, trading as Ring & Carter.
1798-1800 Henry Carter.
1800-1813 Henry Carter in partnership with Joseph Ring II, trading as Henry Carter & Company.
1813 Henry Carter and Joseph Ring II in partnership with John Decimus Pountney.
1813-1815 Henry Carter in partnership with John Decimus Pountney, trading as Carter & Pountney.
1815-1816 John Decimus Pountney.
1816-1835 John Decimus Pountney in partnership with Edwin Allies, trading as Pountney & Allies.
1835-1836 John Decimus Pountney.
1837-1850 John Decimus Pountney in partnership with Gabriel Goldney, trading as Pountney & Goldney.
1850-1852 John Decimus Pountney.
1852-1872 Charlotte Fayle Pountney, trading as J.D. Pountney & Company, as Pountney, Edward & Company in 1857 and 1858 and then as Pountney & Company.
1872-1878 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.
1884-1885 Thomas Bertram Johnston, trading as Pountney & Company.

The pottery was then closed and production transferred to the Bristol Victoria Pottery.

It is not known precisely when the Water Lane Pottery was established.  Edward Ward I obtained his freedom in September 1682 and took his son, Edward Ward II, as an apprentice in February 1683.  It is assumed that the pottery was established between those dates.  Edward Ward I had previously been recorded as a gallypotmaker of Brislington and had presumably been working at the Brislington Pottery.

Edward Ward I was first recorded exporting ‘English earthenware’ to Jamaica on 9 January 1685 and during the next ten years he was exporting to Cork, Waterford and Dublin.  In March 1692 the churchwardens of Temple parish received 10 shillings from ‘Mr Edward Ward for halling through the parish wast’ [presumably pottery waste] and in November 1693 Edward Ward, potter, was noted as having a tenement in Temple Street.  In 1698/9, 1700/1 and 1703 he was paying rent on tenements on land formerly occupied by two ‘rack closes’ owned by St John of Jerusalem (that is, the Knights Templar) near Temple church.  In 1696 he was paying rates on a property in Temple parish where he was living with his wife, Deans, and children, Deans, James, Hannah, Sarah and Mary.

Between at least 1694 and 1702 he was paying rates on a mill at St Annes, Brislington, which he probably used for grinding materials for his glazes.  (This need for a mill was a continuing problem for the pottery.  By the 1780s a mill had been acquired at Woollard, near Pensford, Somerset, which was worked by a small stream but, as the production of the pottery increased, this too soon proved inadequate.  Hanham was next tried, and finally, years afterwards, a steam engine was erected in the pottery).

Edward Ward I was buried in February 1710.  His will, made three weeks before his death, shows that he was a wealth man.  In addition to ‘the houses and utensils of trade belonging to my potthouse and also the said potthouse’ which he left to his son Edward Ward II, he bequeathed a number of properties including two houses in Water Lane, two houses in Rack Close, a house in Temple Street, his house, stable and two closes of grounds on St Michael’s Hill, two houses in Bitton, Gloucestershire, three houses and parcels of ground in Compton Dando, Somerset, and four acres of ground in Keynsham, Somerset.

Edward Ward II took over the Water Lane Pottery and worked there as a gallypotmaker until his death in 1712.  In his will dated 2 April 1712 he left his brother, James, and John Lidiard, a Bristol clothier, his ‘messuage and tenement wherein I now dwell in Water Lane … with all the outhouses and buildings thereto belonging … and all other my houses, buildings, gardens, lands and hereditaments … there and elsewhere in the said parish of Temple’, which presumably included the Water Lane Pottery.

Following the death of Edward Ward II James Ward operated the Water Lane Pottery.  In 1721 he was exporting earthenware to Jamaica, Boston and Philadelphia and in 1726 he was exporting to Jamaica.  In 1732 his son, Thomas Ward I, started paying rates on the pottery and it seems likely that by then James Ward had retired from the business, and from at least 1734 James was referred to as a gentleman rather than a potter.  In August 1734 Mary Bristow, the daughter and surviving heir of Edward Ward II sold to Samuel Tipton and Thomas Page of Bristol, surgeons, ‘all that messuage, tenement and pothouse late in the possession of Edward Ward, since in the tenure of James Ward, but now in the possession of Thomas Ward, gallypotmaker, and also that other tenement wherein Edward Ward the elder, dec’d, late father of the beforenamed Edward Ward, dwelt … together with a close called the Rack Close containing one acre of ground (the same lying behind the tenement and pothouse now in the tenure of James Ward or his undertenants) all situate in Water Lane’.

Thomas Ward I probably died in 1738 as in 1739 his wife, Frances, was described as a widow.  She took over the Water Lane Pottery and in 1739 and 1741 she took apprentices as a gallypotmaker.

In April 1746 Thomas Cantle II advertised that ‘Notice is hereby given that the pot-house in Water Lane, Temple Street, late Ward’s, is now occupied, and the work carried out by Thomas Cantle jun., and Co., by whom all persons may be supplied with all sorts of earthenware, on most reasonable terms’.  Between June 1746 and October 1753, with his wife Bathsheba, he took 16 apprentices.   In April 1750 the Water Lane Pottery was advertised for sale by auction and was described as ‘a messuage or dwelling house and several buildings contiguous thereto, erected for carrying on the business of an earthen potter, with stables, a large court and all conveniences for carrying on that business together with a close of very good ground adjoining thereto called Rack Close containing about an acre … in the occupation of Mr Thomas Cantle, Potter and Co. at the yearly rent of £40 …’.

Despite the sale, Thomas Cantle II, who was the tenant, continued running the pottery until 1756 when it was taken over by William Taylor I who, from September of that year, was paying rates on the ‘Potthouse, Water Lane’ and between June 1756 and October 1762 he took 12 apprentices.  It appears that William Taylor I may have been in partnership with his brother, Joseph Taylor II, as they are both mentioned in an advertisement in July 1774 when some of their property was advertised to let: ‘several large warehouses with lofts over them, one stable and 3 stalls and a large commodious yard, situate upon Temple Backs, near the river, for many years past, in the occupation of Wm. And Jos. Taylor, potters, to whom apply; or to Richard Frank & Son on Redcliff Backs’.

His cousin, Thomas Taylor II, may also have been involved with William Taylor I in the pottery as his address was given as Water Lane in 1760 and he took apprentices as a potter in 1760 and 1768.

The pottery was taken over by Richard Frank together with his son, Thomas Frank II, as in June 1777 they advertised that ‘Richard Frank & Son, earthen and stone pot works are removed from Redcliff Backs to Water Lane, where they continue the same business in all its branches’.

In September 1784 an inventory and valuation of the contents of the pottery was prepared prior to the sale of the pottery to Richard Frank’s son-in-law, Joseph Ring I:
‘The stock and utensills in trade at the Pot House in Water Lane, Bristol, as appraised as following, viz:- Black ware £27.6s.2½d; Red china ware £3.16s.2d; Tortoishell ware 18s.0d; Blue and white sprig’d ware £14.15s.6d; Blue and white stone Staffordshire ware £2.18s.9½d; Dutch ware – 18 jugs, one to ye warp 18s.0d; Delph ware £7.5s.0d; 21 doz. and ½ copperplate tiles £4.4s.0d; Best Nottingham ware £25.16s.8½d; Blue china glaz’d ware £11.3s.2½d; Enamelled china glaze ware £14.8s.11½d; Common enamelled ware £3.13s.3d; Copperplate ware £2; Cream colour ware £90.13s.4½d; White stone ware £52.0s.9d; Brown stone ware £159.16s.11½d; Materials: 27 tons clay at 2s.6d, 80 bags sand at 1s.2d, 11 cwt salt at 5s.6d: £3.0s.6d; Tools: 324 pot boards, 3 benches, 1 pounding trough, 1 mixing trough, 1 clay chest, 3 compleat wheels and wheel frames with working benches, etc., moulds and drums for making slugs, kiln ladder, salting boxes, lignum vitae blocks and hand mill £10; Old iron pot in the yard 4s.6d’.

Richard Frank died in April 1785 and in May the same year it was announced that: ‘Joseph Ring, rectifier, raisin wine and vinegar maker, takes this opportunity to inform his friends, that he has removed his business to the Pottery, Water Lane, Temple-Street; and likewise has taken the pottery business carried on by his late father-in-law, Richard Frank, and returns his thanks to the merchants and others for continuing their favours.  The brown stone manufactory is carried on as usual and sold in the lowest terms’.

In June 1786 Ring commenced his preparations for manufacturing cream ware (otherwise known as Queen’s ware) and he engaged Anthony Hassells of Shelton in Staffordshire at £1.1s.0d a week to assist him.  Hassells had been producing cream ware and Ring purchased his stock, some one hundred and forty-eight dozens, and paid him £5.5s.0d for the cost of his journey to Bristol, £3.14s.6d for the expenses of the workmen who accompanied him, and £5.5s.0d for ‘moulds’.

In December 1786 Joseph Ring of the Bristol Pottery advertised that he ‘takes this opportunity to inform merchants and others, that he has established a manufactory of Queen’s and other earthenware, which he will sell on as low terms wholesale and retail, as any of the best manufactories in Staffordshire can render the same to Bristol’.  In 1787 the directories listed ‘Joseph Ring, the only manufacturer of Queen’s Ware’ at Temple Back.  One of his business cards, undated but probably of about 1787, states that ‘Joseph Ring, successor to Richard Frank in the pottery business, continues the manufactory of the Bristol stone ware and sells all sorts of Queen’s and other ware, wholesale and retail. Pieces of stone ware at twelve months credit: 1 gallon bottles – per hundred, 2 gallon bottles – ditto, full quart bottles – ditto, full 3 gallon bottles – ditto, pickling pots and other goods proportionately low’.

In January 1788 Joseph Ring entered into a partnership with William Taylor I and Henry Carter and at that time an inventory was made of all the stock and utensils of the Water Lane Pottery and an agreement made as to the amount of capital that each partner was to contribute to the business: ‘Ware, etc., as per list £1035.6s.9d; In the colour room £16.0s.9d; Lawns [sieves] £5.16s.0d; Office furniture and sundries £31.5s.3d; Utensils £449.13s.5d; Lease, machinery and utensils of the mill at Woollard when assigned over £500; Sundries to capital agreed to be brought into the partnership of Ring, Taylor and Carter under the firm of Ring and Taylor for carrying on the trade or manufactory of Queen’s Ware £4500; Joseph Ring his proportion of two thirds £3000; Taylor and Carter for their one third £1500′.  Henry Carter was from Woollard, which was coincidentally the location of the pottery’s mill.

Joseph Ring II died on 5 April 1788 ‘standing under a beam supporting a loft on which was a weight of goods … the said beam accidentally, casually and by misfortune by the weight broke and crushed him to death under the materials …’.  On 19 April 1788 it was announced that ‘the manufacture of Queen’s-ware on Temple Backs, is continued to be carried on in its several branches by the widow [Elizabeth] of the late Joseph Ring, and her partner, under the firm of Ring, Taylor and Carter’.

This partnership was dissolved on 31 December 1791 but Elizabeth Ring continued to manage the pottery’s ‘large and extensive ware-room’, first at 7 Bath Street and then, after 1796, at 14 Bath Street, Temple parish.  On 11 February 1792 it was reported that ‘the manufactory being now carried on in future by Robert Ring and Henry Carter, under the firm of Ring and Carter, who take this opportunity of claiming the attention of the merchants, captains, traders and the public in general, assuring them their orders shall be attended to with the utmost punctuality and dispatch’.

It is not known when Robert Ring died but in 1798 he stopped paying rates on the pottery and it was being run by Henry Carter alone.  In the directory for 1798 he was listed as ‘Henry Carter, only Queen’s ware manufactory, Water Lane, Temple Backs. Retail warehouse: 14 Bath Street’.  By 1800 Henry Carter had entered into a partnership with Joseph Ring II, the son of Joseph Ring I, the firm trading as Henry Carter and Company.

Between 1799 and 1815 Henry Carter and H. Carter and Company were exporting earthenware to Guernsey, Jersey, Waterford, Gijon (Spain), Ferrol (Spain), Ribadeo (Spain), Pontevedra (Spain), Cadiz, Santander, Malaga, Corunna, Vigo, Bilbao, Oporto, Lisbon, Gibraltar, Madeira, Jamaica, Barbados, Nevis, St Kitts, Trinidad, St Vincent, Honduras, Boston, Quebec and Newfoundland.

In March 1802 Henry Carter advertised: ‘Bristol Pottery, Temple Backs. Henry Carter, manufacturer of blue printed, enamelled table services, blue, green, and colour edged painted, and cream-coloured wares, etc, etc. Takes the liberty to solicit the orders of merchants, captains and dealers, which, in consequence of constantly employing more than one hundred people in the manufacturing of the above articles, he can execute at short notice, and on the most advantageous terms.  He also claims the attention of the public to his large and extensive Ware-Room, at Mrs. Ring’s, No. 14 Bath Street opposite the Porter Brewery, where families can be supplied with services, desert sets, etc. etc. – Also every other useful and ornamental article, and which, from his extensive connections, combined with his own manufacture, he is enabled to sell on much lower terms than any other person in this city.  Japanned tea trays, waiters, etc. etc.  Table and desert services, enamelled with arms, crests, cyphers, etc.’

Between 1807 and 1812 Joseph Ring II issued a number of advertisements for the china and glass warehouse at 14 Bath Street and he may have been concentrating on helping his elderly mother, Elizabeth, with the retail side of the business, while Henry Carter was more involved in manufacturing the wares.  The firm was generally referred to as Henry Carter and Company and described in the directories as ‘manufacturers of printed, painted, enamelled and cream coloured earthenwares … sugar, chimney and garden pot manufactory’.  By 1810 they had a coal yard on Temple Back, presumably primarily for importing Welsh coal for use in the pottery, which was advertised in October 1812 as ‘Pottery Coal Wharf, Temple Back.. Carter & Ring beg leave to inform their friends and the public, that they have on sale a constant supply of Welsh coal, of a very superior quality … Purchasers at this wharf will avoid the inconvenience arising from an accumulation of small coal as a great proportion is separated for the use of the pottery. The weight of each load is ascertained by a correct weighing machine, lately erected on an improved principle’.

In April 1813 Henry Carter, Joseph Ring II and John Decimus Pountney entered into a partnership, the assets of the pottery being valued at £11,425.4s.11d.  Ring died a month later and in July 1813 it was announced ‘Bristol Pottery and earthenware manufactory, Temple Backs. The firm of Carter, Ring and Pountney, being dissolved by the death of Mr Joseph Ring, the manufactory is continued by Henry Carter and John Decimus Pountney, under the firm of ‘Carter and Pountney’, who manufacture porcelain, black Egyptian, blue printed and enamelled table services, and every article requisite for the home and export trade. Crates calculated for the foreign markets ready to be shipped immediately; also, small family crates, for domestic use, forwarded to order’.

On 28 October 1815 the partnership between Henry Carter and John Decimus Pountney was dissolved and Pountney carried on running the pottery alone until 1816 when he entered into a partnership with Edwin Allies.  A description of the Water Lane Pottery was given in 1819 in Matthew’s directory: ‘Bristol Pottery. The earthen-ware manufactory, under the name of the Bristol Pottery, is on Temple Back.  It is carried on by Messrs Pountney and Allies, has been established several years, and is now on a large and extensive scale giving employment to about 200 men, women, and children. The articles they produce are similar to those of Mr. Wedgwood’s, and the other superior potteries of Staffordshire, and constitute, in addition to the home trade, a considerable article of export to all the foreign markets. They grind their materials by means of a large and powerful steam-engine, and the various processes of forming the ware, of the glazing, of the printing, the painting, the enamelling, etc. are peculiarly curious and interesting. Admission may be had by application to the proprietors at the counting-house on the premises’.

In 1821 Pountney purchased the whole of the freehold of the site of the Water Lane Pottery from Henry Carter and the Ring family.

The enormous export trade of the pottery is recorded between 1815 and 1852 when Pountney was shipping earthenware to Cork, Waterford, Dublin, Limerick, Guernsey, Jersey, Ostend, Hamburg, Bayonne, Malta, Gijon (Spain), Corunna, Bilbao, Rivadero (Spain), Viana (Spain), Lisbon, Santander, Oporto, St Ubes (Portugal), Naples, Palermo, Livorno (Italy), St Kitts, Nevis, Jamaica, Barbados, St Vincent, St Michaels (probably now Bridgetown), Trinidad, Antigua, Tobago, Grenada, St Thomas, Demerara, Boston, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Charleston, New York, New Orleans, Quebec, Montreal, Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Rio de Janeiro, Camina (possibly Chile), Coast of Africa, Mauritius, Singapore, Hong Kong, Sydney, Adelaide and Port Phillip.

On 28 March 1835 ‘Notice [was] given that the partnership subsisting between … John Decimus Pountney and Edwin Allies in the business of potters … under the firm of Pountney and Allies is this day dissolved by mutual consent’ and on 20 December 1836 Pountney formed a partnership with Gabriel Goldney.  On 24 June 1843 this partnership was extended for another seven years with Pountney holding 75% of the business and Goldney 25%.  On 12 October 1850 Gabriel Goldney was recorded as Governor of the Corporation of the Poor in Bristol and he stated that in consequence of the dissolution of the partnership at the Bristol Pottery he was going into the north of England, but that he was not, at present, going to remove his family from Bristol.

Pountney carried on running the pottery alone and in 1851 he was recorded as a potter employing 80 men, 60 women and 50 children.

Pountney died on 30 December 1852 and his funeral was reported in the Bristol Mercury: ‘The late J.D. Pountney, Esq. The remains of this respected gentleman … were interred on Tuesday in the family vault at Temple church. The melancholy cortege consisted of a chariot and pair, a hearse and four richly plumed, and three mourning coaches and pairs.  The body was also followed by about sixty of the workmen and apprentices of the deceased (who was proprietor of the Bristol Pottery)’.

On 22 January 1853 ‘Notice is hereby given that the Bristol Pottery, carried on for nearly forty years by the late Mr John D. Pountney, will in future be conducted under the firm of ‘J.D. Pontney and Co.’, by his widow, Mrs Charlotte Fayle Pountney, who respectfully solicits a continuance of the kind support so many years conferred on her late husband’.

On 16 September 1854 it was reported that ‘we have much pleasure in announcing that Messrs J.D. Pountney & Co. of the Bristol Pottery, have resolved to confer the half-holiday privilege on the numerous workpeople in their employ, by closing their establishment for the future at one o’clock on Saturdays’.

On 15 August 1857 ‘The Bristol Pottery, Temple Back. Pountney, Edwards & Co. (late J.D. Pountney & Co.), respectfully inform the nobility, gentry and inhabitants of Bristol, Clifton and the vicinities that they have fitted up a spacious showroom, at their manufactory, with a choice and varied assortment of porcelain & earthenware comprising patterns and designs of the most recherche description in dinner and dessert services, toilet, tea and breakfast sets, together with a carefully selected stock of useful goods which will enable visitors to purchase direct from the manufactory, and at the same time afford them an opportunity of inspecting the Working Department of one of the most ancient and interesting of all manufactures. The manufactory is open daily for the inspection of visitors’.

In March 1865 the Western Daily Press published a description of the Water Lane Pottery and the methods of production used:

‘It is our purpose in this article to give a detailed account of the different processes, carried on at this extensive place, which bears the distinctive name of The Bristol Pottery. The earthenware manufactured here is composed of calcined flint, Cornish feldspar, Dorsetshire clay, and china clay from Cornwall. By far the largest proportion consists of flint, which is brought from Dieppe, on the coast of France. Having been calcined till they are quite white, by a process similar to that of burning lime, the flint stones are put into a box lined with a series of bars of iron.  A couple of heavy ‘stampers’, loaded with iron at the ends, and lifted up and down alternately by the arms of a revolving shaft, reminding one somewhat of a giant on the treadmill, break the flints into small pieces, which pass through the iron bars. This action is similar to that of a mortar and pestle. The pieces are then placed into what is called the flint pan, a large circular machine paved with chertstone, from Bakewell in Derbyshire. An upright shaft with four arms, worked by steam, rotates in the centre of the pan, and propels four ‘runners’, weighing about a ton each, also composed of chertstone. The flint, mixed with a certain quantity of water, remains here for twelve hours, until it is ground as fine that it might be passed through a cambric handkerchief.  It is then blended with the other ingredients mentioned. The object of using flint is to whiten the ware and prevent it from warping too much in the ovens, and contracting in too great a degree. Poole blue clay is introduced on account of its high plasticity, and Cornish, though less so, is considerably whiter. Felspar, being a fusible substance, is used to bind the whole of the mass together in the potter’s kiln. These materials are brought to a certain specific gravity in a slop state. An imperial pint of flint weighs 32 oz; Cornish stone, 32 oz; china clay, 26 oz; and blue clay, 24 oz. The proper quantity of each is gauged into a mixing tub, and then the whole ‘body’ is passed through very fine wire sifters, leaving every particle of grit behind. It is then transferred to the slip kilns, which are bedded with quarries made of fire clay, and kept at a temperature of about 212 deg (Farenheit) till the water has evaporated, and the mass is brought to a certain consistency adapted for working. In this state it is sometimes like putty, both in appearance and softness. Being passed through pug-mills, the vertical shafts in the centre of which are armed with knives, it exudes at the bottom in an even and compressed form, and is cut off in requisite lengths with a piece of wire, and is now ready for being worked.
The formation of the doughy-looking material into articles of domestic use is accomplished either by ‘throwing’ and ‘turning’, or by ‘moulding’. The first of these processes is undergone on the potter’s wheel – a simple piece of mechanism of the greatest antiquity.  Such articles only as have a circular form are made in this manner.  A large wheel, turning an endless band, causes the rapid rotation of a vertical shaft, upon which is fixed a small circular disc. The wheel is turned by a female, and an artificer is seated in such a position as to have a complete command over the disc.  He takes a lump of clay, slaps it down several times in order to exclude every particle of air, and places it on the circular board, which is then set in motion.  Moistening his hands with water, in order that the clay may not adhere to them, he moulds it into such shapes as may be required.  This process is one of great interest, and the dexterity of the workman engaged in it shows a large amount of practice.  Six or seven cups, saucers, mugs, and pots were turned out in our presence, in half as many minutes.  It matters not whether the vessel be tall or short, thick or thin – it is fashioned into a taper column, or into a bulging bowl, with equal dexterity and skill.  When a number of vessels are required to be of the same size they are ‘thrown’ to a certain ‘standard’, made by an iron point projecting in such a position that their height and diameter are rendered absolute.  As the clay is rotating the ‘thrower’ can, by the pressure of his hand, guide it, so to speak, into any size or form he thinks proper, and the articles thus whirled into a crude shape are put into a potter’s drying stove, and, after being kept there for a short time, are taken to the lathe.
The ‘turner’ places them on a block, and an assistant moves the footboard by which the lathe is set in motion.  All the rough edges are then removed by tools for the purpose, grooves of a common pattern are made in some cases, and the vessel is burnished by being rapidly turned under the pressure of a piece of iron.  There is a long room full of these lathes, which are turned by women.  All the shavings are collected and made up again for use.  The handles and lips to the cups and jugs are made in departments specially devoted to that purpose.  The spout is made by putting a piece of clay into a spout-mould, sticking it with some ‘slip’ to the rim of the vessel, and then cutting out the lip with a sharp knife.  Handles are made by pressing the clay through a die, cutting it off in certain requisite lengths, bending them into the proper curve by hand and fastening them in the same manner as the spouts.  A moist sponge removes all impurities, and gives a smooth finish to the appearance of the clay.  Some of the cheaper goods are coloured on the lathe, and the process is what is called making ‘dipped ware’.  The ‘dips’ are made from the body ‘slip’ coloured with oxides.  For instance, oxide of cobalt and zinc makes turquoise; oxide of nickel, drab; oxide of iron and manganese, black; and sesquioxide of chromium, green.
The ‘dipping’ of a common pint beer mug is in itself a most interesting feature.  While the vessel is rotating on the lathe the ‘turner’ colours it, in the following manner.  A bottle with a mouth pipe at the top, and small copper pipes projecting at right angles at the bottom, contains the ‘dip’.  The small pipes are applied close to the mug, and the man gently blows down from the top.  The rapid revolution of the lathe causes the colour to be equally applied all round.  The two black rings at the top of the mug are blown on first; then the broad blue ring from another bottle; then the black ones near the bottom; and, finally, the drab ground that fills up the whole of the intervening space.  But now comes the most interesting, as well as the most remarkable fact in connection with this very interesting and remarkable process.  While the drab ground is still in a liquid state the mug is held upside down, and slightly touch in four places with another liquid, which runs into the first, and spreads out in an almost exact imitation of Mocha trees, not one of which, out of the thousands that are made, precisely resembles any of the others.  This liquid is composed of three drops of the metallic oxide of iron and manganese, mixed with a solution of strong tobacco water.  The origin of this peculiar process is said to be due to a Scotch potter, who, in chewing his ‘quid’ happened to expectorate over some of the moist colour.  The tobacco-juice spread in a branchy form, and the master-potter, when he saw it, immediately asked how that form was occasioned.  The man told him, and then they set to work to try and discover some metallic pigment with which they could combine the tobacco juice, in order to preserve the peculiarity of the new pattern when burnt in the kiln.  This, after some time, was effected in such a manner that the tobacco, in spreading, carried the colour with it, and that when the fire burnt out the vegetable, it burnt in, and preserved, the form of the mineral.  So, at least, the story runs.
We must now look at the manufacture of those articles which are ‘moulded’ – a process technically known as ‘pressing’.  The moulds are made in different pieces, fitting into one another, and making a complete vessel.  The manufacture of an ewer or toilet jug, which we witnessed, will illustrate the entire process better, perhaps, than any general explanation.  The necessary quantity of clay – which is similar to that used in the ‘throwing’ process – is placed on a block or disc, made of plaster of Paris, and hammered out well with a plaster ‘batter’, and then worked up with the hand.  In the next place it is beaten out like a piece of paste, and polished with the flat part of a knife.  This piece of clay is put into a half mould of the jug, the polished surface being laid towards the plaster.  The ‘presser’ then ‘bosses’ it in with a sponge to the face of the mould, tipping off the superfluous clay with his thumb; and the same process is performed with the other half.  The two halves, being notched together, and fastened firmly with straps, are placed on a circular slab which revolves on a perpendicular shaft.  The ‘presser’ next passes a roll of clay up each seam inside, so as to fill up the unevenness occasioned by the joining.  The bottom of the ewer is made on a disc called a ‘whirler’, which is put in rotation by hand, and is then fastened to the other portion of the mould.  This is done in a similar way, by turning the disc and working the two parts together inside with the hands.  After the clay has dried a little the moulds are removed, and the spare edge is cut off with a knife.  The workman stamps his private mark on the bottom, in order that he may know his article again when it comes out of the oven.  Various scrapings and polishings with pieces of horn, leather, and sponge are made so as to finish the exterior as well as possible, and then handles are affixed in the same way as described above.  Any kind of form can be made in these moulds, such as soup-tureens, butter-boats, hand-basins, etc.  A number of the last-named were being manufactured on the occasion of our visit, to be sent to the Coast of Africa for using as rice-bowls.
Having been moulded they are placed on another kind of circular disc, worked by a handle, something on the wheel principle, called a ‘jigger’.  A roll of clay is put on the bottom for the foot-piece, and formed into shape by the hand and a tool called a ‘profile’.  The use of the hand, however, in potter’s work, is superior to all tools, and performs its duties far more perfectly.  Dishes are made in dish-moulds, and the rough edges cut off with a piece of wire termed a ‘frog’.  Plates are made on a ‘jigger’; and a practised hand can turn out on an average as many as fifty dozen a day.  Every man puts his private mark on each article he makes, so that when they are taken out of the kiln they are sorted over and counted; and he is paid according to the number returned against his name.  Some of the jugs are made buff outside and white in.  This is done by making them of Dorsetshire clay (which burns a buff colour) and washed out with white ‘slip’.  Where the jugs are too small for the ‘presser’ to put his hand inside to finish them off, what is called a ‘tommy sponge’ is used.  It consists simply of a piece of sponge fastened to the end of a handle.
When the articles, either ‘thrown’ or ‘moulded’ have been properly trimmed and finished, they are ready for ‘firing’, a process which takes place in a potter’s ‘biscuit kiln’ for burning clay ware when in a clay state.  The articles are placed in deep oval-shaped pans or crucibles, called ‘saggers’ (more properly ‘seggers’, from a Hebrew root signifying to burn), made of fire-clay.  The dimensions of Messrs Pountney’s kilns exceed those of almost any pottery in the kingdom, and vary in size, the average being about 19ft 6ins in diameter, and 30ft in height.  They are built in a conical shape; the brick walls being more than 2ft 6in thick, and bound together with iron bands, and having a series of ten mouths.  Each oven contains on the average about 3,000 dozens of ware, and it must be remembered that a potter’s dozen sometimes means as many as 36 articles.  The mouths referred to communicate with flues underneath the kiln, and, being filled with coal, the fires are never allowed to go down till the burning is complete.  About 16 tons of coal are used in each firing.  The temperature is gradually increased from atmospheric heat to 75 degrees (Wedgewoods’ pyrometer), and the fire kept burning for 50 hours, at a tremendously full white heat.  During this process the articles get perfectly white, and obtain the crisp, brittle character which gives them the name of ‘biscuit’ ware.  The fire is allowed to cool down gradually, and at the end of two days the ‘saggers’ are drawn out, and the contents removed to a warehouse.
We now pass into quite a different department of the manufacture.  The ‘biscuits’ having acquired a degree of porousness which enables them to retain the impressions with which they are to be adorned, and passed either to the printing or painting shops.  In the former a large number of the female sex are employed; and in their particular branches of the work prove equally useful as the men.  The process of printing on ware is exceedingly interesting.  The design is engraved in the first place on copper – not in the common reversed method of engravings, but just as it is intended to appear on the article.  All this work is done in the north of England, our local engravers not being equal to the task.  The expense of a complete set of many of the choice new patterns is very great – possibly as much in some instances as a couple of hundred pounds.  This price was paid for a very chaste and elegant design representing the four seasons.  The plates, having been cleaned carefully with a stiff little brush, dipped in spirits of tar, are well rubbed over with a mixture of the desired colour and oil, which is pressed into every line of the engraving by the aid of what is termed a ‘muller’.  This is performed over a stove, in order that the heat may assist in making the oily substance flow freely; and when it has been properly rubbed in the surplus colour is scraped off with a knife, and the plate ‘bossed’ quite clean.  A sheet of the finest tissue paper – manufactured especially for the purpose of pottery printing, and perfectly free from all those knots which would break the lines of the engraving – is then primed over with soap and water, laid carefully on the plate, and both are put under a cylindrical roller covered with flannel, and well pressed.  The impression of the engraving is thus transferred to the paper.  In the case of the jugs, and articles of that description, the rim and handle patterns are engraved separately from the principle design, although on the same plate, so that a number of children, called ‘cutters’ are engaged in cutting the papers into the different parts.  Women, known in the trade as ‘transferrers’, then lay the tissue, yet moist with the colour, carefully on the ‘biscuit pieces’, and rub it on with a flannel roller.  The colour thus becomes transferred to the ware, to which it adheres immediately.  The articles are then put into cold water, and the paper sponged off, leaving the impression of the design beautifully imprinted upon them.
Among the different plates which attract the attention of the visitor, and which represent in this manufactory alone an aggregate sum of £6,000, there is an especially interesting one of the Suspension Bridge.  So great has been the demand for wares of all kinds imprinted with this elegant design that Messrs Pountney and Co. have not been able to keep pace with it till recently; and even now orders are pouring in thick and fast for jugs, plates, dishes, or what not, presenting (as long as they last) a capital picture of the Clifton Suspension Bridge.  The old-fashioned willow pattern is another design for which there is a constant demand.  The plates for this design are generally engraved by inferior artists.  But, whatever its demerits, the old willow pattern will never go out.  One great thing in its favour – and a most important consideration with thrifty housewives – is that it can always be matched.  A lady might well be ‘mistress of herself though China fall’, if China should be replaced so easily as willow patterned ware.  We are told that the firm under notice make of plates alone, in this style, upwards of 1,000 dozen a week.
The colour when printed on first is dingy-looking drab, and does not come out in the well-known bright blue until after it has been burnt.  Sometimes vessels are printed with different colours, and in such cases a separate engraving has to be used for each, and the papers applied one at a time till the necessary pattern is completed.  Having been printed the ware is put into a printer’s stove, where the water is allowed to drain out.
‘Biscuit’ painting is performed by hand.  The article is placed on an enameller’s wheel – which is simply a light rotary disc, turned round at will by the artist’s hand – and ‘lined’ where necessary with a camel’s hair brush.  Practice alone enables the performer to make a series of very fine circular lines.  Flowers and other devices are also put on according to the fancy, and in most cases with a rapidity quite surprising.  We tried our ‘prentice hand’ at this novel style of limning, but the result fell infinitely short of the bold design we had hurriedly sketched out in our minds for execution.  In the painting shop we saw several huge eight-gallon jugs, which have been especially made for some of the African kings, and will be ornamented with their majesties’ unpronounceable names, painted in the gaudiest of those colours likely to please their royal optics.  The pigments used in this department are worked in water.
And now the ware, having been decorated by the printing process, is put into a ‘harding (hardening) on kiln’, where it is raised to a red heat, in order that all the oil contained in the metallic pigment may be burned out.  This being done, it is removed to the dipping house, and dipped in a trough of glaze.  This glaze is composed of borate of soda alumina and lime ground in water, with silicate of lead, to about the consistency of cream.  The ‘biscuit’ when dipped in, absorbs just sufficient glaze to coat it; and is afterwards whirled round by hand once or twice to spread it evenly all over the surface, and throw off the superfluous moisture, and then placed on the points of nails driven rake-fashion through a board.  It dries almost directly, and is carried to the glossed-placing house, where it is carefully packed in ‘saggers’.
Each article rests upon little clay ‘stilts’ or ‘spurs’, with points which prevent its sticking to anything else, or being fused into a mass with the other articles when in the furnace.  A luting of fire clay, called ‘wadding’, is put round the tops of each of the saggers; so that when they are piled one on top of the other it makes them air-tight and prevents any of the sulphurous smoke getting in and spoiling the ware.  The ‘saggers’ are then placed in the kiln where they burn for 18 hours at a temperature of 84 degrees (Wedgewood), and then cool for one day.  When drawn from the oven they are sent off to the warehouse, packed in crates, and despatched to all parts of the world.
Before we quit this interesting art it must be observed that all the preparatory work necessary for carrying it out is done on the premises.  All the bricks are made there in kilns especially for the purpose.  The colours used for printing on pottery ware are carefully prepared from such metallic oxides as will bear the intense heat of the potter’s glazing oven.  For example – pink is obtained from the oxides of chromium and tin; green from the oxides of chromium with lime and silica; brown from the oxides of chromium, iron, zinc and manganese; black from the oxides of chromium, manganese and cobalt; blue from the oxide of cobalt with silica; turquoise from the oxides of cobalt, aluminium and zinc; yellow from the oxides of antimony, lead and tin; and orange from the oxides of antimony, lead, iron and tin.  The combination of any of these, of course, gives other colours; such as purple by the blending of blue and pink.  These colours are ground in pans, made under the direction of the manager.  A shop is devoted exclusively to the use of a modeller who makes the necessary moulds for the ‘pressing’ work.
It may readily be imagined that the Bristol Pottery occupies a considerable area of ground.  About 250 hands are employed in the different departments of the business; and for lovers of statistics we may add that 5,000 tons of coal and 3,000 of raw material – flint, clay, etc – are consumed annually.  We have tried to give an outline of the various processes of this most interesting art, and, if any of our fair readers have thereby had their devotion for ‘crockery’ increased, we shall have been well repaid for the labour.  Few more pleasant days could be spent than in going through a pottery.  Those who may wish to see for themselves the different features of interest about which we have written will, no doubt, be accommodated by Mr Clowes, the courteous manager of the works, to whose attention and kindness we are indebted for no small portion of the information now laid before our readers’.

It seems that by 1866 Charlotte Fayle Pountney wished to give up the business and the Water Lane Pottery was advertised for sale on 22 August: ‘The Bristol Pottery. Messrs G.C. Ashmead & Son have been instructed by the executors of the late proprietor to offer for sale by public auction … on Thursday the 4th day of July … all that well-established, extensive and valuable freehold earthenware pottery known as the Bristol Pottery, with the plant, stock, etc, of the same, situate in Water Lane and Temple Backs … and also all that lifehold wharf, yard and buildings, used with the pottery, and separated therefrom by the public road. The property comprises: a foreman’s house and another dwelling house, flint, slip and enamel kilns, biscuit and glost ovens, steam engine, fixtures, moulds, etc., and all the requisites for carrying on an extensive business capable of being extended at a small cost.  To view the property apply to Mr Clowes, the Manager …’.

The pottery failed to sell and was re-advertised on 6 July 1867: ‘The Bristol Pottery. This valuable property, containing an area of nearly an acre and a half, not having been sold by auction this day, may be treated for by private contract.  The premises are so extensive that portions of them may easily be converted to other businesses if desired. Price, including all machinery, fittings and fixtures mentioned in the particulars, but excepting the manufactured and unmanufactured stock-in-trade and materials, £15,000’.

In 1872 the Illustrated Handbook to Bristol, Clifton and Neighbourhood reported that in the pottery of Pountney and Company: ‘White earthenware only is manufactured which is composed of calcined flints, feldspar, Devonshire clay, and china clay from Cornwall. About 250 hands are employed and about 5,000 tons of coals, and 3,000 tons of flints, clay, etc., are consumed annually’.

Charlotte Fayle Pountney must have continued running the pottery until her death in November 1872 and it was then sold to Halsted Sayer Cobden, a wealthy young man, who had been a lieutenant in the 14th Hussars. In 1873 he purchased the recently bankrupt Bristol Victoria Pottery on St Philip’s Marsh which he ran together with the Water Lane Pottery.In 1878 the two potteries, which were trading as Pountney and Company, were acquired by two London solicitors, a Patrick Johnston and a Mr Rogers. Rogers retired in 1883 and Patrick Johnston died in July 1884.

Pountney and Company was taken over by Patrick Johnston’s nephew, Thomas Bertram Johnston.  He closed the Water Lane Pottery in 1885, transferring production to the Bristol Victoria Pottery.  In 1886 he took over the Crown Pottery at St George which had previously been owned by the Ellis family.

The sale of the Water Lane Pottery was advertised in August 1885 when it was described as the: ‘extensive and important freehold property known as the Bristol Pottery … covering an area of about one and a half acres; together with a wharf, yard and premises nearly opposite, with valuable river frontage: the whole situate on Temple Backs. Comprising the extensive manufactory, with commodious show and ware rooms, counting houses, glost, biscuit, colour, fritt, enamel, slip, hardening and flint kilns; engine and mill house, spacious yards, workshops of various kinds, stable, gig house, cellars, stores, entrance passage to the yard and counting house, foreman’s dwelling house with warehouse adjoining and lofts over, in Water Lane; together with the steam engine, mill, machinery, fixtures, etc. These extensive premises have frontages to Water Lane of 69 feet and Temple Backs of 245 feet; the extreme depth from Temple Backs to Temple Churchyard being also 245 feet or thereabouts.  The property is subject to a yearly fee farm rent of £1.9s.2d; also to a payment or acknowledgement of 1s per annum for permission to build on the wall of the Temple Churchyard. Also the valuable leasehold wharf, yard, buildings and premises, with river frontage, situate nearly opposite the pottery, and most convenient for the reception and despatch of goods. These premises have a frontage on Temple Backs of 22 feet, extending in depth towards the river of 135 feet, and have a frontage there of 38 feet or thereabouts. The property is held for two terms of 99 years determinable on the deaths of two persons now aged respectively 64 and 38 years, or thereabouts, subject to the payment of an annual rent of £1.6s.8d. The pottery and wharf are within five minutes walk of the Goods Department of the Bristol Joint Railway Station, and present an unusually favourable opportunity to persons seeking capacious premises, for either continuing the pottery business or other manufacturing or warehousing purposes. The works have been in continuous operation, and are capable of further extension at moderate cost’.

Part of the site was acquired by the Bristol Day School Board who advertised in July 1887 for contractors to submit tenders ‘for clearing the site of the proposed Day Industrial School and removal of kilns, stacks, buildings and materials of part of the late Bristol Pottery, Temple Backs’.

In 1905 Thomas Bertram Johnston transferred production at the Bristol Victoria Pottery and the Crown Pottery to a newly built pottery at Fishponds on the outskirts of Bristol.

Wares produced

Tin-glazed earthenwares.
Yellow slip wares.
Mottled earthenwares with iron-enriched glaze.
Cream ware (Queen’s ware).
Pearl ware.
Brown stoneware.
Red earthenwares, including sugar moulds, chimney and garden pots.
Fine industrial slipwares: banded and geometrically diced ware, cable decorated ware and mocha ware.
Transfer-printed and hand painted earthenwares.

Finds of waste pottery and kiln materialPrice, R. 2005. Pottery kiln waste from Temple Back, Bristol. Bristol and Avon Archaeology 20, 59-115.
Several groups of pottery are described which were found during construction work at Temple Back in 1972.  These include ‘wasters’ of tin-glazed earthenware, slipware, mottled earthenware and stoneware, all dating from c1730-50; stoneware from the mid-18th century; banded and geometrically diced wares, cabled decorated ware, mocha ware, transfer-printed ware and plain biscuit from c1836-40.  A quantity of kiln furniture was also found. 357 fragments of pottery and kiln furniture are illustrated.  All these wares were almost certainly made at the Water Lane Pottery.
(HER no. 4294; BRSMG accession no. 21/1979).

Fowler, P.J. 1973. Archaeological review no. 7 for 1972. University of Bristol, page 62.
In 1972 road widening work in Temple Back cut through a layer containing large quantities of waste pottery and kiln furniture (NGR ST 59457274).  The majority of vessels were cream ware plates, cups, vases and gravy boats. Other material included combed and feathered slipware posset pots, decorated slipware plates and dishes, and lead and salt-glazed tankards.  The top of a tin-glazed earthenware flagon with ?’ALE’ painted on it was found and also an unglazed cobalt-painted delft tile.  The deposit was thought to date to about 1780 and the waste probably came from the Water Lane Pottery.
(HER no. 11).

Fowler, P.J. 1973. Archaeological review no. 7 for 1972. University of Bristol, page 62.
In 1972 construction work revealed a stone-lined rubbish pit in Petticoat Lane, Temple parish (NGR ST 5937276). It contained late 18th-century cream ware wasters and kiln furniture, with some complete cream ware plates and cups.  The find spot was close to the Water Lane Pottery which was certainly the origin of the waste.

Fowler, P.J. 1973. Archaeological review no. 7 for 1972. University of Bristol, page 62.
A make-up deposit west of Petticoat Lane, Temple parish, produced quantities of tin-glazed earthenware wasters dating to the late 17th century (NGR ST 59357278).  Cut through this layer was a pit containing kiln waste dating to about 1700 to 1740.  The find spot was close to the Water Lane Pottery which may have been the origin of the waste.

Jackson, R. 1994. Archaeological evaluation of Quay Point, Temple Meads, Bristol. Bristol and Region Archaeological Services unpublished report no. BA/C077.
An evaluation trench excavated at this site produced three groups of mid 19th-century wasters and kiln furniture almost certainly from the Water Lane Pottery.  They comprised mainly large numbers of sherds of white earthenwares, some with transfer-printed decoration, in their biscuit state and included tankards, plates, meat dishes, jugs, cups, saucers, eggcups and bowls.  There were also mocha-ware jugs and tankards, some bearing excise marks, and banded ware and slip decorated bowls.  Some sherds had been used as tallies in the pottery and bear lists of numbers written in pencil. Kiln furniture included saggars, stilts and rolls of fire clay and there were fragments of plaster moulds.
(HER no. 462; BRSMG accession no. 45/1994).

Comments are closed.