Frederick James Slater

Foreword

The following essay was produced by Hilary Bourdillon and is about her Great Uncle, the Burton-in-Lonsdale Potter Freddie Slater.
Hilary has very kindly allowed me to publish this in full on my blog, where I feel it sits well alongside my Burton Pottery related articles.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

Preface

In writing this account, my intended audience is my family. I have written it to satisfy my own curiosity about the activities of my great-uncle Frederick J. Slater. I considered it important to make some sort of comprehensive record of the information I have found about him. Images therefore are for personal use and the copyright to them may be held elsewhere.
Of course, it is an incomplete and inconclusive record, and as anyone who works on the history of Burton-in-Lonsdale will know, finding the sources can be quite a challenge. The village is on the borders of Lancashire/Yorkshire and Westmorland/Cumbria, so anyone looking for information cannot always be certain where it will be found, as the cutting across administrative boundaries creates multiple locations for information. This is particularly true of incidental information such as newspaper reports. The village also shares part of its name with another pottery town, one of the much more established and documented Staffordshire pottery towns – Burton-on-Trent. Freddie Slater also shares his name with others, who at the time of writing this are on the TV and in the newspapers – namely Freddie Slater ( Bobbie Brazier) the character in East Enders and on this year’s ‘Strictly come Dancing, and Freddie Slater “one of Britain’s most exciting prospects with great success in karting as he continues to make his way up the motorsport ladder.”(2023). This can confuse and confound. I hope I have managed to avoid doing that.
Finally there is the emotional pull of researching family history – we all want our ancestors to be ‘ winners’ as programmes like ‘ Who do you think you are?’ demonstrate. What a story when it is discovered that there is Royalty in the family! I am more excited by finding trade union organisers. And that is my bias. As well as uncovering remarkable acts and astonishing achievements, family history can also uncover the unspoken and less reputable side of family activities. Those aspects of behaviour which have been swept under the carpet. In my case it is my great grandfather, William Garnett Slater, Freddie’s father, who turned into a drunkard and was violent towards his long suffering wife Alice, and in all likelihood his children too as well as other members of the village,
And so we take sides – consciously or unconsciously – and I do think Freddie is a hero who is, in need of historical rescue!
Hilary Bourdillon.
September 2023.

Searching for Freddie – The Lost Potter of Burton-in- Lonsdale.

As children, my sisters, brother and I always knew about Burton-in-Lonsdale potteries. Various items of Burton pottery graced out house. We had a money box, although we never put any money into it as we feared we would never get it out – at least not without breaking the pot. There was a rustic style pot holder in the shape of a tree trunk, a tobacco jar with a crenelated edge and other items.

Fig. 1 The Money Box.

We had a vague idea that one of our grandfather’s brothers had been a potter, but didn’t know anything about him, nor at the time were we particularly interested. As we played down by the river Greta we collected the pottery ‘seconds’ which we found amongst the river pebbles, rocks and hollows. Generally, we found only pottery fragments, a bottle neck here, or its base there. But sometimes we were lucky and found whole but rejected pots. The pencils on my desk are held in a misshaped earthenware small jar, possibly a mustard pot, a Burton pottery second, thrown away. In the kitchen, on top of an earthenware jar, is a wobbly, ill-fitting pottery lid, another reject, dumped on the tip by the side of the river over a century ago. Adventures by the river were escapes from visiting my father’s cousin, Harriet, who lived in Hollins house in Duke Street, and where I had to be on my best behaviour.
My father’s family lived in Burton-in-Lonsdale for years. My great, great grandfather, William Slater,(1809-1878), had been a shoe maker/cordwainer. Born in Westhouse in the parish of Thornton-in- Lonsdale in 1809. He married Jane Hoggart b.1809 from Burton-in-Lonsdale. The census returns from 1841, shows them living in Burton-in-Lonsdale. In the 1881 Census return, then at the age of 72, Jane is listed as ‘formerly schoolmistress.’
With resources like ‘Ancestry’ and ‘Find my Past’, and the www in general, it is relatively easy to find information about ancestors. Their lives are recorded in the official documents of the time such as census returns, electoral registers, the registers of Births, Deaths and Marriage etc, together with the Parish church registers. However, it is not my direct grand parents who are the focus of my interest here, but my great uncle, Freddie Slater, the potter whom we had vaguely heard about as we splashed in the river Greta.
The census returns etc give information about my grandfather’s older brother Frederick James Slater. But the official records give little detail about people’s lives. At the time I began to explore my family history, Lee Cartledge’s book was published (Cartledge 2021) ‘The Last Potter of Burton-in-Lonsdale’ , which tells the story of Richard Bateson, his work as a thrower at the Burton Potteries and as a teacher at the Central School of Art in London. The book is based on the oral testimony of Richard and John Bateson. It is a history of Richard Bateson and gives a vivid account of the Burton potteries in production at the end of the nineteenth to mid twentieth century, together with information about the working lives and working conditions of some of the potters. One of those potters was my great uncle Freddie.
It is from Lee’s book, and Richard Bateson’s account, that I discovered much about Freddie, his character and his work. In brief, Freddie worked at Town End Pottery where he learnt his skill as a thrower, and his reputation as being one of the best throwers to emerge from Burton was established. In 1908 on the death of his mentor, John ‘Jacky’ Parker the owner of Town End Pottery, Freddie borrowed money to buy it. The business failed just before the outbreak of the First World War. Freddie had to find work, so he moved from Burton-in-Lonsdale to the Portobello potteries in Edinburgh, but later returned to Burton to work at Bateson’s Waterside Potteries. Lee records that it was whilst working at Portobello that Freddie:
‘discovered lots of new pottery techniques, trades unions and health and safety regulations, all of which he brought back to Burton-in-Lonsdale when he eventually returned, causing all sorts of disruption within the Burton potteries…..’(Cartledge 2021)

The ‘disruption’ Freddie caused was to form a trade union in the potteries of Burton-in-Lonsdale. He recruited members and organised a strike to ‘protest about health and safety conditions at Waterside Pottery’ (ibid 2021). Richard Bateson’s account of these events also give his view of Freddie’s character. ‘He was lord of all he surveyed.’ and he was particularly ‘Boss of all he surveyed in throwing’ ( ibid 2021). Freddie is described in Bateson’s account as a competitive, wayward character who, through his efforts to improve conditions for pottery workers, caused a great deal of disruption.

I find it fascinating that one of my ancestors campaigned for better working conditions, but Richard’s description of Freddie, his arch comments about his ownership of Town End pottery and his damning of trade union activity made me want to explore this aspect of the history of Burton-in-Lonsdale potteries in more depth. Why is the unionisation of the potters of Burton- in-Lonsdale described in the negative terms of disruptions? Why is Freddie’s organising of the union described as being a ‘bad point” outweighed by his ‘good points’ as a thrower? ( ibid. 2021) Why is this action in the potteries something not remembered in the village’s history as a moment of standing up for a better life by challenging the appalling working conditions? What is the documentary evidence for Freddie’s ownership of Town End Pottery and union activity in the potteries? Is there any evidence that gives an insight into Freddie Slater’s personality and does it paint a different picture from the challenging person who is described in Lee’s book? And why, in pamphlet after pamphlet and book after book, oral account and archive after archive, is Freddie Slater rarely mentioned? There are many potters who worked in the potteries who have not been remembered in its history. But given that Freddie was a highly skilled potter, a pottery owner and a trade union organiser, why is he only remembered in R.T.Bateson’s oral account if he was such an influential figure?

These are the questions Lee’s book raised for me, and so began my search for the potter I am calling the “Lost Potter “of Burton-in-Lonsdale, Frederick James Slater. I have searched for him in the books written about the potteries, in the archive at Lancaster University and in the Ceramic and Allied Trade Union papers at the Working Class Movement Library in Salford. In addition I have looked at the other official records in the North Yorkshire County Record Office, in newspaper reports, the census returns, trades directories, and Electoral Registers. This search has raised questions about the process of writing history and gives a clear example of how the historical record is only ever a partial and a subjective account of the past. In searching for Freddie, I hope another perspective and picture emerges to enhance and colour the history of Burton-in-Lonsdale and its potteries. This is the story of Freddie and his ownership of Town End Pottery and Pottery Trade Unions in Burton-in-Lonsdale.

Family and Early Life.

Frederick James Slater (1870-1947) did not come from a pottery owning family. He was born on 14th February 1870, the second son of William Garnett Slater who was a blacksmith in the village, and his wife Alice (née Ireland). William served his blacksmith apprenticeship in the nearby village of Wray and the 1861 census shows him aged 18, living in Wray as an apprentice to the blacksmith William Cornthwaite. The West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns tells us that William Garnett Slater (father William Slater – Shoemaker) was married in the church at Luddenden (near Halifax) on February 27th 1865. He was 21 years old. His occupation is listed as Blacksmith. He married Alice Ireland aged 23 who is recorded as being a Servant. (father Thomas Ireland – Basketmaker). Both the bride and groom were resident in Midgley at the time of marriage. This is surprising, given that fact that William worked in Wray. One possible explanation is that they were married on special licence. The likelihood is that Alice who was born in the village of Arkholme near Wray, met William, but then moved for employment to Midgley, where they were married on special licence. There is no record of where they lived after getting married. In January 1866, their first child, Freddie’s older brother, George was born and they moved back to Burton-in-Lonsdale around 1870 to open the Blacksmith’s Smithy
Alice’s family were basket weavers, which was a long established industry in Arkholme, using the willow growing by the River Lune. The 1851 census gives this entry for Alice’s family:
Thomas Ireland, 61, basket maker.
Margaret, his wife, 42.
Elizabeth, Daughter, Unmarried, Home Servant.
James, Son, Unmarried 18, basket maker.
Dorothy, 13
Jane, 11
Alice, 9
Bridget 7, and
Mary Agness 2.

By 1861, Alice was employed as a House Servant in a Henry B Denny’s household. He is unmarried, aged 49 and a farmer of 36 acres of land, living with his sister, Margaret Robinson, a widow listed as a housekeeper, and William Hutton, a widower and a Border, aged 72, listed as a Landed Proprietor.
For some reason Alice moved from Arkholme to Midgely near Halifax to work as a Servant sometime between the 1861 census and her marriage to William Garnett in 1865. Some of Alice’s relatives also moved from Arkholme to live in Burton to work as wand weavers at the potteries at around this time. The 1871 Census lists John Ireland, a basket maker (aged 62 – born in Arkholme ). He was Alice’s uncle and lived a couple of doors away from her.

The Village of Burton-in-Lonsdale 1870.


When Freddies’ parents moved to live in Burton-in-Lonsdale it had a thriving economy based on series of successful potteries, two mills ( a cotton and later silk mill and a bobbin factory ). It already had a smithy so the opening of a William Garnett’s blacksmith shop one was a sign of the increasing prosperity of the area. The village was expanding and, as demonstrated in the 1871 census returns, drew people from the surrounding area, from Ambleside, Overton, Ingleton, Sedburgh, Melling , Barbon, Rathmell, Arkholme etc. to live in the village, attracted by the employment opportunities in the potteries, the mill, the requirement for coal etc. The street where Freddie grew up was inhabited by a mixture of households which included skilled and unskilled workers. Some of the men ran their own business, and employed other men to work for them, like Freddie’s father, whilst others were in less secure occupations like unskilled agricultural labourers.
The village benefitted from the benefactions of the Thornton family. Richard Thornton (1776-1865) was born in the village. He made a fortune from the Baltic trade and was known as the Duke of Danzic’ from his strategically important commercial shipping interests during the Napoleonic wars. On his death he left an estate of £2.8 million, one of the largest ever recorded at that time. In a long list of charitable bequests, Richard left £10,000 upon trust for maintenance of schools built at my expense in Burton for poor children’. The Richard Thornton Endowed School opened in January 1854, originally intended for 46 girls and 46 boys.
Richard’s nephew, Thomas Thornton, also born in the village inherited £1 million from his uncle. Burton-in-Lonsdale’s Gothic Revival church, consecrated in 1870, was built at his expense, ‘for the benefit of his native place’. People comment on the fact that it is a large church for the size of the village, and the church in itself is further evidence of the optimism surrounding the economic growth of Burton-in-Lonsdale at the time Freddie was born. The church was designed with the expectation that the population would grow as the pottery industry and the cotton mills drew people into the village. There was also an expectation that the railway would come to Burton, bringing with it improved transport and distributions links and a consequent rise in population.
The prosperity enjoyed by Britain in the 1870’s was far from equally distributed. For families like Freddie’s living in Duke Street in 1871 life was often haphazard and precarious. Sickness and unemployment could throw families quickly into poverty and the spectre of the workhouse must have haunted most working families. For much of the nineteenth century it was illegal for working people to band together to improve their working lives and conditions. It was a criminal offence under the Master and Servant Act, which had various iterations in the 18th and 19th centuries, to abscond from employment. The servant was criminalised but not the master. There was no sick pay or old age pension, and until the 1870’s married women had no legal existence, for example they could not own property, had no rights over their children, could not divorce their husbands or of course vote in elections. At a time when women generally outlived their husbands, widowhood and old age could easily throw people on the mercy of the parish. Indeed the church records of 1873 show that the offertory for Christmas Day was ‘Given to the Poor as above – Jane Slater £2.00.’ (Vestry and Offertory. MIC 1961/0800). Jane was Freddie’s grandmother.

Frederick James Slater – Early Life

A snap shot of Freddie’s family at the time of his birth is given in the 1871 Census:
Burton-in-Lonsdale (This census does not specify the street)
William G Slater. Head. Married. 28. Master Blacksmith employing 1 man
Alice. Wife 29
George G Son 5. Scholar.
Frederick J. Son. 1
Margaret J. Daughter. 3 mths.
Freddie was baptised on January 23rd 1871. Burton-in-Lonsdale church was newly built and had only been consecrated the year before by the Bishop of Ripon. Its consecration is recorded in the Illustrated London News, May 14th 1870. The entry in the Parish Register recording Freddie’s baptism is unusual. In the margin next to Freddie’s entry is the note “Private. Received Ap 9th’. ‘Received’ refers to the ceremony when the child was publicly welcomed into the congregation. This was the convention used to note that a child had been privately baptised. Some babies were baptised at home soon after birth, especially if it was feared that they might not survive.This may have been the case with Freddie but the entry in the Parish Register appears almost a year after he was born and it is more likely to be as a result of either waiting for the new church to be consecrated, or indicative of the fact that the family did not get around to organising a christening as Alice was pregnant again with her third child shortly after Freddie was born.

Fig 2. Admission Register for Richard Thornton’s Endowed School.

Like his siblings, Freddie went to Richard Thornton’s Endowed School.The Log book of admissions dates back to 1857, but by the time Freddie was of school age, the school was part of the National Board schools set up after the passing of the 1870 Education Act to provide a national system of education. A series of Education Acts to 1899 made education free and compulsory up to the age of 12. The National School Admission Register and Log Book for January 18th 1876 records Freddie’s admission to the school. Unfortunately, the School log book lists admissions only. There is no record of Freddie’s achievements at school.

Family Life in the Smithy.

William Garnett Slaters’ Smithy is listed, along with other tradesmen, the potters, farmers, butchers, shoe makers, publicans and shopkeepers in the Commercial section of Kelly’s Directory of the West Riding of Yorkshire, 1881 (http://specialcollections.le.ac.uk), so his business was successful and established. This success continued and business was such that William was, over time, able to apprentice three of his sons as blacksmiths to take on the Smithy. Family life in the Smithy however was far from harmonious. William Garnett was frequently hauled before the Ingleton Petit sessions. He was a drunk, quarrelsome and violent man.
Freddie’s father’s brush with the law appears to have started early as “The Lancaster Guardian” for 20th June 1857 recorded at the Hornby Petit Sessions, ” Paul Barker, George Parker and Garnett Slater, all boys under 16 years of age from Burton-in-Lonsdale were brought up for unlawfully fishing with a net in the river Cant in Tunstall and were fined, Barker 2s 6d and the others 1s each.”
Several years later, whilst serving his apprenticeship, William Garnett appears to have ‘switched sides’ and served as a Special Constable, albeit briefly. (9th May 1864 – 28 March 1865). At this time, there was a shortage of police constables and young men were encouraged to be Special Constables. Whether William joined the Specials from his own volition, or whether his master blacksmith, William Cornthwaite, encouraged him to do so, we will never know. His service record comes from The West Riding Constabulary Examination Book for 1864-67. It describes him as having brown eyes and hair and a sallow complexion, being 5’101/2” tall (The mean height, taken from military records of army recruits between the ages of 18-29, of men in the 1860’s was 5’7”). With no particular marks, the police record tells us he was born in the township of Burton-in-Lonsdale, was single and a blacksmith living in the township of Wray near Hornby, employed by William Cornthwaite. The details listed are then signed in copperplate handwriting by William Garnett Slater. He was obviously highly literate, as you might expect him to be as his mother had been a school teacher (See 1881 Census for Jane Slater).
William’s time as a Special Constable was a short-lived engagement and the record shows he left the Special Constables on 28th March 1865, possibly because he married Alice in February 1865 and moved back to Burton-in-Lonsdale to open his smithy. He continues, however, to feature in the records of the Petit Sessions.
On 12th February 1870, two days before Freddie was born, William Garnett was attending Ingleton Petit Sessions. He appears to have been involved with Francis Coates of Burton-in-Lonsdale in a skirmish with John Howson. The report of the case in the Lancaster Gazette 12th February 1870, states:
“ – Francis Coates of Burton-in-Lonsdale, charged John Howson, of the same place, with assaulting him on the 14th December last. Mr. W. Robinson, of Settle, appeared for the defendant. After a long and amusing inquiry, the defendant was fined 2s 6d. and costs. – Wm Slater, of Burton-in-Lonsdale charged John Howson of the same place, with assaulting him on 14th December last. Case dismissed.”
Three years later it is Freddie’s mother Alice, who is at the Petit Session appealing for protection from her violent husband. The Lancaster Standard and County Advertiser for 11th August 1873 records the Petit Sessions held in Ingleton:
“ WANTING HIM BOUND OVER – Mrs Slater of Burton-in-Lonsdale, asked that her husband, William Garnett Slater might be bound over to keep the peace as she was afraid to live with him, he having threatened her life on several occasions. A hot discussion arose between husband and wife and the case was adjourned for a month to see how he behaved.”
This newspaper entry is quite staggering. Not because it gives clear evidence of domestic violence, but because Alice is seeking protection from it and doing so in a very public way. At a time when married women had few legal rights, it was extremely brave act, driven by extreme desperation, to publicly ask the law for protection against a violent husband. Alice clearly led a difficult and fraught life as William Garnett’s wife. Unable to leave or divorce her husband, her life with William Garnett was one of constant child bearing. William and Alice had eight children, six boys and two girls between 1866 and 1886, one of whom was my grandfather William Henry Garnett Slater.(1877 – 1960). Worn down by her constant childbearing and in fear of her life she must have had great determination and resolve in order to survive.
So it seems that Freddie’s early life was surrounded by domestic abuse, drunken violence, and disputes with neighbours. Several years later, when Freddie was 8 years old, his father was involved in another case with John Howson, this time at Kirkby Lonsdale County Court. The Lancaster Gazette, 16th February 1878, reports:
“ SLATER Vs HOWSON – Mr. Tilly appeared for the defendant and Mr. Picard for the plaintiff. – This was an action brought by William Garnett Slater, blacksmith, of Burton-in-Lonsdale, against John and Anthony Howson, of the same place, for the payment of £12 4s. 4d. owing, the balance of account for work done and materials supplied. Defendant’s father died four or five years ago and they succeeded to and carried on the business, but when the plaintiff sent in the bill they denied they were in partnership – Evidence in support of the partnership having been given, his Honour adjourned the case in order that Anthony Howson, who had left the neighbourhood, might be found and summoned to attend.”
Quite what the outcome of this case was is unknown. What’s more, William Garnett’s court appearances did not end there. In the 1890’s, he appears in the Ingleton Petit Session again. This time, not as a defendant, but charged with being drunk and disorderly. The Lancaster Standard and County Advertiser, 12th May, 1893, reports this:
“ DRUNK and DISORDERLY – ………William Garnett Slater, who is an old offender, was again charged with being drunk and disorderly at Burton-in-Lonsdale, on 11th April – PC Steel said he saw the defendant, who was very drunk, cursing and swearing in the street. He asked the defendant to go away, but he continued very noisy.-Supt. Gunn, in answer to the Bench, said defendant was also before them in July last – Fined 10s. and costs.”
The reputation of his father seems to have rubbed off on Freddie. P.C.Steel, who lived around the corner from the Smithy in Low Street, Burton-in-Lonsdale, may well have had his eye on the Slater family, and when he caught Freddie riding his bicycle without lights in May 1890, he decided to make him an example to others.
“Lancaster Guardian of May 10th, 1890,
A Warning to Bicyclists
Frederick James Slater, Burton-in-Lonsdale was charged with riding his bicycle without a lighted lamp, on the highway, at Burton, and pleaded guilty. P.C. Steel stated the case – Fined 2s 6d without costs.”
£1 in 1890 is worth around £125 today.

These court appearances demonstrate that life in the Smithy was full of tensions and violence. In a village the size of Burton-in-Lonsdale it would be easy for families to get the label of being ‘difficult’, and for the reputation of fathers to rub off on their children. The prevailing order meant that people were highly aware of social status. Court appearances, reported in the local press, would no doubt be the subject of gossip in the village and count against a family. Gossip was a mechanism of social control to ensure that the prevailing mores were not challenged. At a time when there was no radio, television or cinemas, no soap operas and scandals amongst so-called ‘ celebrities’, villagers constructed their own dramas from the lives of those around them. Reputations were remembered by those who wanted to see themselves as being socially superior. It seems Freddie may well have been tarred with the brush of being troublesome from the start, because of his father’s reputation for violence and drunkenness. The razor thin divides in social status may well explain Richard Bateson’s view of Freddie as being ‘ a strong and unwieldy character’.(Cartledge, 2021) ‘ fiercely competitive’, and he ‘always wanted to be in front of other throwers in terms of throwing speed and volumes of pots made’ (ibid ). Richard Bateson was clearly in competition with Freddie Slater as to who was the best thrower, ( Cartledge 2021) but Richard was convinced he was Freddie’s social superior, hence his negative descriptions of him in his oral account of the potteries.

Into the Twentieth Century


The Census for 1891 shows Freddie, aged 21, was still living in the family home with his parents, brothers and sister.
The 1891 Census
William G Slater.Married. Head 47 Blacksmith
Alice. Wife Married 48.
George G Son Single 25 Blacksmith
Frederick J. Son Single 21 Pot manufacturer.
Arthur. Son. Single 18 Blacksmith’s Apprentice.
Ada. Daughter. 16 Dressmaker’s Apprentice.
William Hy Garnett Son 14
Albert G Son 5.
The Smithy was prosperous enough to employ George and Arthur. Later, William Henry Garnett Slater also trained and worked as a blacksmith. But Frederick became a potter rather than a blacksmith. Maybe Freddie did not want to work with his violent and drunken father. Maybe it was his links with the Irelands who came from his mother’s village of Arkholme and who worked as basket makers at the pottery which familiarised him with the work. Whatever the reason, was throwing pots at which he shone, rather than forging horseshoes.
Freddie’s older brother George Greenwood inherited the forge on the death of his father in 1897. As George’s own family grew, and as the demands for blacksmithing changed, the Smithy would no longer support everyone in the family, particularly as they themselves got married and had children. By 1901, the family was too large and employment prospects were changing to allow everyone to continue living in the same household. Far from attracting people from the surrounding villages to Burton-in-Lonsdale for work, conditions were such that people began to drift to the Lancashire cotton mills for employment. But Freddie (now aged 31) was still living there, presumably because he was bringing in an income. He did not leave the family home until after he married.
All this may seem irrelevant to Freddie’s work as a potter, a pottery owner and a strike organiser, but it serves to demonstrate just how fragile many people’s livings were at this time. It was easy to slip into poverty and destitution, and this possibly explains why Freddie developed the attitude that he had to support his family at all costs and search for any opportunity to do so – like going to Portobello when his own business failed and looking for opportunities to supplement his income through taking on paid jobs for the Parish. (see below). There was no cushion of family wealth to break Freddie’s fall if he fell. It is also important to establish Freddie’s background in terms of explaining his character and to explain what influenced other people’s views of him. The social hierarchy of villages, like other rural communities at that time, where it was easy for the label ‘troublemaker’ to stick, was deeply imbued with a culture of doffing the cap: people were expected to know their place, not challenge the social conventions and certainly not belong to Trades Unions. So it demonstrates Freddie’s strength of character that he did just that.
Freddie got married in 1905, aged 35. His wife, Margaret Grace (née Fletcher) was nine years his junior and the daughter of a bricklayer’s labourer. She had lived round the corner from Freddie in the High Street. For the first two years or so of their married life it seems likely that Freddie and Margaret lived either with Freddie’s family or with Margaret’s, as Freddie does not appear in the Electoral Rolls for Burton-in-Lonsdale until 1907.
Freddie’s eligibility to vote is important in his story since the Electoral Registers tell us where he lived. The West Yorkshire Electoral Register for 1907 shows him living in High Street Burton-in-Lonsdale. My attempts to find other documentary evidence of Freddie as a pottery owner and trade union organiser sent me down many roads which initially led only to the Batesons and R.T. Bateson’s account of the Burton-in-Lonsdale potteries. Why that is so is answered by looking at how the histories of Burton-in-Lonsdale potteries have been written.

Looking for Freddie the Potter : How History is Hidden.

At first glance it would appear that finding out about Freddie’s ownership of Town End Potteries would be an easy task. There are several books published on Yorkshire pottery and Burton-in-Lonsdale pottery in particular. There have been special exhibitions on the subject and then there is the Stan Lawrence Archive held by Lancaster University. So it was extremely disappointing to find that not a single one of these sources mentions Freddie as the owner of Town End Pottery or as a union organiser.

i. The Stan Lawrence Archive.

I approached the Stan Lawrence Archive at Lancaster University with great anticipation, thinking I would find some original and as yet unpublished material and a new story about the potteries. The archive is a fascinating collection of documents on the history of many aspects of Burton-in-Lonsdale, not just the pottery industry, collected together by Stan Lawrence (1926-2013) who was the Headteacher at Burton-in-Lonsdale Endowed Primary School until 1986. The archive index is full of promise (See Appendix for the index of pottery references). Initially excited and hopeful of finding out about the Burton-in-Lonsdale potteries and Freddie Slater, my search quickly became a trawl through familiar documents. They all tell much the same story, the story of the Bateson Family and their ownership of Burton-in-Lonsdale potteries, much of which is covered in Lee’s book. There is an oral history with Stan Lawrence interviewing Richard Bateson, together with another oral account where Richard Bateson reminisces with the pottery worker- Jimmy Skeates. (Search YouTube – Burton-in-Lonsdale Potters). All the photographs of the potteries to be found in the Stan Lawrence Archive are the same as the ones found in all the histories of Burton-in-Lonsdale Potteries recently published. These come from some photographs Richard’s daughter, Margaret McKergrow, took to use up a roll of film. They show Waterside/Stockbridge Pottery around 1940. (Cartledge 2021. Acknowledgements)

The gifting of this archive to Lancaster University by Stan Lawrence means that Richard’s account of the potteries is preserved and accessible. As a result it has come to dominate the story of Burton-in-Lonsdale potteries and has become the much quoted narrative about the life and conditions in the potteries, obscuring any others. Anyone consulting the archive at Lancaster University for information about the potteries at Burton-in-Lonsdale will find nothing about trade union action in the potteries and so will be given only one part of the picture. For example, this is the section on Town End Pottery in the archive:

SLA/1/4/Town End
Town End Pottery- Stan Lawrence’s deeds notes. found in SLA/1/2 – History ofBIL.
Sub-fonds = SLA. Series = Autograph Typescript and Manuscript. File = Notes File. Item= History ofBIL Item.
This document indicates that Town End pottery, originally owned by Thomas Bateson (1740-1806), passed though various members of the Bateson family until James Wilcock Bateson ( b. 1846 ), who married Rebecca Bradshaw (another Burton pottery family) from Bridge End Pottery, in 1869. They gave up potting and left Burton around 1872.
There is little information on the subsequent owner of Town End pottery – Jackie Parker – and nothing about Freddie’s ownership and the demise of Town End pottery.
Undoubtedly, Richard was highly successful and accomplished and is to be much admired for his work both at and about the Burton-in-Lonsdale Potteries. His family had been pottery owners for many years and his is an important history, but maybe there are other interpretations. The historical account is inevitably determined by those who leave a record, whilst the lives of others, are side-lined and forgotten. This is not necessarily done deliberately, but happens through the particular process whereby some accounts of the past survive, and others are hidden from history.

ii. Published works and recent exhibitions.

Freddie’s ownership of Town End potteries does not feature in any of the published works about Burton-in-Lonsdale potteries either, apart from Cartledge’s book. This in itself raises questions about the process of history and how history is written.
A succinct account of the Burton-in-Lonsdale Potteries is given in Oxley Grabham’s “ Yorkshire Potteries, Pots and Potters.” (1916) and this publication seems to form the basis of most secondary sources until the recent publication of Lee’s book.
See – https://archive.org/details/yorkshirepotteri00grab/page/10/mode/2up
Grabham has a section on each of the five Burton potteries in production at the turn of the century. The short paragraphs on each pottery summarise origin and ownership, saying nothing about methods of production or how the potters worked. This is his entry for Town End Pottery.
“ Town End Pottery manufacturing back and brown ware etc. was worked by Thomas Bateson in the early part of the 18th Century, and some think there was a Gibson before him. Thomas Bateson was succeeded by John Bateson, and he in turn by another Thomas Bateson. The last of the four generations was Richard Bateson. This terminates the Batesons at Townend (sic) Pottery about 1853, when William Parker took up the business and it is now worked by his brother, John Parker.” ( ibid )
Grabham attributes his information about the Burton-in-Lonsdale Potteries to the owner of Baggaley Pottery, Mr Thomas Coates “who most kindly supplied me with much information about these potteries.’ (ibid).
However, the entry for Town End Pottery is obviously inaccurate. John ‘Jacky’ Parker had died in 1908 (Cartledge 2021), so he was clearly not running the business in 1916. To give Grabham his due, he did at least seek information from Thomas Coates who knew the Burton Potteries, but he obviously collected his information several years before his book was published – hence the inaccuracy. By 1916, the date Grabham’s book was published, Town End Pottery, having been bought by Freddie Slater on Jacky Parker’s death, went out of business round about the outbreak of the First World War.
It seems Grabham’s account is the basis for other accounts of the potteries. It is his work which informed the article ‘The Potters and Basketmakers of Burton’ by James Walton in his article for The Yorkshire Dalesman. (1930-1940). Other accounts of the Burton in-Lonsdale potteries are, Brears, P .C.D., The English Country Pottery , (Newton Abbot, David & Charles I971) and Lawrence, H., Yorkshire Pots and Potteries, (Newton Abbot, David & Charles 1974). These document the history and products of the Yorkshire potteries from medieval times to the twentieth century. Lawrence’s book deals in more detail with Burton-in-Lonsdale Potteries than Brears’, but both books appear to rely very much on the Bateson and Grabham sources. Lawrence states that Town End went out of business sometime early in the 20th century. There is no mention of the unionisation of potters or of the working conditions for the pottery workers in either book and the short articles and exhibition leaflets focus on the pots rather than the potters.
There is also a series of booklets which look at the Burton Potteries, for example Prospects, ‘Lonsdale Potters Then and Now’, (Prospects, November 1965 University of Lancaster Bulletin of the Month’s Events), White, Andrew, ‘Country Pottery from Burton-in-Lonsdale’, Local Studies, No. 10, (Lancaster City Museums, 1989). and Lancaster City Museum, Burton-in-Lonsdale Pottery, Jan/Feb 1987. Exhibition. These are leaflets for exhibitions, and they again focus on the pots rather than the potteries or the potters. Dating from the 1980’s one might have expected these publications to give at least some emphasis to the potters who made the pots and their organisations since this had been the focus of the wider historical scholarship and the history research community since the 1970s, typified by publications such a The History Workshop Journal. These exhibition publications were untouched by this new scholarship which embraced ‘history from below’ giving emphasis to the people who worked in these industries and their trades unions.
Historians do not always go back to the original sources in their exploration of subjects, but frequently rely on secondary sources written by other historians. In this way, myths and omissions are perpetuated. So Freddie and the later history of Town End Pottery has been written out of these history books, as indeed has the story of people like Thomas Coates, the owner of Baggely Pottery and his support for the campaign to persuade the Midland Railway to build a station at Low Bentham, thus making the railway more easily accessible to the Burton-in-Lonsdale Potteries and make distribution and sales more economical and practical.
The dominant voices in the secondary sources are those of pottery historians, who are interested in pots and techniques, or of the pottery owners. The pottery workers themselves were not given a voice. One account which does mention Trade Unions does so negatively. In 1949, an article in ‘The Dalesman’ for March 1949 by Eric and Bessie Tapsell, include this comment :
“‘ Preserve us from Trade Unionism and internal broils.’ was the prayer of master potter James Bateson, an honest, godly man and a local preacher, still remembered.” ( Dalesman 1949 pp 452-455)
This implies that because he was an honest and godly man, James Bateson’s view must be correct. No explanation is given as to why this comment was made in the article, but it may well be linked to the pottery strikes in Burton-in-Lonsdale. It wasn’t only amongst the pottery workers that trades unionism began to take a hold, but also amongst the miners in Ingleton, the railway workers, the joiners and Master Carpenters in Lancaster etc (See, for example, the report in The Lancaster Gazette . Wednesday Sept. 7th 1892)
Disappointingly, more recent work on the Burton-in-Lonsdale potteries, ignore the unionisation of the pottery workers. An exhibition focussing on the Burton Potteries was organised at the Museum of North Craven Life in 2015. “A Community Skill: the Story of Burton-in-Lonsdale’s Potteries Museum of North Craven Life, The Folly, Settle, Exhibition 2015: panels“ ( see http://www.ncbpt.org.uk/folly/exhibitions/exhibitions_2015/panels/burton_potteries_panels.pdf) This shows many aspects of the everyday lives of the potters, but it does not mention any trade union or collective activity amongst the Burton pottery workers to improve pay and conditions. It does, however, have a section on working conditions:

“Working Conditions
The potters in Burton worked in difficult conditions. Their jobs were often dangerous.
The atmosphere in the potteries was often very uncomfortable. When the kilns were firing, the whole pottery would be extremely hot and smoky. The kilns were unpacked whilst they were still very hot. Workers could only bear to be at the top of the kiln for a couple of minutes at a time. Kiln packers also breathed in large amounts of flint dust. This caused silicosis which could be fatal.
There were other hazards too. The materials used in glazes were often poisonous and handled without protection. Arthritis was common amongst throwers. Some workers did escape unscathed though. Richard Bateson worked in the potteries from the age of 13 and lived to be 98.” (http://www.ncbpt.org.uk/folly/exhibitions/exhibitions_2015/panels/burton_potteries_panels.pdf)
This coverage of working conditions is apologetic to say the least. The fact that Richard was lucky enough to live until he was 98, and the fact that he worked in the same conditions as his employees, does not remove the dangers to health of working in the potteries. Nor does it compensate for the early deaths of many of the pottery workers. It is a complete misrepresentation of the past to minimise the appalling conditions in the potteries. Harry Bateson, Richard’s father died at the age of 66. “ He was the centre of the machine, sitting the pottery wheel throne creating the very rhythm of the work amongst all the filth clay and dust.”( Cartledge, 2021). Richard’s brother, Peter died of silicosis. “ Richard could reel off a list of the men who had died of silicosis at Waterside Pottery.” (Cartledge, 2021).
Apart from silicosis, there was the danger of lead poisoning, and this was a particular hazard at Town End Pottery and one which possibly contributed to Jacky Parker’s death in 1908. Red lead glaze was used on the pots at Town End pottery. Lead was relatively cheap, gave a hard shiny finish after firing and could tolerate a wide range of temperatures. It is absorbed through the skin, by inhalation, or through the mouth. It tended to be absorbed into the bones and affected the tendons. This caused “dropped wrist” and “dropped ankle”. Other symptoms of lead absorption included stomach disorders,, anaemia, epilepsy and paralysis. Many workers died of lead poisoning (plumbism). Alternatives to the use of lead were expensive. In the main pottery area of Stoke-on-Trent, the pottery owners attempted to blame the early deaths amongst their workers on “the slovenly habits of their employees!”. (Goodby 2022). After 1896 it became a requirement to report deaths from lead poisoning. They were found to be 50% higher amongst potters than in any other industry. A Government enquiry into lead poisoning in 1898 resulted in the banning of the use of raw lead. After 1st January 1899 all workshops had to be ventilated and cleaned at the end of the day. It was decreed that no more than 5% standard solubility of lead would be allowed in glazes and a detailed set of rules was drawn up, which restricted the use of lead. After this date lead poisoning in workers began to decline (https://www.search.staffspasttrack.org.uk/). Employers were also requested to provide protective clothing and washing facilities for their workers. I can see no evidence of protective clothing being worn in the photographs of the Burton-in-Lonsdale pottery workers. I don’t think they have changed for the photographer.
So it was in the interests of the pottery owners to minimise and suppress any ideas that working in the potteries was a danger to health, and to oppose any attempt by the workmen themselves to improve conditions. They did not want to have the additional expenditure of providing washing facilities, protective clothing, or payment for cleaning the premises at the end of every day. Hence the dismissive comments about trades unions and Freddie’s involvement in them, in the Bateson narrative of Burton-in-Lonsdale’s potteries.
Fortunately, my search did turn up some evidence, ignored by all these histories, which consider Freddie the pottery owner, and trades union action in the Burton potteries.

Part 2.
Freddie – Pottery Owner. 1908-1914.


There is clear evidence of Freddie’s ownership of Town End beyond the oral
account of Richard Bateson. In the Electoral Register for 1908, Freddie was
still living in the High Street. That is the year Jacky Parker died, and in the
following year 1909, Freddie was listed as living at Town End Pottery and was
qualified for the franchise by two properties – a house in the High Street and
Town End Potteries. The 1910-14 Electoral Register has him living at Town
End Potteries Burton-in-Lonsdale, Dwelling House (UK, City and County
Directories 1600-1900s) , as do the 1 entries for 1918-23.
The 1911 Census likewise gives evidence of Freddie’s ownership of the
pottery. It shows Frederick James Slater, aged 41, Pot Maker, Manufacturer,
and listed as an Employer. Living with him are his wife, Margaret Grace, 32,
and two daughters, Edna, aged 5 and Alberta, aged 1. Further, the entry in
the Trade Directory for 1913 for Burton-in-Lonsdale has the following entry:
‘Slater, Fredk. James, manfctr. of brown ware pottery, Townend Pottery.’ (UK,
City and County Directories, 1766-1946)
Apparently Freddie failed as a pottery manufacturer because he was ‘too
busy advising other people how to run their business, instead of running his
own’ ( Richard Bateson quoted in Cartledge 2021). According to Richard
Bateson’s account, Town End pottery failed because of the Freddie Slater’s
character. There is however, another interpretation of Freddie’s motives to
raise a loan and buy Town End Pottery. The pottery had to continue in
production in order to protect livelihoods and income. Jacky’s son, Jim, had
no interest in the pottery and although Jacky had daughters, women potters
were unheard of in Burton-in-Lonsdale at this time, (Cartledge 2021). So what
was to happen to the pottery? It could well have closed down in 1908 with the
resultant loss of jobs, including Freddie’s. In the 1913 Trades Directory,
James Parker (the Jim who was not interested in taking over the pottery) from
Stone Bower Cottage is listed as a ‘Worker at Pottery,’ so Freddie’s
purchase of the pottery enabled Jim to earn a living without the responsibility
and debt of ownership. Given Jim’s lack of interest in owning the pottery,
Freddie may well have decided he had no option but to buy it in order to
protect his own and other working mens’ livelihoods.
Freddie’s ownership was short lived. He clearly did not have the advantages
of having inherited a pottery like the Batesons. Freddie ran the pottery for
around five or six years and then as Britain went to war with Germany in 1914
he had to give it up.
The Trades Directory for 1913 for Burton-in-Lonsdale which lists Freddie as a
Pottery Manufacturer shows how challenging it was to make a living at that
time. ‘Multi-occupation’ seems to have been the only way to provide
economic security for many families in Burton-in-Lonsdale. The Trades
Directory lists Thomas Coates, flower pot and earthenware manufacturer, but
he is also as an overseer and victualler at the Punch Bowl. Likewise, Mrs Eliz
Brayshaw ran a lodging house in Duke Street and worked as the school
caretaker, Charles Arthur Brownsord was a victualler, butcher and ran the
‘Hen and Chickens’. John Alphonso Harrison was a tailor and outfitter,
stationer and postmaster, George Edward Maud was a farmer, caretaker and
ran the ‘pleasure gardens, Alexandra Hall’, William Tatham was a grocer, cab
proprietor, coal merchant and farmer at Burton Houses. Freddie had only one
income coming into his household at this time as well as paying off his loan,
so maybe the odds were stacked against him.
Lee Cartledge has provided me with this analysis of the failure of Town End
Pottery:
“Prior to the First World War, the Burton potteries were experiencing
something of a boom, so it may seem surprising that Town End pottery under
Freddy Slater went bankrupt. The stoneware bottle manufacturers in Burton
were doing particularly well around this time (Waterside Pottery, Coates/
Baggaley Pottery). Town End pottery though was an earthenware/ country
pottery manufacturer and I suspect the demand for these traditional pots was
waning, due to increased availability and competition from enamel ware and
pottery from Stoke.
The question is why didn’t Freddy move into the more lucrative
stoneware bottle manufacture? There are really two reasons why I
suspect he didn’t:
o The Town End pottery kiln would have only been designed for
firing up to 1100 degrees. It would have had to have been rebuilt to
achieve the 1300 degrees required to fire pots to Stoneware
temperatures. It would have had to have been converted from a through
draft kiln to a down draft kiln. This would have cost a lot and would have
inevitably have caused down time.
o Possibly the main reason though is Freddy had no access to
any Stoneware clay at Town End Pottery. The earthenware clay was
accessible open cast on common land (Mill Hill) and all people in the
parish of Burton and Low Bentham have a right to dig it (even today).
The Stoneware clay though was on private land so he would have had
to negotiate and pay to dig it. It wouldn’t have been in the Coates or
Batesons’ interest for Freddy to share their stoneware clay sources.
In truth a lot of the traditional country Potteries began to experience
difficulties around this time and many were forced to close down in the
years after the First World War. That said, there are examples of some
that survived through this period, e.g. Wetheriggs, Oswaldtwistle Pottery,
Soil Hill Pottery and Pearsons of Chesterfield.
In all likelihood I suspect that Freddy may have borrowed too much
money at a time when earning a living from traditional hand thrown
pottery was becoming increasingly challenging. R T Bateson always
said that it took a minimum of eight men and one horse to run a Burton
Pottery, which is a lot of wages (and hay) to pay out! Had Freddy
inherited the pottery then I’m sure it would have been a different story.”
( Email 11/03/32 Lee Cartledge)
This advert was placed in the Lancashire Evening Post on 21st and 22nd July
1914.

Fig. 3.



It is unclear if this is a notice of sale for Town End potteries, but it is likely to
be so. Richard Turner & Sons unfortunately have no records of their sales
going back this far, so they have been unable to provide me with any further
detail about the sale. How much of it was sold is unknown.


To Portobello.

Fig 4. An advert from 1905 for the stoneware from Portobello.
(Historic Scotland – photo from display board at the Portobello kiln.)



Having failed to keep Town End Pottery going, Freddie had to find work to
support his family, so around the end of 1914, “ Freddie then moved out of
Burton and got a job at Portobello Factory Edinburgh. His family stayed in
Burton which probably explains why he moved back to Burton as soon as he
could.” (Cartledge 2021) This would have been an extremely difficult time for
Freddie leaving behind his family. His older brother, George, who was
successfully running the Smithy and training his sons as apprentices, died in
1913 at the age of 47, leaving a young family.
The pottery in Portobello placed this advert from the ‘Staffordshire Sentinel,’
Tuesday, April 7th 1914:
“Stoneware Turners ( two) wanted at once for Jam Jars, Creamers etc steady
employment. W.A.Gray & Sons Midlothian Potteries Portobello, near
Edinburgh.”
Although a less skilled job than a thrower’s, this advert shows the potteries in
Portobello were looking for workers as the war recruitment drew men to the
Western Front. The timing of this advert would fit with Freddie looking for
work. It is likely he worked at the Buchan pottery which produced stoneware
at this time. ( See advert Fig. 4 above)
Where he lived in Portobello and what exactly he did, I have no record, but
“Freddie brought back some of the new techniques he’d learnt in Edinburgh
back to Burton…….. he also introduced trade unions to Waterside
Potteries.” (Cartledge 2021.) It is difficult to establish how long Freddie
worked in Portobello. What is certain is that Freddie would have come across
Trade Unions in Portobello – the trade union movement being strong in the
Scottish Potteries.


Fig 5. One of the the remaining pottery kilns at Portobello.


Pottery Unions.


Searching the records of the National Society of Male and Female Pottery
Workers (See WCML papers), I have been unable to trace individual
memberships. Nor is there any evidence of a Union Lodge at Burton-in-
Lonsdale, it being far too small a workforce compared with Hanley, Stoke,
viii
Longton, Fenton, Newcastle N, Newcastle S, Swadlingcote, Portobello etc
etc. These are some of the Trade Union Lodges for the National Society of
Male and Female Pottery Workers in 1915. This is the Union Freddie was
likely to have encountered in Portobello. The Union was formed as a result of
the merging of several pottery unions. In 1908, the Associated Stoneware
Throwers, Bristol Stone Potters and the Society of Operatives and Engravers
joined the Union. It eventually changed its name to the National Society of
Pottery Workers in 1919.
Freddie’s move to Portobello coincided with a period of great national
industrial unrest. Britain’s economic output had been overtaken by the USA
and Germany. According to the 1911 Census analysis, the richest 1% of the
population held around 70% of the UK’s wealth. Real wages dropped by 10%
between 1900 and 1910 whilst food prices went up. So this period saw the
steady economic decline of the UK on the world stage; the growing division of
wealth; the steady fall in the real value of wages and the growth of trade
unionism and trade union membership as well as militancy. By 1906 there
were just over 2 million trade unionists and by 1914 the number was over 4
million, or 27% of industrial workers. According to the Office of National
Statistics, 18 millions days were lost through strike action between
1910-1913, rising to 5 million in the first six months of 1914.( https://
www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/
employmentandemployeetypes/articles/thehistoryofstrikesintheuk/
2015-09-21) This shows the level of frustration and unrest among workers
who attempted to improve wages and working conditions. The action was
reduced only by the advent of the World War.
It appears that the Pottery owners in Scotland at this time decided to launch a
united front against demands from the pottery unions and control pottery
workers’ wages, working conditions and working hours. On 16th January
1914, Members of the The Potters Federation LTD.,which included the
Portobello potteries of Portobello Pottery and A.W.Buchan & Co submitted a
claim for ‘The alteration of Wages and conditions of Employment’. ( TU/
CERAMIC/6/5 WCML)
This claim proposed “Reducing the Throwers General Price List by 12%”
resulting in “ a reduction in the time rate of wages to 35/- per week of 60
hours.” This, claimed the pottery owners, was justified by the fact that the
thrower no longer had to pay his ‘second hand’ ( who turned the wheel)
because the wheel was no longer driven by hand; and:
“ The employers make this claim most unwillingly, but think it is in the interest of
the Stoneware trade that these reductions be made so that workers may in future
have work to do, and that employers have more work produced per worker
employed.”( TU/CERAMIC/1 1911-1998 WCML )
This document shows that pottery throwers in 1914 could earn far more than
skilled workers in a cotton factory. Nevertheless their income was being
eroded like all workers’ incomes at this time. The claim to reduce throwers’
wages was strongly resisted and the Secretary of the Potters Federation,
Robert Bird, who had filed the above petition on behalf of the pottery owners,
had to appeal to the General Secretary of the National Society of Male and
Female Pottery Workers, Joseph Lovatt, to encourage its members to go
back to work with this telegram:
“ Grosvenor says Kilnmen still out. Works stopped. Please write them to go in or
trouble may spread.” (ibid WCML) etc etc.
Amongst the Union papers there are letters and telegrams between the
Scottish pottery owners and Joseph Lovatt over working conditions,
threatened strikes, appeals to encourage the men back to work, details of
arbitration etc. It could be argued that the Union was as much an instrument
of control as much as a militant force, particularly as the war progressed and
men signed up to fight. Skilled workers were harder to come by and the
shortage of labour meant the men had increased leverage. The Union was
called in to get the men back to work. This letter is from the Midlothian
Potteries, W.A.Grey & Sons, Manufacturer of All Kinds of Stoneware etc.
Portobello. It would have been written around about the time Freddie was
starting work at one of the Portobello potteries.
“ 10th August 1915
Mr. Jas. Lovatt,
Secretary, Amalgamated Society of Pottery Workers,
Hanley.
Dear Sir,
We regret to say Wm. Railly who was with us as a Thrower before the
Strike, has not returned up and he has been taken on by Mr. Kennedy’s foreman
under a misapprehension.
We have only four Throwers left- some having enlisted, sometime ago and we
are really requiring Railly and as it is part of the bargain that the men return to
their work “ as they were” we shall be glad you will kindly instruct him to come
back to his post here, Mr. Jas Kennedy is quite agreeable to this and in fact would
not have given him a start had he known the circumstances……”
( TU/Ceramic/ 1 WCML)
There was strong union organisation across the pottery industry in Scotland,
so it is not surprising that Freddie Slater, working in the Potteries in
Portobello, became involved in their activities, and began to appreciate the
strength of collective action.


That’s not how we do things here – Rural hegemony and anti
union sentiment.


The story seems to have been very different for the potteries of Burton-in-
Lonsdale, where Trades Unions were slow to develop. The Burton potteries
were small compared with the huge pottery complexes in Staffordshire and
Scotland The pottery workers knew the pottery owners. They worked
alongside them and they often had other roles in the village. For example,
Thomas Coates ran the Punch Bowl as well as Coates Pottery, the Batesons
were members of the Parish Council. Harry Bateson was a church warden,
and so on. The pottery owners are in evidence at village events like the
annual Burton-in-Lonsdale show and were rivals with their employees for the
top prizes. There was not the clear divide between owner and employee like
that found in the larger potteries of Staffordshire and other places.
Trade Unions were affiliated with the emerging Independent Labour Party
(ILP) and their stronghold was in the large urban factory complexes in
Scotland, Lancashire, the coal mines of Yorkshire and Northumberland etc.
The two developed in tandem. The Lonsdale area was always staunchly
Liberal or Tory in its Parliamentary vote, and the interests of the landed gentry
dominated and led the political persuasion of their employees. There is little
evidence of the growth of the Independent Labour Party, and the affiliated
Trades Unions in this area at the beginning of the twentieth century. This one
article indicates the ILP did have some presence:
“ Bentham ILP held a very successful meeting at Burton-in-Lonsdale on Monday
night, when the Rev. B. Proudfoot, of Halton, lectured on “The Need and Justice of
Socialism.” The lecture was greatly appreciated, and the Vicar, The Rev. Thomas
Leach presided and let us (sic) the church Sunday school free of charge. This is the
first I.L.P. meeting held in the village and the room was filled. ……..”
(‘Labour Leader’ 18 Oct. 1907)
Who filled the Sunday school room for the meeting is not recorded.
Unlike the large industrial complexes of the nineteenth and early twentieth
century towns and cities, Burton was a rural pottery and the patronage of
church and landed gentry was still an important factor in the economy of the
local families. Freddie himself supplemented his income, participating in the
Parish Council meetings and being given paid work for carrying out some of
their responsibilities, for example :
In Burton-in-Lonsdale, the Parish Council minutes for 1910 notes:
“ Tuesday, 29 March 1910
F.J.Slater oil 10s 0d.
J. Parker “ 8s. 0d.
F. Slater “ 19s.9d.”
Presumably Freddie was supplying oil for the street lighting in Burton-in-
Lonsdale. In 1894, under the Local Government Act, parish electors could
agree, following a poll, to adopt the Lighting and Watching Act, first passed inThe “Lighting and Watching” Act of 1833 allowed groups of property
owners to form committees and organise local street lighting. It also allowed
for the creation of local police forces – the “watching” part of the Act’s title.
These committees were then empowered to levy a rate on other
householders to pay for the lighting (or policemen).
The payment to Freddie for oil also explains why he supported the Lighting
and Watching Act viz:
“ 28 October 1911
Prop. F. Slater, Sec. J. Dickinson that the Lighting Act be adopted.
£17 for Lighting and Watching Act.”
( SLA/11/1 BIL Council. Minutes of Burton-in-Lonsdale Parish Council,
1895-1923.
Sub-fonds = SLA. Series = Minute Books. File= Corporation File)
The church was another provider of employment, and although it might
appear that the Rev Thomas Leach may have had some sympathy with
Socialism, it wouldn’t be politic to upset the Vestry lest the work they paid for
ceased. The Slaters received payment from the church for repairs. Cleaning
the church provided a regular, if meagre income, £1. 3s. 6d. for one of the
Mrs. Slaters (North Yorkshire County Record Office. 1631-1998 records. PR/
BTL). So to rock the boat, to question the established order and the way of
working may have had serious economic consequences through the
withdrawal of patronage in this community.
Potters would often work on local farms at hay time to supplement their
income.(Cartledge 2021 p.24-photo of Potters hay timing in 1910). This
interdependency of pottery owners and employees for work and livelihood
meant that any criticism of them was suppressed and anyone who did raise
objections to the length of working hours, the rates of pay, or the working
conditions, as in the case of Freddie Slater, was labelled a ‘troublemaker”.
Lee acknowledges that forming a union at Waterside Potteries ‘ has to be
seen as a brave move on Freddie’s part.” (Cartledge 2021 ibid)

Back in Burton-in-Lonsdale.



Freddie did not stay long in Portobello – but without the evidence from
Electoral Rolls it is difficult to say how long. He moved back to his family,
continued to live at Town End Pottery, and found employment at Bateson’s
Waterside Pottery – such was his skill as a thrower (Cartledge 2021). There is
clear evidence that Freddie was living back in the village in 1919, as in this
year there is a newspaper report of him being appointed to the Burton-in-
Lonsdale Football Committee (see below Fig. 14), along side one
R.T.Bateson.
However,Town End Pottery, unsold in 1914, began to deteriorate to such an
extent that they became a concern for the Parish Council:
“Sept 3rd 1920
Dangerous condition of Town End Potteries.
Messers Saul and Woggott pay 1s. each for using waste land.
April 19th. 1922
The condition of Town End Pottery at the east end of the village was dangerous.
April 19th 1923.
At the pulling down of Town End Pottery the villagers be allowed to make use of
the materials to be sold.”
(SLA/11/1 BIL Council. Minutes of Burton-in-Lonsdale Parish Council, 1895-1923. includes
a section by R.T. Bateson listing the Burton men in the First World War.)
And so the pottery was gone.
With the demolition of Town End Pottery, Freddie and his family had to find a
new home. They moved from Burton-in-Lonsdale. By the autumn of 1923, the
Electoral Rolls show that Freddie and Margaret were living in Ireby. No
address is registered against their entry, just “Ireby”. According to Google
Maps, it is 2.4 miles from Ireby to Burton-in-Lonsdale. So maybe Freddie
cycled to work (presumably with his bicycle lights on) at Waterside Pottery
and back. They lived in Ireby until 1928 when they moved back to the High
Street in Burton-in-Lonsdale.

Strike Action ?



The 1921 Census return shows Freddie, aged 51, employed as a Thrower,
Brown and Stoneware at Wm. Bateson and Sons, Waterside Potteries,
Burton-in- Lonsdale. So what is the documentary evidence of him setting up a
union and calling a strike? The only secondary source covering industrial
action amongst the potters of Burton-in-Lonsdale is Lee’s book. He places the
strike as being sometime in the early 1920’s and states that it was a strike
about working conditions. His evidence comes from Richard T. Bateson’s oral
account of his time at the potteries, and although detailed, his is the only
account of the strike. It seems no record of the conciliation meeting
mentioned in Bateson’s oral testimony (Cartledge, 2021) at the Burton-in-
Lonsdale Sunday School has survived. Searches through the Allied and
Ceramic Workers Trades Union papers give no information specifically about
a strike at Burton-in-Lonsdale at this time. Because of large gaps in
newspaper runs (particularly the Lancaster Guardian), there is nothing in the
local or national press reporting this incident.
Crucially for Freddie’s history, and the strike at Waterside Pottery, the
‘Lancaster Guardian’ and other Lancaster papers like ‘Lancaster Standard
and County Advertiser, ‘ The Lancaster Gazette ‘ etc.which are a main
source for local news for Burton-in-Lonsdale, have very limited copies in the
fifty year period from 1870-1920. So there are no local newspapers surviving
for the years covering the Burton-in-Lonsdale strikes at Waterside Pottery.
There is evidence in local newspapers from other areas of the country about
a National Strike of Pottery Workers in 1920.
This is from the Dorset County Chronicle and Somerset Gazette. September
9th 1920.

Fig. 6


There is also evidence of strikes in Portobello from 1919-1920
Extract from Musselburgh News 2nd April 1920.
“Portobello Pottery Workers on Strike. Last Saturday the workers of the two Portobello
Potteries ( Messers A.W.Buchan&Co and Mr Wm. Richardson) came out on strike for a 20
per cent.increase in wages as from 9th October, 1919 . The workers are members of the
Stoneware Federation of Scotland (allied to the Ceramic and Allied Trades Union) and are
associated with the Glasgow district. The strike affects over 600 men of which 100 are
employed in Portobello. For the past six months negotiations have been going on, but up
to the present no amicable settlement has been arrived at. It is just a year ago since the
pottery workers’ last strike, when they were out for about four weeks before an agreement
was arrived at.”
There appears to be no documentary evidence for a strike at any of the
Burton-in-Lonsdale potteries the 1920’s, although clearly there was union
organisations shown by the earlier industrial action reported in the local
newspapers.
Strikes in Burton-in-Lonsdale Potteries.
The documentary evidence of organised action amongst the potters of Burton-in-
Lonsdale comes from 1899 and 1915. This entry comes from the ‘Lancaster
Standard and County Advertiser’ for January 13th 1899:


Fig 7

lll
A further strike was organised at Burton-in-Lonsdale in 1915. Again, it is a
local newspaper from a different area, this time the Western Daily News for
18th May 1915, which has information about the Burton-in-Lonsdale Pottery
strike.

Fig 8 – Western Daily News for 18th May 1915.



For some reason the newspaper carried reports from The Board of Trade’s
“Labour Gazette”, a report produced monthly giving very detailed information
about all industry, trade and production within the UK and Europe for the
Board of Trade.
More detail about this 1915 Burton-in-Lonsdale strike is given under a
separate section of ‘Conciliation & Arbitration Cases and collective
Agreements. p. 165.(Labour Gazette, May, 1915)

Fig 9 – Labour Gazette, May, 1915



So, clearly there was a strike of the Stone Jar and Bottle Makers, Burton-in-
Lonsdale in 1915, but this was a strike over pay, not working conditions and it
does seem unlikely that Freddie Slater was involved in this particular strike as
at that time he was probably working in Portobello. I have been unable to find
any evidence of the arbitration mentioned in the report, in the form of minutes
of the meeting, although the arbiter, Mr Charles Doughty does appear in local
newspapers from other areas of the country in his role as arbiter.
The 1915 Burton-in-Lonsdale strike can be explained by looking at the wider
national context. At the time of the strike, the First World War was having a
great impact on the structure of the labour market. The economy boomed as
demand for weapons, armament, self-sufficiency in food production etc, grew.
There was a labour shortage, as has already been illustrated. The
government and the unions presented a united front over the British War aims
and in 1915, the Munitions War Act was passed ( repealed in 1919) forbidding
strikes and lock-outs, and replacing them with compulsory arbitration. – hence
the entries in the Labour Gazette.
The forbidding of strikes and lock outs did not stop industrial action. These
disputes were generally over the war bonus. Whilst the economy boomed, the
cost of living rose so the government and trades unions asked for a war
bonus of 10% to be given. So:
“The potters began to press for an increase under the heading of ‘ war
bonus’ and in May 1915 they secured one across the board of 71/2 % . The
NEC (National Executive Council) of the union was given discretionary
powers to call immediate strike action – in conjunction with the Overmen’s
Society – at any firm which refused to pay the bonus.” (The Labour Leader
Year Book 1916)
This possibly explains the strike of the ‘Stone and earthenware bottle makers
Burton-in-Lonsdale’, the subsequent arbitration, and the settlement of pay, in
order for the men to resume work on 3rd May 1915.
What changes were made to wages and working conditions at the Burton-in-
Lonsdale potteries remains unknown, but ‘ Business began to decline
throughout the 1920’s….. By the 1930s business was really slow. … The
pottery went to a three day week for a long period during the early 1930’s.
Men were laid off, or just left for other jobs…… the pottery finally closed its
doors in 1933.” (Cartledge, 2021.).
Although, interestingly, for a pottery closing down, this advert for a Thrower
appears in The Derbyshire Times”, Saturday, May 21st 1932.

Fig 10



Maybe this is an advert for Freddie’s replacement?

Fig 11. Lancashire Daily Post. July 6th 1935.




Freddie – life outside the Pottery.



As children, the annual shows at Burton-in-Lonsdale and Bentham were a
highlight in the summer holiday calendar. We stopped slipping into becks and
racing around the hay fields to put on our best clothes and go to the shows.
Not that we knew anyone there, but our parents did and we relished the
atmosphere- the smell of the sheep, the flourishing of handicrafts, the size of
the prize onions and the garish bright blooms of the flowers in the
competitions. Burton show was always in mid August so we also managed to
earn some extra pocket money there by entering the sports competitions.
Little did we realise that we were following in the footsteps of the long held
traditions of the Slater family in entering such competitions.
The pub, the church, the chapel, the school, the parish council and the annual
show provided the social cement for villages in the nineteenth centuries – and
indeed continue to do so today. There is a long history of holding agricultural
and county shows across Britain. These events have been significant
community and economic events for rural villages.
For small villages like Burton in Lonsdale, the annual show was very much a
local affair, organised and run by volunteers from the village. It was an
occasion for everyone to meet, to show their products, to sit in the beer tent,
to exchange news. These shows had prizes for the best produce and the
winners were advertised in the local newspapers. Getting a good win at the
local show was one way of advertising your skill and showing that your
animals, or horseshoes etc. were better than anyone else’s. Nor was this
activity of showing your wares limited to the local show. Burton-in-Lonsdale
show did not have horse-showing competitions, so my grandfather, Freddie’s
younger brother, William Henry Garnett Slater entered competitions for
horseshoeing across the area. WHG Slater is recorded to have won 3rd prize
for the best shod light horse at the Lancaster Agricultural Show, with a
blacksmith from Cark-in-Cartmel coming first and one from Bentham, second.
( ‘Lancaster Standard and County Advertiser. 20th August 1909. Report on Lancaster
Agricultural show.)
In addition to showing goods and produce, Burton show like many others had
competitions for sport, as indeed it did in our childhood – running, the high
jump, football and quoiting. These competition carried money prizes as well
as publicity and the extracts from local newspapers below show that Freddie
and his brothers were regular participants in these events. How much money
they collected doing this it is difficult to say, but it was one way of keeping a
high profile in the village before Facebook or Twitter publicised people’s
activities. Freddie and his brothers excelled at quoiting in particular. Their
occupations required high levels of strength and fitness, good hand-eye cooordination,
careful measuring and calculation and an eye for design, all of
which fed into their sporting abilities.
As well as winning in the quoting competitions, Freddie is seen to be
participating in helping the football club in which several of his brothers
played for the village (extract for 1919). By the time he was 59,(1929) his
quoiting days over, Freddie still enjoyed the competitions and won for his
fuchsias at the show in 1924. He wouldn’t have been happy with third prize.
Freddie wins at Quoiting.
The extract from the account of the Club sports held in Burton-in-Lonsdale in
1898 gives an idea of the range of activities for the day – the children’s
competitions, the Maypole dancing, the fancy dress and of course the
evening dancing.

Fig.12. ’Lancaster Standard and Northern County Advertiser’ July 15th 1898
Fig 13. The Lancaster Standard & County Advertiser. 26 May 1899.




From a report on Arkholme. Freddie wins at Quoiting. He also travelled
beyond Burton-in-Lonsdale to enter competitions. Arkholme is the village his
mother came from.

Fig. 14.“ The Lancaster Observer and Morecambe Chronicle.” August 8th 1919.Freddie on the Football Committee



Fig 15 “ The Guardian”. Saturday, 24th August 1929
Freddie and his Fuchsia.



The last appearances of Freddie Slater in the official documents apart from
his death record in 1947, is his entry in the 1939 England and Wales
Register. He was 69, living with his wife Margaret, 60, at Box Tree House
Burton-in-Lonsdale. His occupation is listed as “Stone Bottle Thrower.
Retired”. He still retained his life-long identity as a potter.
Looking at his history has revealed the neglect of any discussion of working
conditions and organisation to improve them in the Burton potteries. Whilst
the pottery owners regarded Freddie as ‘ a strong unwieldy
character’ ( Cartledge, 2021) the potters who suffered because of their work
might well have regarded him otherwise. The search for Freddie reveals that
there was Union action in the Burton Potteries, beginning in the later
nineteenth century with sporadic outbreaks in the twentieth century. This side
of the story of Burton-in-Lonsdale needs illuminating and including in the
narrative of the potteries, not side-lined and hidden. It is an important aspect
of the struggle against the hardship of the lives of the people who made the
decorative pots that now stand in people’s display cabinets, in museums and
on mantlepieces. It is a history that should not be forgotten.
Freddie died in July 1946. The Burial Register for the Parish of Burton-in-
Lonsdale shows he was buried on August 2nd 1946. His wife died just over a
year later November 1st 1947 . This year I will plant a fuchsia in his memory,
but I will leave the last words to his family in their In Memorian entries for
1947 on the anniversary of his death. These entries may appear over
sentimental to us today, but they are the only time Freddie’s family is given a
voice in his documentary history. It is with their voice that I wish to end his
story.

Fig 16. “Lancaster Guardian.” Friday, 25th July 1947
Fuchsia – backgarden. Cambridge .2023.




Acknowledgements.
I am particularly indebted to Lee Cartledge and his work rescuing Richard T
Bateson’s account of Burton-in-Lonsdale pots and potters in his book ‘ The Last
Potter of Burton-in-Lonsdale’, together with Lee’s work on the lives of other
Burton potters. I would also like to thank him for his suggestions as to the demise
of Town End pottery, a subject to which he brings great knowledge and
experience. Thank you.
Thank you too to my sister, Dianne Watterton, for her careful, constructive
reading and comments on earlier versions of this story, and to my sister Ruth
Wallis for the photograph of the Burton-in-Lonsdale money box.
Bibliography.
ancestry.com
Census returns.

England Census. Class: RG 9; Piece: 3161; Folio: 25; Page:
8; GSU roll: 543089

The National Archives; Kew, London, England; 1871 England
Census; Class: RG10; Piece: 4252; Folio: 90; Page: 15; GSU roll:
848082
1881 England Census. Class: RG11; Piece: 4297; Folio: 149; Page:
24; GSU roll: 1342026
1891 England Census :The National Archives of the UK (TNA);
Kew, Surrey, England; Census Returns of England and Wales,
1891; Class: RG12; Piece: 3492; Folio: 121; Page: 12; GSU roll:
6098602
1901 England Census. Class: RG13; Piece: 4020; Folio: 129; Page:
13
1911 England Census Class: RG14; Piece: 25724
1939 England and Wales Register.The National Archives; Kew
London, England; 1939 Register; Reference: RG 101/3809G
1913 Trades Directory. UK, City and County Directories,
1600s-1900s
West Yorkshire, England, Electoral Registers, 1840-1962
West Yorkshire, England, Police Records, 1833-1914
findmypast.
1921 Census returns.
National School Admission Register and Log Books. 1870-1914.
1875 Burton-in-Lonsdale North Yorkshire County Records Office.
PR_BTI9_1.

British Newspaper Archive.
Museum and Archive Collections.
Lancaster University – Stan Lawrence Archive.
WCML Working Class Movement Library. Ceramic and Allied
Trades Union : minute books 1911-1998. See – https://
www.wcml.org.uk/our-collections/working-lives/ceramicsworkers/
ceramics-unions/
Museum of North Craven Life in 2015. “A Community Skill: the
Story of Burton-in-Lonsdale’s Potteries Museum of North Craven
Life, The Folly, Settle, Exhibition 2015: panels“ ( see http://
www.ncbpt.org.uk/folly/exhibitions/exhibitions_2015/panels/
burton_potteries_panels.pdf)
North Yorkshire County council. County Record Office. PR/BTL1 to

  1. ( 1631-1998)
    Other Publications and Archives.
    Bragg, M. ( 2022) Back in the Day. Sceptre, Hodder and Stoughton.
    London.
    Brears, P .C.D., The English Country Pottery , (Newton Abbot,
    David & Charles I971 ).
    Cartledge L. 2021. “The Last Potter of Burton-in-Lonsdale’ The
    Choir Press.
    Dalesman, March 1949 article by Eric and Bessie Tapsell, pp
    452-455.
    Garnett.E. “ Craft Industry in the Countryside: Arkholme and its
    Basket -Makers” www.hslc.org.uk
    Goodby, M. (2022) ‘Working Conditions in Nineteenth Century
    Staffordshire Potteries.’ YouTube Gardiner Museum. 14th June
    2022.
    Grabam, Oxley, Yorkshire potteries, pots and potters. Coultas
    &Volans York 1916. Accessed at : https://
    onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu
    Hoskins, W G (August 1962). “Richard Thornton 1776–1865, A
    Victorian millionaire”. London, UK: History Today magazine .
    Volume XII . Number 8 . Pages 574 to 579
    Kelly’s Directory of West Riding of Yorkshire, 1881. [Part 1: County
    Information & Places A-K] University of Leicester. Special
    collections online.
    Labour Gazette. May 1915. LSE Digital Library
    Labour Leader Year Book 1916 published by the joint auspices of
    the Parliamentary Committee of the Trade Union Congress, The
    Labour Party and the Fabian Research Department.
    Lawrence, H. , Yorkshire Pots and Potteries, (Newton Abbot, David
    & Charles 1974)
    Office of National Statistics. https://www.ons.gov.uk/
    employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/employmentandemployeetypes/
    articles/thehistoryofstrikesintheuk/2015-09-21
    Portobello Potteries. See https://www.portobelloheritagetrust.co.uk/
    pottery%20manufacture.htm
    Prospects, ‘Lonsdale Potters Then and Now’, Prospects, November
    1965 (University of Lancaster). Bulletin of the Month’s Events.
    Staffordshire Potteries : https://www.search.staffspasttrack.org.uk/
    Walton, James. ‘The Potters and Basketmakers of Burton’ The
    Yorkshire Dalesman. 1930s-1940s. Found at
    https://explore.library.leeds.ac.uk/special-collections-explore/
    410458
    White, Andrew, ‘Country Pottery from Burton-in-Lonsdale’, Local
    Studies, No. 10, (Lancaster City Museums, 1989).
    White, J. (2014) historyandpolicy.org.
    Appendix. – Notes. HB.
    Stan Lawrence Archive.
    Lancaster University.
    Archivist – Liz Fawcett.
    Nore on archive documents.
    SLA/2/3
    Record Cards – BL (Brown Box – Left Side) – Date index from 1000 to post-1850.
    Some cards of earlier period are written in Latin. Also, topic index in alphabetical
    order, with location written on top-right comer of card in red ink.
    Special consideration has been given to the topic of lndustry: Pottery, as this is a
    recurring theme throughout the archive. In this section: firstly, there are cards on the
    subject of pottery, then there are those relating to individual potters, and finally there are
    cards looking at the potteries themselves in alphabetical order.
    Sub-fonds = SLA. Series = Record Cards. File= Miscellaneous Bundle.
    SLA/6/4 Burton Potteries – Various maps and plans including Lonsdale tithe award
    maps and building plans.
    My aim in looking through this collection was to find information on Freddie Slater and his
    ownership of TownEnd Potteries at the beginning of the 20th century. However, there was nothing
    in the collection about Freddie as a potter. I was trying to establish further information on the
    claims ,based on an interview with Richard Bateson, made in Lee Cartledge’s “The Last Potter of
    Black Burton”. Here Lee describes how Richard Bateson described Freddie as being a’ good
    thrower’, obviously one of the most highly skilled potter he had ever come across.
    Having gone through the Stan Lawrence Archive, it appears that the only evidence for Freddie
    Slater’s involvement in Burton potteries, comes from Lee’s book and the interviews which
    informed it. There is no mention in the Archive of Freddie Slater’s links with Burton potteries,
    either as the owner of Town End Pottery (albeit briefly) or of the trade union he reputedly
    organised at Waterside potteries.
    Bateson’s recollections from the 1970’s appear to have wiped out the potters’ strike and Freddie
    Slater. Only later on, in Richard and John’s discussions with Lee, does this emerge as an event.
    Undoubtedly the history and story of Burton Potteries in almost synonymous with the history the
    the Bateson family. They were certainly the dominant potters and pottery owners in the village and
    are rightly remembered as such. However, the dominance of this story has led to other aspects of
    the Burton pottery industry being lost. The information in the Stan Lawrence archive on Burton
    Potteries largely comes from Richard Bateson.
    Autograph Typescript and Manuscript
    Person/Family: – S L A / 1/1
    Ownership Chart of Pottery Businesses – Potter’s Arms Pottery, Town End Pottery, Greta
    Pottery, Bleaberry Pottery, and Wilson/Coates Pottery.
    Sub-fonds = SLA. Series= Autograph Typescript and Manuscript. File= Person/Family
    File
    This is a chart compiled by Richard Bateson, showing his family’s ownership of the different
    potteries in Burton.
    SLA/1/4/Town End
    Town End Pottery- Stan Lawrence’s deeds notes. found in SLA/1/2 – History ofBIL.
    Sub-fonds = SLA. Series = Autograph Typescript and Manuscript. File = Notes File.
    Item= History ofBIL Item.
    This document indicates that Town End pottery, owned by Thomas Bateson (1740-1806),
    passed though various members of the Bateson family until James Wilcock Bateson ( b. 1846 ),
    who married Rebecca Bradshaw (another Burton pottery family) from Bridge End Pottery, in
  2. They gave up potting and left Burton around 1872,
    There is little information on the subsequent owner of Town End pottery – Jackie Parker, and
    nothing about the demise of Town End pottery.
    Oral Transcripts
    People: –
    SLA/4/1
    RT.Bateson. Incomplete transcript of an interview with R.T.Bateson, speaking of pottery
    and his family.
    xl
    Sub-fonds = SLA. Series= Oral Transcripts. File = People File.
    SLA/4/1/Bateson
    Bateson, R. – interview transcript by Stan Lawrence. Found in SLA/1/2 – History of BIL. Subfonds
    = SLA. Series= Oral Transcripts. File = People File. Item – History ofBTL Item
    This is very much a history of the Batesons. There is no mention here of Freddie Slater, or any
    indication that there was a potters union or a strike at the potteries in the years after the First
    World War.
Burton-in-Lonsdale pot

The Craven Heifer lidded jug with tap

This is a large stoneware jug, sprig decorated with a clear glaze over the main body and a celadon glaze on the lid. “The Craven Heifer” and the year 1896 are stamped onto it.

Because the jug has a pub name on it, it might be thought that this was made for serving alcohol, however I believe that this was a water jug and perhaps had a water filter in it.

This is an unusual pot and I have certainly seen no other like it attributed to a Burton pottery. I suspect it was commissioned by a public house named the Craven Heifer or even given to the publican as a gift? It has no markings as to where it was made, which is frustratingly typical of Burton pots. I feel certain though that it is Burton for three reasons:

1 – There are only a handful of pubs called the Craven Heifer in the country, most being in the North West and close to Burton, one in particular being in Ingleton, which is only 4 miles away from Burton. I feel there is a strong case for it being made for the Ingleton Craven Heifer, as the sign outside the pub includes the same year (1896) that is stamped onto the jug:

Could the jug have been made to commemorate the opening of the pub? Further research in “The History of Ingleton” by John Bentley suggests (with what looks like compelling evidence) that the Craven Heifer actually began around the 1840s, however it was bought around 1896 by Yates and Jacksons Brewery and they extended the pub at this time into the neighbouring cottages, so the jug could have been made to commemorate this? Betsy Ann Clapham was the landlady from around 1896 (John Bentley). Could Betsy Ann have ordered the jug?

2 – The unicorn and lion sprig decoration on the belly of the jug can be seen on another Burton pot (in the Folly in Settle).

Burton-in-Lonsdale pot

The unicorn and lion decoration looks identical on both pots and in all probability came out of the same sprig mould.

Interestingly the lion and unicorn sprig looks identical to the sprig on the following jug, produced by Manor Pottery, Eccleshill, Bradford:

Manor Pottery Jug

I believe that a Burton potter worked at Manor Pottery for a short while (possibly William Bateson around 1850, this is suggested in a Dalesman article published in 1949). I think it is very possible that the Burton potter in question may well have surreptitiously taken some impressions from some of Manor Pottery’s sprig moulds and then later cast them in plaster to effectively give them a working sprig mould and these moulds would have eventually ended up in Burton. The reason I don’t think the Craven Heifer jug was made at Manor Pottery is because it would have been salt glazed and also I doubt Manor Pottery would have used two different sizes of font for stamping “1896” – Manor Pottery was very much geared up to making sprig decorated stoneware – I suspect they wouldn’t have struggled to find the correct size font for any number.

1896 stamped on front of jug

Another reason for it not being made at Manor Pottery, and I swear that I didn’t know this when I wrote the last paragraph, is that Manor Pottery actually closed in 1887 and the jug was made 11 years later! This leads me to a completely new theory, which is that one of the Burton potteries bought a job lot of press moulds from Manor Pottery when they closed down.

3 – There is a label on the back of the jug with the following “J. Seward Burton”. Seward is not a name that I normally associate with the Burton pottery industry, however after a little research, I was surprised. I found the following entry in the 1861 census:

John Waller Seward is also in the 1881 census:

He was still making pots in the 1901 census, at the age of 78!

I have managed to build up a reasonably accurate account of John Seward’s life. I would like to take credit for what follows, but that would not be true. I put an earlier version of this article onto a Facebook group page and a chap called Ben from Belgium took an interest in the jug and very kindly did some research for me that allows me to say the following about John Waller Seward:

John Waller Seward was born in 1822. He was the illegitimate son of Martha Seward. Martha Seward died at the age of 19 shortly after the birth of John. Her death must surely have been related to the birth? Martha’s father, William Seward and mother, Anne Seward most likely brought up the young child.  William Seward was a potter by trade and he briefly ran Lawsons Pottery (next to Potters Arms Pottery), before taking over the Walmsley Pottery (off High Street) around 1800 both of them located in Burton. It is likely that William taught John Seward pottery and/or arranged for him to work at another Burton pottery.  John married Ellen Wilson in 1843 and by this time he had found out the name of his father, a John Tippin, who was a stone mason. As a young man I would guess that John worked at a number of potteries. I wonder if he worked for a time at Manor Pottery in Bradford? If this was the case then he may well have acquired the sprig moulds here that enabled him to make the Craven Heifer jug? I feel certain that John ended up working for Thomas Coates at the Baggaley Pottery and I suspect that it was here that the jug was made. The reason for me thinking that he worked at the Baggaley Pottery is that Thomas Coates’ name is on the probate form for John’s death at the ripe old age of 84 in 1906. John Seward exhibited his pottery locally and won prizes for his pots. In 1889, one of his vases sold for 15 shillings, which would be about £90 in today’s money.

What follows is the evidence that Ben from Belgium gave me that enabled me to write the last paragraph:

Birth of John Waller Seward – “Illegitimate son of Martha Seward”
Burial record of Martha Seward – Died at the age of 19, the month after giving birth to John Seward

Marriage of Martha Seward’s parents, William Seward to Ann Armistead in 1779 – Notice the reference to the fact that William Seward’s occupation was a potter.

Marriage of John Seward to Ellen Wilson in 1948 – John’s father being named as John Tippin

John Waller Seward’s probate record – Probate to Thomas Coates pot-manufacturer
From a copy of the Burton-in-Lonsdale Flower show of 1897 – “In the Exhibition there was a good display of handicraft and too high praise cannot be accorded to Mr John Seward (who is 75 years of age) for his exhibition of glazed and unglazed pottery, he gained four first prizes with his four exhibits, and one (a splendid vase) was sold for fifteen shillings.” – It is a great shame that no photos were taken of the vases. If there had been then I suspect we would be looking at vases very similar to the Craven Heifer Jug
Taken from Andrew Whites book on the Burton potteries – note the reference to William Seward.

 

 Taken from Andrew Whites book on the Burton potteries – note the reference to William Seward.

.

It’s a great pity that J Seward didn’t sign the base of the pot!

Up until this point I have to confess that I have only seen photos of the jug, however last night I visited the owner and got to see the jug. Members of the Burton in Lonsdale Heritage Group also joined me for this visit. I have to say that it is even more impressive in real life. One big surprise for me is the label with “J Seward Burton” is not a card label attached to the jug with a piece of string as I had imagined after talking with the owner, but a ceramic label stuck to the back of the jug. This proves conclusively that John Seward made the jug.

Label on back of jug

A number of people have commented that the lid was not made for the jug. Having handled the jug, I believe that it was. It fits the jug perfectly and the clay body (the unglazed bit) matches the clay body of the jug, also Jane Burns brought in an old photo of an exhibition of Burton pots from the 1970s and there is a very similarly decorated lidded vase which definitely has lid and body different colours. If I had made the jug, I would probably have taken some of the lid glaze onto the main body to create more of a unity between the lid and the jug.

People have also commented about it being salt glazed. This is definitely not the case. There is a thickness to the glaze and a definite separation between clay and glaze at the bottom of the pot that you just wouldn’t get with a salt glazed pot.

Burton-in-Lonsdale pot
Your humble author holding the jug

The next day, I was sent the following from Ben from Belgium, which proves conclusively that John Seward did indeed work for Thomas Coates at the Baggaley Pottery:

This is a clipping from the Lancaster Standard & County Advertiser from 29th June 1894

This was taken from the Lancaster Standard & County Advertiser, 29th June 1894 and it is talking about a ‘Grand Bazaar at Morecambe’, a grand multi-day event raising money for a church build fund. The event was attended by the Baggaley Pottery and their representative was John Seward, who they describe as a “fine art potter, who gives daily exhibitions of the manufacture of art pottery”.

I also received the following from Julie Gabriel-Clarke from the Burton in Lonsdale Heritage Group:

Lancaster Standard and County Advertiser 15 July 1898

Lancaster Standard and County Advertiser 29 June 1894. The same article that Ben from Belgium sent me, but more of it.

The Queen 26 October 1895
The Queen 20 January 1894
Inverness Courier 03 November 1885

The previous newspaper clips make very interesting reading. It seems that John Seward perhaps encouraged by, or even in partnership with, Thomas Coates was delving into art pottery and was attending bazaars to sell and market their wares. Art pottery was a direct result of the Arts and Craft Movement where skilled factory workers would, perhaps with the help of a designer, produce individual one off pieces or small runs of items. A number of the Stoke potteries were experimenting producing art pottery around this time.

My guess is that John Seward was at an age where he could semi retire (this was before the state pension existed), but he didn’t want to give up pottery, however he wanted to make pottery to his own design/liking and not just endless repetition throwing. I guess this is something I aspire to myself, so I can definitely relate to this. Thomas probably encouraged him, possibly thinking that it was a direction that the industry at the time could take. Thomas was astute and a good business man and he may have thought that there could be some money in it. I also suspect that there was a lifelong friendship between the two men (Thomas Coates was one of the beneficiaries on John Seward’s probate form) so this would also have been an interesting venture for them both to share and enjoy.

The link with Lady Bective is an interesting one. Lady Bective lived at Underly Hall in Kirkby Lonsdale, so wasn’t too far away from Burton. It wasn’t uncommon for the aristocracy to dabble in the field of pottery, for instance The Manor House Pottery at Eccleshill, Bradford was established by Jeremiah Rawson, Lord of the Manor, about 1835 and more poignantly to the history of Burton-in-Lonsdale, Harold Parkinson of Hornby Castle invested a lot of money into Waterside Pottery in the late 1930s in an attempt to re boost the Burton-in-Lonsdale pottery industry.  Could Countess Bective have had a part in designing the jug?

When John Seward made the jug he would have been 74 years old, which is an impressive age for what is undoubtedly an impressive pot!

This is a real show stopping big Burton pot. It would be great to see it on display in a museum. Lancaster Museum or The Folly at Settle would be ideal resting places for it. I just hope it doesn’t end up in shards in a house where its’ true value is not known. These pots are very rare.

Just when you think that this story can’t deliver anything else, it suddenly does. Lancaster Museum shared the story of the Craven Heifer jug on their Facebook page and it got the following comment;

“Hello Bentham Pottery, what an amazing piece of stoneware.  I am intrigued.  I haven’t come across the Burton group of potteries before, but I’m from Chesterfield in Derbyshire which had a well-established pottery industry from the 18th to the 20th century based to the West of the town (Brampton) and to the North (Whittington/Newbold).  These were salt glaze stoneware potteries which after salt glazing became unacceptable shifted to making sprigged stoneware with a clear, lead free glaze.  This offers parallels to this situation.  The brown salt glazed stoneware jug you show here could easily be Brampton made.  The sprigs are identical to ones I’ve seen on Chesterfield pots, the royal crest and the cow can be found on pots in Chesterfield Museum’s collection.  I spent a long time tying myself in knots trying to use sprigs to attribute pots to individual potteries, and finding identical sprigs on pots from Bourne’s pottery (Denby near Derby) was deeply confused!  The answer in part was that the sprig blocks from which the moulds were cast were bought in from Stoke on Trent from specialist block makers.  Couple of other observations. Chesterfield Museum acquired a sizeable collection of sprig moulds which had been rescued from Barker Pottery the last Brampton pottery some of which came from other Brampton potteries that Barkers had taken over or that had found their way to Barkers when other potteries had closed down.  It isn’t easy to be sure which pots were made at which pottery for another reason- they collaborated with each other, but fixing prices and sometimes subcontracting to another local pottery if they had an order they couldn’t handle themselves.  There are many pieces that were specifically commissioned from the potteries by businesses and individuals.  Even into the 1930s you could order a sprigged teapot with someone’s name on it as a special gift.  Big pieces with the names of local pubs are known as are uncustomised spirit kegs.  Really pleased to see this super example from your area!”

I submitted an article to the Craven Herald about the jug. Here is the article in full;

Craven Herald March 23rd 2023

Shortly after the publication of this article an anonymous benefactor purchased the jug for the Folly Museum at Settle. This is a great outcome and I am pleased to say that the jug can now be viewed in the Folly.

Lee Cartledge (Bentham Pottery) 2023

Spider's Web Gate, Burton-in-Lonsdale

Spider’s Web Gate, Burton-in-Lonsdale

Spider’s Web Gates

The Spider’s Web Gates were one of the iconic objects of my childhood. They stand at the entrance of the driveway to Clifford Hall, close to Burton-in-Lonsdale. Their design is unusual, unique and really out-of-character with the area. The Spider’s Web Gates were always more than just gates: it is as though their design was too strong to be just contained within wrought iron, and so leaked out into the mythology and landscape of the area. The locality around them became known as Spider’s Web. A walk through Greta Woods looping back to Burton via Clifford Hall is referred to as the Spider’s Web Walk. The stretch of road from Burton Bridge to Ravensclose is known locally as Spider’s Web Road. As a child I was told that touching the gates would give you bad luck. Being friendly with the Towler family (during the 1970s and 1980s) who lived at Clifford Hall, I had no option but to touch the gates to open and close them on a regular basis every time I cycled down to visit. I have probably accumulated a lot of bad luck as result of this.

I hadn’t really thought about the gates for a long time and then a lady contacted me about the Burton-in-Lonsdale pottery industry. In her email, she casually mentioned that her grandfather had made the Spider’s Web Gates in a blacksmiths in Burton-in-Lonsdale.

William (Henry Garnett) Slater was born in 1876. His father ran the smithy on Duke Street, Burton-in-Lonsdale. William worked and trained to be a blacksmith with his father and the Spider’s Web Gates were made by William during his apprenticeship. He was apparently very proud of the gates and quite rightly so to. This would date the gates to sometime in the 1890s.  William also made the weather vane on top of the church spire and when the vane was taken down – not too long ago – for a clean, the name SLATER was found stamped on it. 

A friend of mine pointed out that the gates are a listed building and sent me Craven District Council’s reference to this:

Gates to the south of Clifford Hall Cottages, Burton-in-Lonsdale SD 6470 7126 II 24 June 1988 Gates c. 1820. Cast iron and ashlar.

A pair of ashlar banded and rusticated gate piers surmounted by ball finials. A pair of cast iron gates with iron sun turrets from the top and bottom corners, with radiating iron spokes. These gates are very similar in design to those designed by Thomas Telford on the Holyhead Road, and might be after his design

This is very interesting for a number of reasons:

  • If you Google Image search “Thomas Telford Gates”, you get lots of images of gates that bare an uncanny resemblance to the Spider’s Web Gates. I don’t think there can be any doubt that the gates were inspired by Thomas Telford’s design.
  • The gates were not actually based on a spider’s web at all, but rather on a double sunburst pattern.
  • The gates are dated to 1820. I suspect that Craven District Council estimated this based upon the building of Clifford Hall. However if this date is correct then William Slater cannot have made them, as this would be almost 60 years before he was born.

Thomas Telford’s sunburst gates were designed for the toll houses on the London to Holyhead road that was built between 1815 and 1826. If the Spider’s Web Gates were made in 1820, then they predate the completion of the road. Could the Spider’s Web Gates have a direct connection with Thomas Telford? Where they manufactured alongside the Holyhead gates?

The gate posts are cast iron. I doubt that a local blacksmith would have the facilities to cast something so large. The same friend that pointed out the listed building reference for the gates suggested that the posts resemble cannons – and the filial cannon balls and might be a reference to the Battle of Waterloo (1815). This seems a possibility (especially if they were built in 1820).

Personally I find it hard to believe that the Spider’s Web Gates are over 200 years old. I think the posts though may well be. My feelings are that the original gates (perhaps they were wooden) were looking a bit tired by the late 19th century and so the owner of Clifford Hall arranged for the local blacksmith to make him some new ones. Too many descendants of William Slater seem to confirm that he made the gates, for it to be a myth. I guess you could prove this theory by finding the SLATER stamp on the gates, although I suspect the gates may need to be sandblasted first. I will however definitely search for it next time I am passing. As to how the design was chosen, well that is anybody’s guess. Perhaps the owner of Clifford hall spent a lot of time travelling from Holyhead to London or maybe William Slater had a strong interest in prominent Scottish engineers?  

Today, the Spider’s Web Gates are permanently locked open, which in my opinion is a great shame, as they make a far bolder statement closed when the strands/beams of the four radiating webs/suns meet up in the middle and create a more unified and homogenous whole.

Burton Potteries

Bradshaw’s Pottery, Burton-in-Lonsdale

Bradshaw’s Pottery (old Bridge End Pottery) 1770- 1886

My recently published book, The Last Potter of Black Burton, focussed on the pottery industry of Burton-in-Lonsdale from 1900 to its demise in 1944. Regrettably I left out the story of Bradshaw’s Pottery. The reasons for Bradshaw’s Pottery exclusion is that it closed in 1885 and it was really lost beyond the memory of the potters and people that I had interviewed and met over the last 40 or so years. The following article is an attempt to rectify this; and to try and build a larger picture of the history of pottery in Burton.

Bradshaw’s Pottery or Bridge End Pottery is the pottery with the prominent large round kiln in the foreground of the classic photograph of Burton-in-Lonsdale taken in 1870 (before the old Chapel of Ease, to right of the new church, was demolished).

Joseph Bradshaw built Bridge End Pottery or Bradshaw’s Pottery as it was better known in 1770 after working as a thrower at one of the other Burton potteries for a decade prior to this.  Joseph was originally from Staffordshire where he learnt his craft. I have found the following references to Joseph Bradshaw and his Staffordshire connection;

“The Bridge End pottery, which is in the township of Bentham, was built about one hundred years ago by a Staffordshire man of the name of Bradshaw. The establishment is still carried on by his descendants Messrs J. and B. Bradshaw. The manufactured goods of all these potteries meet with a steady sale and they are sent through a wide district. The sale of the black ware is confined to the neighbourhood and a few places in Lancashire, Westmorland and Cumberland.” (Lancaster Guardian, 1875)

“Judging by family traditions, there seems to have been some distant connection with the great pottery industry which grew up in Staffordshire in the eighteenth century. It is said that Joseph Bradshaw, about 1760 came from Staffordshire” (Dalesman magazine, March 1949)

“Many inhabitants of the present day can have no idea of the smallness of wages at Burton-in-Lonsdale over 100 years ago. At that time a young man of the name Joseph Bradshaw came from Staffordshire to work at one of the Burton potteries, and as he was a skilful workman at his craft he secured the highest wages given at the establishment. Many a workman of the present day can earn more in nine and a half hours than he earned in seventy two hours. His standing wage was nine shillings a week. It is true provisions were much cheaper and his board and lodgings only amounted to two shillings and six pence per week. In consequence of a rise in provisions he had to pay an additional sixpence” (Lancaster Guardian, 1875)

Joseph was born in Staffordshire in 1736. It is possible that he was born at Norton le Moors (very close to Burslem, the heart of the Stoke pottery industry).  The following extract from a family history suggests this could be the case using some rather clever detective work:

Joseph and Esther Bradshaw had eight children baptised in Thornton in Lonsdale between 1763 and 1780, the oldest being Sarah who married Robert Parker. Among the children were two sons by the name of Thomas, the first and last sons, but neither of them survived infancy. This may be an indication that Joseph Bradshaw’s father was Thomas Bradshaw, and a baptism has been found for a Joseph Bradshaw, son of Thomas and Sarah Bradshaw of Stoke parish who was baptised at Norton le Moors on 19th March 1737. However, further research would be needed to determine whether this was the correct baptism for Joseph Bradshaw, potter of Black Burton. (“The History of the Parker, Firth and Associated Families”, published by Julia Henderson, Acorn Family History Services, 2020)

According to the Dalesman magazine of 1949, Joseph moved to Burton around 1760, which would make him 24 years old at the time. The year prior to this event another Staffordshire potter of a similar age to Joseph founded a new pottery in Burslem, Staffordshire. His name was Josiah Wedgwood.

In 1762 Joseph married Esther Rumney, presumably a girl local to Burton;

“Joseph Bradshaw married Esther Rumney at St. Mary’s in Lancaster on 12th April 1762, the documentation for the grant of the marriage licence showing that he was “Joseph Bradshaw of Black Burton in the county of York, potter”…. (“The History of the Parker, Firth and Associated Families”, published by Julia Henderson, Acorn Family History Services, 2020)

The question that really interests me is why would a young production thrower move one hundred or so miles from the ceramic heartland of Stoke-on-Trent to work in a pottery at Burton-in Lonsdale? Henry Bateson (son of the last potter of Burton) cites a reason for this this in the following extract:

“During the mid-1700s work practises in the Staffordshire potteries changed, using a casting method of pottery rather than a throwing method, leading to many throwers seeking work elsewhere. One such thrower was a Joseph Bradshaw. Joseph Bradshaw bought the site on Bentham Moor in 1770, and built a pottery.” (Henry Bateson writing in Glimpse of Burton’s Past, 2000)

The “casting method” of producing pots that Henry refers to is slip casting, where a liquid clay (slip) is poured into a plaster mould and left for 20 minutes or so (depending on the wall thickness required of the pot) to build up a layer/skim of clay (the cast) on the inside of the mould. The slip is then emptied out and the mould and cast are left to dry before being separated. According to Simeon Shaw (the history of Staffordshire potteries, 1829) plaster moulds were first shown to the Staffordshire potteries in 1743 and soon after the plaster mould techniques were learnt, adapted and put to use within the Staffordshire pottery industry. So it would seem that Henry Bateson’s argument has to be considered as it certainly fits the time-line. However slip cast pottery on an industrial scale wasn’t viable in the 18th century, because the potters had not worked out how to reduce the water content of the slip and suspend the clay particles in the water, a process known as deflocculation. Without adding deflocculant to the slip the clay would take a long time to absorb into the plaster mould due to the slip’s high water content, this high water content would also cause a high shrinkage rate of the resulting pots leading to cracking and excessive warping and the slip would separate into layers of clay and water in the mould causing uneven casts. Moulds had to be agitated to prevent this settling out and sometimes multiple casts of moulds had to be done to attain the right wall thickness. Effective methods of deflocculation (usually by adding sodium silicate to the slip) were only developed in the late 19th century (Mold Making for Ceramics, Donald E.Frith, 1985). Because of this problem, very little slip casting occurred during the 18th century. Instead of slip casting, press moulding became the standard method for use with plaster moulds during the 18th century. Press moulding involved rolling out slabs of clay and literally pressing them into the plaster moulds to create the cast. A new genre of potter was born, the presserman. Press moulding is a lot slower than throwing, so the presserman would only make pots that could not be formed on the wheel.

The only real threat to throwers in the 18th century came with the development of the jigger and jolly wheel. According to Donald E. Frith (Mold Making for Ceramics, 1985), “the jigger and jolly system was well established by the middle of the 18th century”. The jigger and jolly was a semi mechanical method of press moulding a pot. The presserman would press or roll out a weighed piece of clay to form a round disc, known as a bat. The bat would then be placed inside or on top of a plaster mould in a metal chuck that would rotate on a wheel. A template would then be lowered onto the mould and thus create the pot. These early jigger and jolly wheels though were not the sophisticated steam driven machines developed in the mid-19th century at the Wedgwood Etruria works. They would have been powered by a boy rotating a crank wheel. The templates were sometimes hand held or the potter’s hands forming the exposed surface with no template. Things improved when the template was fixed onto a lever. The missing link though for efficient production in the 18th century was the development of the “batter out” machine, also known as the “steam-spreader”. The batter out machine mechanically made the bat to be fed into the jigger and jolly thus making the presserman redundant and the whole process a lot faster. There was much worker resistance to the introduction of these machines when they were introduced in the 1860s (www.thepotteries.org)

The jigger and jolly machines took over the production of plates, cups and bowls from around the mid-18th Century (Donald E. Frith). However larger pots, enclosed forms and any pot that featured an undercut (so couldn’t easily be released from a mould) were the sole preserve of the thrower at this time, so the jigger and jolly machines didn’t represent a significant threat to a good production thrower. A fully trained production thrower could usually compete with a jigger and jolly machine producing the same product anyway, especially with these early machines. Richard Bateson (the last potter of Burton-in-Lonsdale) proved this in the mid-1940s when he was able to make one gallon bottles faster on a pottery wheel than a man operating a jigger and jolly machine making one gallon bottles.

The disadvantage of the jigger and jolly machines was a lot of moulds had to be made and stored for each shape.  (Lots of moulds of the same shape were required as the pots had to be left in the mould to dry sufficiently before they could be released) whereas a thrower could repeat produce any shape with just his hands. The disadvantage of a production thrower was the amount of time it took to train them up, which would be anything from 5 to 10 years, whereas a relatively unskilled person could operate a jigger and jolly machine.

There is no doubt that the introduction of plaster moulds together with scientific and engineering advances eventually all but replaced the need for hand throwing on the potter’s wheel, but this happened very gradually over 200 or so years. The thrower still reigned supreme in the 18th century, as the technology and science were not yet ready to replace him. It wasn’t until the mid to late 19th century that the throwers were really beginning to feel the pinch. The following case of arbitration from 1891 is quoted in Harold Owen’s ‘The Staffordshire Potter’, written in 1901:

“The thrower’s case is an interesting one, and illustrates the great changes that have taken place in potting during the period covered by the great arbitrations in this trade. The thrower’s wheel – the first machine perhaps, in any industry – no longer occupies the prominent producing position it once did, for most of the articles that were made by the thrower are now taken away from the wheel, and are either pressed or made on the jigger. Seventy-five per cent of these have been taken away from him, and the articles left to him have been increased in size” (Workmen’s case, arbitration of 1891)

 “Taking the thrower as an example, that which was formerly entirely done by the men is now done on the machine by women and boys equally well for the purposes of the manufacturer, and the result is that machinery drives out these men from positions which they previously held alone. If there were any added wage given to the thrower at the present time the result would be his extinction the more rapidly.” (Manufacturer’s case, arbitration of 1891.)

Interestingly Wedgwood does actually employ one thrower to this day. I met him when we visited Wedgwood in 2018.

The Staffordshire which Joseph Bradshaw left in the 1760s was definitely a boom town. John Ward talks about this with reference to pottery manufacture and the six towns that formed Stoke-upon-Trent in his book, ‘the Borough of Stoke-upon-Trent’ written in 1863:

“The rapid advance of the manufacturers, and the consequent increase of the population, reckoning from about the middle of the 18th Century, have, perhaps, not been surpassed relatively, during the same period, in any of the great trading and manufacturing towns and districts of England”

Between 1738 and 1785, the population of Stoke had risen from 4000 to 15000. By 1838 the population was 63000 (John Ward). The demand for pottery was increasing exponentially, which in turn meant more jobs and an influx of workers to fill them. The success of the potteries had a knock on effect for the region and economy as a whole. The industrial revolution was on the very cusp of happening. Steam engines were about to move into the factories. Canals were being built and planned around the country. Josiah Wedgwood, having been one of the main advocates and promotors of a canal connection to Staffordshire (particularly one that would pass his factory), cut the first sod of the Trent and Mersey Canal in Burslem in 1766.

Joseph Bradshaw was definitely moving against the tide leaving Staffordshire in 1760.

So given that it is very doubtful Joseph was forced out of work due to unemployment or even impending unemployment, we can only assume that he went to Burton voluntarily. Was Joseph actively sought after and poached by a Burton pottery in order to learn from him the presumably more advance techniques of the Staffordshire potters? Was he chased out of town by some estranged husband? Was the local constabulary after him for some misdemeanour? How did he even know that a pottery industry existed in Black Burton? Perhaps Esther Rumney was holidaying in the Staffordshire area in the 1750s, where she met and fell in love with Joseph Bradshaw? Okay, that one is very unlikely. Did people actually go on holidays in the 18th century and if they did, would they choose Staffordshire? I have found though throughout my life that unlikely events are sometimes just as likely to occur as likely events!

The best theory I can come up with for Joseph’s relocation is that one of the Burton potteries perhaps lost one of their main throwers and needed a replacement quickly. Presumably they couldn’t find a replacement in or around Burton, nor did they have the time or patience to wait the 5-10 years to train up a new production thrower. The Burton pottery in question possibly had a contact with a Staffordshire pottery or even a company in Staffordshire that supplied some of the sort after fine clays that were being imported to Staffordshire from Devon and Cornwall.  The Burton Pottery thus dually dispatched a letter asking if they knew any thrower that would be interested in moving up to Burton. Somehow Joseph was approached regarding this. Joseph was perhaps a restless young man desperate to do the 18th century equivalent of a gap year and decided to take the bull by the horns and give it a go. After all he could always go back to Stoke if things didn’t work out. Well that is my best guess. If you can think of anything more plausible then please contact me. If you have in possession the diary of Joseph Bradshaw, potter of Black Burton then even better!

What the young Joseph Bradshaw thought on arriving in Burton-in-Lonsdale is anybody’s guess. Did he arrive by stage coach? Had he walked and hitched lifts on horses and carts? Did he just arrive with the shirt on his back? I am not sure which Burton pottery he worked at prior to building his pottery, it can’t have been Waterside Pottery, Greta Pottery or Greta Bank Pottery as these had yet to be built. I think it would have been one of the old established larger potteries, so probably Town End Pottery, or the Baggerley Pottery. I’m sure his Staffordshire accent would have been a great novelty to any Burtonians he encountered.

Joseph would have been employed making terracotta country ware pottery, perhaps with some slip decoration. This was the days before the demand for stoneware bottles. Despite the Lancaster Guardian article of 1875 claiming that wages around this time were very meagre, Joseph was able to save enough money to purchase land and build his own pottery after ten years of working in Burton. I can only imagine how delighted the owner of the Burton pottery was when Joseph announced he was going to leave and set up on his own in direct competition in the same village!

“1770 – Joseph Bradshaw paid £20 to Rowland Tatham for a parcel of ground situate lying and being on the south side of Burton Bridge (being part of the allotment which was set out for the said Rowland Tatham on Bentham Moor).” (From the deeds of Bridge End Cottage)

Interestingly the land Joseph bought was on the south side of the River Greta, which is actually in the township and parish of Bentham and not Burton, so in a way Joseph built the first Bentham Pottery.

Joseph named the pottery Bridge End Pottery and went into production around 1770. The previous year Josiah Wedgwood had opened his third pottery, the iconic Etruria Works.

Joseph would have continued producing country pottery wares as demanded by the locality, using the Burton black ware/terracotta clay dug open cast around Mill Hill (near Greeta House). A few shards of pottery have been dug up in the garden where the kiln of Bridge End Pottery once stood and they reveal terracotta clay with some white slip trailing and a lead glaze.

I would love to be able to point people in the direction of pottery wares directly attributable to Bridge End Pottery, but this is not possible as, typical to Burton, the pots were not stamped with the manufacturer’s name and as a result any piece of terracotta thought to be Burton could possibly have been made by the hands of Joseph Bradshaw.

Manufacturing pottery at this time would have been hard work. Steam engines didn’t arrive in Burton until the late 19th century. Digging and processing the clay would have been all done by hand. The potter’s wheel would have been turned via a crank by an assistant. Eight tons of coal would have to be shovelled into the kiln to fire it to the correct temperature for the lead glaze to melt. Candles and oil lamps would have provided the light source inside the pottery. Joseph would probably own a horse and cart for transporting pots to market. I would guess that six to eight people would have been employed in total. There is a great account written in the Lancaster Guardian of 1875, describing the pottery process at the Baggerley Pottery, which although written 100 years after Joseph Bradshaw built Bridge End Pottery, is probably very comparable.

I’m sure Joseph would have introduced the Burton potters to some new and different pottery techniques as a result of learning his craft in Staffordshire. Could he have possibly brought the tradition of making puzzle jugs to Burton? Did any other potters come to Burton from Staffordshire? The Burton potters of the early 20th century were certainly using Staffordshire pottery vocabulary to describe processes, for instance, “stouking” for attaching handles to pots, “setting” for placing the pots into the kilns to fire and “drawing” for taking the fired pots out of the kiln. Could these phrases have been a legacy of Joseph Bradshaw?

Joseph died at the age of 76 in 1812, which was a ripe old age for a potter at this time, especially for a potter working with a lead glaze. Joseph Bradshaw outlived Josiah Wedgwood by 17 years. Both men came from a similar background, both were dedicated to pottery, arguably with very different outcomes and achievements but none the less interesting lives.

Joseph passed on the pottery to his son, Robert Bradshaw. Robert worked the pottery with his brother Joseph (2) Bradshaw until 1822 when Robert died. Joseph (2) inherited one sixth of the pottery alongside Roberts’s children.  Joseph (2) continued working the pottery with his son Thomas under a lease. Interestingly it looks like the potters diversified at this time and took on rope making as well as making pottery;

“Lease for a year. Dwelling house, called Bridge End House, with cow house, stable, pot kiln. Warehouses and other buildings, garden and orchard thereunto belonging. Also all those two workshops and warehouses now used for the purpose of carrying on the business of freckling and twine spinning together with a piece or parcel of ground now used as a ropewalk all which said premises are situated standing and being at Bridge End in the parish of Bentham and now in the possession of Joseph Bradshaw, yeoman” (from the deeds of Bridge End Cottage)

There was something of a cost of living crisis in 1825, caused by increases in the price of coal and lead that brought the three main earthenware manufacturers of Burton together to fix prices for certain wares. A document was drafted for this purpose. Joseph (2) Bradshaw’s name is included alongside John Bateson (Town End Pottery) and John Baggaley (Baggaley pottery).

Burton-in-Lonsdale price agreement
Price agreement of 1825, John Bateson (Town End Pottery), Thomas Baggaley (Baggaley Pottery) and Joseph (2) Bradshaw (Bridge End Pottery)

On 3rd September 1835 Joseph’s (2) son Thomas Bradshaw bought Bridge End Pottery for the sum of £290. Thomas died in 1840, whereupon his brother John leased the pottery before taking on the mortgage for it on 12th August 1867. John Bradshaw then worked the pottery with his brother Benjamin Bradshaw.

The pottery left the Bradshaw family when it was sold on 31st December 1885. It was bought by Thomas Coates from the Baggeley Pottery on the opposite side of the river to Bridge End Pottery for the sum of £150. Thomas Coates immediately closed it as a pottery. This was probably a strategic step by Thomas to eliminate competition. Thomas converted the pottery into three cottages that still stand today. He sold the cottages in 1888 to Anne Eccles of Clifton Gloucester for the sum of £350.


I am grateful to Jane Burns for rekindling my interest in Bradshaw’s Pottery. Jane actually lives in one of the cottages that was formerly Bradshaw’s pottery and is an avid collector of Burton pots. Jane kindly provided me with the deeds of her house as source material for writing this. I have suggested to Jane that she should dig up the foundations of the pottery kiln, which should be all intact and buried in her back garden. Not only would this create an interesting and historic feature to her garden, but the digging would also reveal many shards of pots, all of which could be attributed to the Bradshaw family. You never know there might be an intact puzzle jug buried there! Alas, thus far my suggestion has fallen on deaf ears. I will keep trying.

Lee Cartledge, Bentham Pottery 2022

If you are interested in learning more about the history of Burton-in-Lonsdale and particularly the pottery industry, then you may be interested in the recently published “The Last Potter of Black Burton”, written by Lee Cartledge of Bentham Pottery. The book is available for purchase at the pottery (where you can get a signed copy), or on Amazon at (https://amzn.to/2VVHDzL)

The author has also put together a 4.5 mile walking guide around the sites of the former potteries of Burton, which is available here; https://www.benthampottery.com/burton-pottery-walk/

William Bateson 1826-1892

William Bateson 1826-1892 founder of Waterside Pottery Burton-in-Lonsdale

Prologue

Having written the story of Waterside Pottery in my book “The Last Potter of Black Burton”, I decided to look a little further into the past to the origins of the company and particularly the man that initially had the vision for it, William Bateson, the grandfather of the Last Potter of Black Burton.

William Bateson was an important figure in the history of the Burton-in-Lonsdale pottery industry, as he founded Waterside Pottery, which was the largest of the Burton potteries, the most modern Burton pottery and the most likely Burton pottery to succeed into the 20th century and beyond. Indeed, with the correct foresight, planning, decisions and investment in the early part of the 20th century there is no reason why Waterside Pottery could not still be in business today.

One of the problems of writing about the Burton potteries is that the Bateson family had a fondness for calling their sons William, Richard or Thomas, which can lead to much confusion. I think they solved this problem at the time by using nicknames. It’s just a pity that the nicknames weren’t recorded in parish registers and census information. With this in mind I thought it would be helpful to include the following family tree starting with William’s great grandfather, Robert Bateson (thankfully not a Richard, William or Thomas!):

I never intended this essay to resemble a small book. I thought a single A4 sized essay on William Bateson, would be a nice prequel for my book “The Last Potter of Black Burton”. However events and research changed all this! The original version of this essay was small, that is until I met Julie Gabriel-Clarke from the Burton in Lonsdale Heritage Group whilst visiting a large Burton jug (the “Craven Heifer Jug”) in Bentham and she offered to do some research for me on William Bateson. Julie’s research proved to be detailed and amazing and revealed new aspects of William’s life that I was previously unaware of. She provided me with the bones to hang the flesh of the essay on and I am very grateful to her for this. So I guess I blame Julie to some extent for the length of this essay, although she isn’t solely to blame, because I came across a blog about a row of houses (Dandyrow.co.uk) opposite where Eccleshill Pottery, where William once worked, was located and I sent an email asking if they knew anything about Eccleshill Pottery, not even really expecting a reply. Eileen Cowan from Dandy Row did get back to me and provided me with a wealth of information on Eccleshill, Eccleshill Pottery and the history of the Handle’s Arms Inn, for which again I am very grateful, but this also expanded the essay. But really  I suppose I’m just trying to shirk responsibility here as I  guess the real culprit responsible for the length of this essay is myself and my fascination with the history of the Burton Potteries!

The Potter’s Arms Pottery

William’s family owned and ran the Potters Arms Pottery in Duke Street, Burton-in-Lonsdale. The Potters Arms Pottery comprised of a public house with a pottery in the back yard. The pub was run in conjunction with the pottery.

William’s great grandfather, Robert Bateson began the business around 1740, the pottery/pub then passed onto William’s grandfather, also called William Bateson. William’s grandfather died at the age of 63 in 1811 leaving a widow, Mary and three daughters and two sons. The youngest son was William’s father, Richard Bateson.

William’s Father Richard Bateson

For a time Mary ran the business. She struggled with the unruly behaviour of her two sons, Richard (William’s father) and Thomas. This was possibly exacerbated by the death of their father when they were still teenagers. Mary ended up, possibly in desperation, sending her boys to a relation with a pottery in Blackburn/ Darwen to give her a break and possibly to give the boys some moral direction, as well as learn a trade. I have three sources for this information:

“William Bateson (William’s grandfather) died in 1811, aged 63, “master potter and householder”, leaving a widow and three daughters, and two sons (Thomas and Richard) aged 19 and 16. His widow continued to manage the pottery for a time. It is said that Thomas and Richard were unruly lads, wringing their mother’s hands to get money!” (Dalesman magazine March 1949, volume 10)

“William Bateson (William’s grandfather) was born in 1748, took over the property from his father and ran the business until 1811 when he died, leaving a wife and two sons, Thomas and Richard. His wife was unable to control the boys and packed them off to Darwen, to their uncle’s pottery” (unpublished essay on the Burton potteries by R.T Bateson and H. Bateson)

“His widow Mary and sons Thomas and Richard then ran the works, as well as owning a public house called “The Potters Arms”. The sons worked in Blackburn for a period in the early 1820s then returned to Burton and ran the pottery until c 1860” (Yorkshire Pots and Potteries, Heather Lawrence.)

I have not been able to definitely identify the relation/uncle with a pottery in Darwen/Blackburn. I suspect that the pottery was Grimshaw Park Pottery in Blackburn, as that seems to be the only pottery producing country wares at that time in that area. Grimshaw Park Pottery was set up by John Riley (sometimes spelt Ryley) in the early 19th century. I have not been able to determine if John Riley is related to the Batesons.

So it would appear that the young Richard (William’s father) and brother Thomas were sent to this relation/uncle for a period of rehabilitation. I have no doubt that this relation, presumably having made his own way in life, would have been ideal for handing out discipline and employment to two unruly lads and I’m sure he would have guided them back onto the straight and narrow path! Indeed, William’s father Richard seems to have thrived in this environment. I’m not sure how long Mary intended her boys to stay away from Burton, but Richard remained in Blackburn/Darwen into his early thirties. Around the 1820’s it seems Richard decided to branch out and open his own pottery. He rented a farm in Eccleshill (close to Darwen) and built a kiln on the site and ran a pottery and farm in tandem.

Eccleshill Pottery

“It must be noted that potteries opened elsewhere in Lancashire during this period, most notably in the Blackburn district. Here, an enclosure map of 1774 records the pottery at Broadfield, Oswaldtwistle, and by the early nineteenth century John Riley had opened Grimshaw Park Pottery in Blackburn. By the mid-1820s potteries were also working at Eccleshill, south-east of Blackburn, where Richard Bateson was the proprietor, and at Gaulkthorn, Oswaldtwistle, which was leased to John Riley. Both made black earthenware. Despite the decline of the Liverpool potteries, therefore, the Lancashire pottery industry still progressed, employing 500 people in 1841.” (Made in Lancashire: A History of Regional Industrialisation By Geoffrey Timmins, Steve Timmins)

“Eccleshill Pottery – Started c1824 by Richard Bateson of Grimshaw Park Pot House, Blackburn. The pottery produced tiles, chimney pots, firebricks and earthenware from clay extracted on site.” (A Guide to the Industrial Archaeology of Darwen, Including Hoddlesden, Yate & Pickup Bank, Eccleshill and Tockholes by Mike Rothwell)

Richard’s choice of Eccleshill as a location for a pottery would have been based on the following facts:

Clay was available on the site – In the 19th century this was a prerequisite for a pottery.

The site was rural – country potteries were predominately on the outskirts of towns, because of the smoke from firing the kilns.

Accessibility to coal – no problem here, as there was plenty of coalmines around Blackburn and Darwen within easy reach.

Access to a good market for selling wares – Richard would have known the market well after working at Grimshaw Park Pottery in Blackburn.

Affordability of the site – pottery was never a quick route to wealth, unless your name was Josiah Wedgewood!

Eccleshill Tithe Commutation Map 1844, Eccleshill Fold, Dandy Row, Pothouse, Holden Fold

According to the above article Richard would have made black earthenware (usually referred to as blackware), which was terracotta clay with a dense black lead glaze and was very popular at this time. I suspect Richard would have also made pots with a white slip decoration, in the Burton tradition.

Richard must have kept in contact with Burton-in-Lonsdale, as he went on to marry (and confuse Burton historians!) his cousin’s daughter Alice Bateson, from Burton. Alice was the daughter of John Bateson who ran Town End Pottery in Burton. Richard and Alice married on the 25th May 1825 at St John’s Church Preston. The wedding certificate states that Richard was resident in “Eccleshill in the parish of Blackburn” at the time of the marriage.

William Bateson was born in Eccleshill in 1826 and was their only son. They subsequently went on to have six daughters. William was baptised at Lower Chapel, Eccleshill in March 1826.

Shortly after the baptism of William the family moved back to Burton-in-Lonsdale and Richard took over The Potters Arms Inn. According to the land tax records, Richard Bateson was renting the Potters Arms Inn from his mother Mary Bateson in 1826. In 1831 Richard was renting the “house and pottery” from his mother. I’m not sure what prompted the move back to Burton, perhaps Richard and Alice wanted their children to be brought up in their home village, or maybe Richard’s mother Mary just offered a good deal in terms of rent to lure her new grandchild back to Burton?

William Bateson’s Early Life

By the time William was born the extended Bateson family were deeply intermeshed in the Burton potteries, with William’s uncles running Town End Pottery, Greta Pottery and Blaeberry Pottery.

William would have begun to learn the craft of pottery from his father at an early age. The pottery would have made traditional lead glazed terracotta country ware. The clay would most likely have been dug at Mill Hill in Burton. The pots would have possibly been decorated with white slip or even a black glaze (black-ware). This would have been in the days when the wheels were powered by a crank at the front of the wheel. I can imagine William spending a lot of his youth turning such a crank, so his father could make pots. I’m sure a lot of the children of potters learnt how to throw by endlessly watching their fathers throw whilst they provided the power for the wheel.

William probably had little choice in his career path. The sons of potters were expected to become potters themselves (and Richard Bateson only had the one son). Thankfully, as his life turned out, it seemed a good choice.

In the 19th century, it took a minimum of eight men (and one horse) to run a country pottery and stand any chance of making a living from it. It wasn’t like today, when one or two people can do the job. There was simply too much work to do for less than eight men when all the processes were done by hand and a lot of team work was required. The steam engine didn’t come to Burton until later in the century.

William would have been involved in the whole process, from digging the clay, processing the clay, powering the wheels, throwing the pots, glazing the pots, filling the kiln, shovelling the 10 tons of coal into the fire-mouths to fire the kiln, unloading the pots, packing the pots, selling the pots and looking after the horse and cart that were required for collecting the clay and coal as well as transporting the pots. And if that was not enough they still had a public house to run! It must have been a balancing act at times. 

William would have been passed from pillar to post, from workman to workman to learn all aspects of the job and I’m sure that he would have also worked at his uncles’ potteries in Burton at times.

I suspect that they sold their pots to local markets, such as Kendal and Kirkby Lonsdale, as well as supplying some shops and dealing with customers direct from their pottery (as Bentham Pottery do today). It probably helped running a pub at the same time as running a pottery, as a potential pottery customer may have strayed into the pub first and plied with a bit of alcohol they may have found that their purse strings were somewhat looser than they intended. Also customers to the pub may have unsuspectedly ended up as pottery customers, leaving the premises with more than just a belly full of ale and a pickled egg supper! I wonder how many drunkards left the pub with a nice pot in a bid to appease an angry spouse the next morning. I also wonder how many pots were broken on the way home. I can’t help thinking that an early version of the “Great Pottery Throw-down” must have played out one night at the Potters Arms.

Richard undoubtedly paid his workers over the bar on a Friday night. This was common practise where pottery owners also owned pubs. The Baggaley family who ran the Baggaley Pottery as well as the Punch Bowl Inn in Burton certainly did this and I have heard this was the case with some of the potteries of Stoke-on-Trent. This must have been an excellent way of “recycling“ the wages.

The Potters Arms Inn and Pottery were actually owned by one Richard Wilkinson of Westhouse (near Ingleton). Richard’s mother, Mary, sublet the premises to him. Mary sadly passed away in 1833 at the age of 77. Richard Wilkinson died in 1835 and he was rather generous to Richard Bateson in his will:

“Also unto Richard Bateson the sum of £5 (equal £830 today) yearly for the term of his natural life. It is also my will and mind and I do hereby order and direct my trustees or the survivor of them of the Heirs, Executors or Administrators of such survivor do permit and suffer the aforesaid Richard Bateson to hold retain and keep the Mortgage Deeds belonging to the Potters Arms within Burton in Lonsdale aforesaid with all and singular the Pot Kiln, Workshops, Barn Stable and all other appurtenances thereto belonging and transfer the said Deeds unto him, he the said Richard Bateson yielding and paying unto them the amounts of the Mortgage with all and every expense with which I may have been connected with or concerning the said premises or any part thereof by Instalments yearly and every year the sum of thirty five pounds ( £5800 today) without any rent or interest whatever and that the said sum of thirty five pounds be divided along with the rents, and profits of my Real Estate as aforesaid.” (Richard Wilkinson’s will 17th January 1835, Richard Bateson is listed as one of the appointed trustees/executors)

So Richard inherited the deeds of the Potters Arms Inn and Pottery along with the outstanding mortgage as well as a yearly allowance for the rest of his life. I have tried to work out what the relationship was between Wilkinson and the Batesons, but have seemingly come up against a brick wall. I suspect that they were blood relations, but I haven’t been able to prove this. All I can say is that Richard Bateson seems to have done rather well out of the matter!

Over time, William became a fully proficient country potter and started to put roots down. William married Nanny Metcalf on the 18th May 1853 in Kirkby Lonsdale. Nanny was born in Ingleton from farming stock. Their first three children Robert, Richard and Henry were all born in Burton-in-Lonsdale (all three went on to become potters).

In the ordinary scheme of things I’m sure William would have inherited the Potters Arms Pottery from his father and continued to run it before eventually passing it onto his sons. However this didn’t happen due to an unfortunate event that changed everything. William’s father, Richard, had the misfortune to lose his entire property, both the pottery and the pub as the result of having stood surety for some money (The Dalesman magazine March 1949). Sadly the Dalesman article doesn’t go into any details about this.

A possibility as to how Richard lost the Potters Arms may be gleaned from events at Town End Pottery around this time. Town End Pottery was run by William’s uncle (on his mother’s side, not his Dad’s brother) Thomas Bateson.  In1855 Thomas was declared bankrupt and indeed he was sent to debtor’s prison at Lancaster Castle for a time. This unfortunate incident played out over a few months and is recorded in the following newspaper articles:

The London Gazette, 3rd April 1855 states “Thomas Bateson, late of Burton-in-Lonsdale, Lancashire, out of business.-In the Gaol of Lancaster” is to attend a “Court for Relief of Insolvent Debtors. Saturday the 31st day of March 1855”

The London Gazette, 8th June 1855, states that “The following PRISONERS, whose Estates and Effects have been vested in the provisional Assignee by order of the court for Relief of Insolvent Debtors, are ordered to be brought up before the Judges of the said courts respectively, as herein set forth, to be dealt with according to law:”………”Thomas Bateson, formerly of the Town End Pottery, Burton-in-Lonsdale, near Hornby, Lancashire, Earthenware Manufacturer, and late a lodger in Burton-in-Lonsdale aforesaid, out of business”

Perry’s Bankrupt Gazette June 16, 1855, states that a hearing for “Bateson Thomas, of Burton-in-Lonsdale, earthenware manufacturer” is to be held 22nd June 1855.

The London Gazette, 6th July, states that Thomas Eastham, an Assigner (court official who is responsible for dealing with a bankrupt person’s assets and paying their debts as well as checking on their actions) has been appointed for Thomas Bateson.

The repercussions of this bankruptcy were still going on four years later when The London Gazette of 15 July 1859 reports on a court case looking into the debts of Thomas Bateson’s father who died 17 years previously, making me wonder if poor Thomas Bateson inherited the debts of his father?

Could Richard have stood surety for Thomas’s debts at Town End Pottery in the hope that Thomas would be able to raise capital and avoid going bankrupt? If this was the case then it’s hard not to see some honour in Richard’s decision, erroneous as it was. Unfortunately I have no proof of this, so Richard may well have put all his property up for a fool’s errand arranged late one drunken night in the Potter’s Arms Inn!

The Potter’s Arms Inn and Pottery were put up for auction in 1856.The following advert appeared in the Westmorland Gazette:

To Be Sold By Auction

At the House of Mr. Richard Bateson, the Potters’ Arms Inn, in Burton-in-Lonsdale, on Thursday, the 27th day of November instant, at six o’clock in the evening, either altogether or in the following Lots, and subject to such Conditions as shall be then produced,

Lot 1.-All that old-established and well-accustomed Inn or PUBLIC HOUSE, known by the sign of the POTTERS’ ARMS, situate in the Town of BURTON-IN-LONSDALE, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, together with the Brewhouse, Barn, Stables, Shippon, Yard, Garden, and Appurtenances thereunto belonging, and now in the possession of Mr. Richard Bateson.

Lot 2.-All that valuable POT KILN, with WORKSHOPS, WAREHOUSES, and other Appendages, together with the Ground adjoining the same containing about Twenty Perches, Customary Measure, situate behind the Potters’ Arms Inn, and now in the occupation of Messieurs Richard and William Bateson.

The Property is a Freehold Tenure, and in good repair; and in the Ground belonging to the Pottery are two excellent wells of pure water, to one of which a pump is attached. The Workshops are also spacious and commodious, measuring in length Thirty-two Yards and in breadth Eight Yards.

There is likewise attached to the Pottery a right of getting Clay upon the valuable Clay Allotments appropriated to the staple Manufacture of Burton upon the inclosure of the Commons and Wastes of the surrounding district.

In case they should not be Sold, the above Premises will, in the course of the same Evening, be Let either altogether or separately, and either from year to year or for a term, to be entered upon at May Day next.

Further information and particulars may be known by applying to the said Richard Bateson, or at the Office of Mr. Eastham, Solicitor, Kirkby Lonsdale.

Kirkby Lonsdale, 4th November, 1856. (Westmorland Gazette)

The following notice was placed in the Lancaster Gazette 27 June 1857:

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN,

That the partnership heretofore subsisting between the undersigned RICHARD BATESON and WILLIAM BATESON, carrying on business as Stoneware Bottle Manufacturers, at Burton-in-Lonsdale, in the County of York, under the style or firm of “Richard Bateson and Sons,” was this day DISSOLVED, by mutual consent; and all Debts owing to and from the said Firm will be collected and paid by the said William Bateson, who will still carry on the business.

As witness our hands, this 17th day of June 1857,

W.BATESON,

RICH. BATESON.

Witness Jno. Thornber. (Lancaster Gazette 27 June 1857)

When I first came across this, I dismissed it thinking it related to Greeta Pottery in Burton, which indeed was a manufacturer of stoneware bottles. The Potters Arms Pottery by contrast was known for being a traditional earthenware country pottery. The owner of Greeta Pottery was another William Bateson (William’s Uncle) and he did have a son called Richard (William’s cousin) however closer scrutiny reveals that the company name in the above newspaper article is “Richard Bateson and Son”, had it been Greeta Pottery, then it would have had to be “William Bateson and Sons” so it can only really be our William and his father running this business. This highlights the absolute confusion of having a lot of Batesons in the same village with the same name following the same profession!

So it would appear that The Potters Arms was following market trends and had moved away from earthenware country pottery and had started making stoneware bottles around this time. This represents something of a Burton-in-Lonsdale historical scoop, as none of the history books mention this.

William and his father’s decision to move away from traditional terracotta country ware and produce stoneware bottles would have been based upon the fact that there was a large demand for stoneware bottles from the 1840s onwards and more importantly, they would have witnessed Greeta Pottery, Greta Bank Pottery and Blaeberry Pottery all in Burton and all successfully making a living producing stoneware bottles. It is just such a great pity that they had to sell up, as the business seemed to be moving in the right direction and I’m sure they would have done well making stoneware bottles in Burton at this time. I wonder where they were sourcing the stoneware clay?

The property was bought by James Fothergill.  The pottery was converted into a joiner’s yard. The pub sadly changed its name to the Joiners Arms to reflect this new business.

I am not sure when the joiner’s yard closed, but the Joiners Arms was still going in the early 1980s and was one of the first pubs I ever drank a pint in (it was an easy walk from Bentham Pottery).

Eccleshill Pottery Revisited

With the loss of the Potters Arms Pottery, William was forced to find work elsewhere. Surprisingly it seems that the whole family including William’s father and mother upped sticks and moved to Darwen, Lancashire and William took over Eccleshill Pottery.

I’m not sure how the move to Darwen came about? I can understand that having lost both the pub and the pottery the family just wanted a completely new beginning. I guess the fact that William’s father had previously run Eccleshill Pottery must have been an influential factor in making this decision and that some contact with Eccleshill Pottery had been maintained.

Eccleshill Pottery had passed on to at least two other owners after Richard Bateson. According to Mike Rothwell (A Guide to the Industrial Archaeology of Darwen), John Beswick and Ormerod Holden had run Eccleshill Pottery after Richard. Further enquiries via an Eccleshill blog (Dandyrow.co.uk) revealed that John Beswick had apparently also run the pub, the Handel’s Arms just over the road from the pottery, having married Peggy the landlady. When John Beswick died in 1843 at the age of 41, Ormerod Holden married John Beswick’s wife Peggy and continued to run the pub and pottery. The following advert appeared in the Preston Chronicle in 1853:

To BE LET, that old established and well accustomed PUBLIC HOUSE called the “Handel’s Arms Inn,” with 16 acres, 2 roods and 12 perches of excellent Meadow and Pasture Land, with suitable outbuildings, together with an Earthenware Pottery, comprising large kiln (lately erected,) working and drying sheds, colour-room, ware-room, and numerous other conveniences, with a good bed of potters’ clay adjoining, all in the occupation of Mr. Ormrod Holden, and situate at Eccleshill, distant three miles from Blackburn. On application, John Benson, of Eccleshill Colliery, will point out the boundaries of the premises and give further particulars. Tenders will be received until Saturday the 31st of December instant, by Mr. George Hunt, Land Agent, Preston.

4, Chapel-walks, Preston, 8th Dec, 1853 (Preston Chronicle, December 10th, 1853)

This must have seemed like the Potters Arms in exile to the Bateson family! I don’t think William rented the pub, but he did rent Eccleshill Pottery. This would have happened around 1857. The following advert from the Preston Guardian of 1858 announces Eccleshill Pottery had opened for business under new ownership:

ECCLESHILL

STONEWARE BOTTLE WORKS, OVER DARWEN.

WILLIAM BATESON begs to give notice, that he has commenced making spirit jars, porter bottles, ginger beer bottles, and all other kinds of stoneware on the above premises. He also feels grateful to those friends who have favoured him with their support, and hopes, by manufacturing a good article, to merit a continuance of their orders.

Tiles for malt and corn kilns made to order (Preston Chronicle 14 August 1858)

Eccleshill Pottery had originally been set up for the production of earthenware country pottery. William though wanted to produce stoneware bottles. This meant that he had to rebuild or even build another kiln as stoneware fires 200 degrees higher than terracotta and so needs a different kiln design to achieve this temperature. William was helped in this rebuild/building of the kiln by his cousin (another Richard!) whose father ran Greeta Pottery in Burton-in Lonsdale (Dalesman magazine). It is possible that this cousin stayed on at Eccleshill Pottery and worked for William.

William’s parents, Richard and Alice moved to the centre of Darwen. Alice sadly died in 1858 at the age of 62 and you can’t help thinking that her demise may in part be due to the stress of losing everything and having to move away from Burton.

The 1861 census finds William, as a 35 year old, as the head of the household at Eccleshill Pottery. He is listed as a potter and farmer employing seven men and one boy. The same census finds Richard (William’s father) living with his daughter at Cotton Hall Darwen. He is listed as a potter and I suspect he must have been working for William at Eccleshill Pottery.

“Eccleshill Pottery….The last records of the works appears in the mid 1860’s when William Bateson was making stone bottles at the site.” (A Guide to the Industrial Archaeology of Darwen, Including Hoddlesden, Yate & Pickup Bank, Eccleshill and Tockholes by Mike Rothwell)

The search for the location of Eccleshill Pottery

A Google Street View of Eccleshill proves to be very interesting. Eccleshill is a very small collection of houses and farms. In the middle of Eccleshill there is a gated driveway with “Pottery Farm” painted on the gate. More interestingly still, there is a large round stone with a hole in the middle, with “Pottery Farm” carved into it. Could this stone have been excavated from an old pottery blunger and upcycled? Mike Rothwell (A Guide to the Industrial Archaeology of Darwen) states that Eccleshill Pottery was “situated to the rear of the Handel’s Arms public house”. The Handel’s Arms closed in 2002. I was able to find an old photo of it on Google and this photo matches exactly (minus the public house signs) with the building to the right of Pottery Farm, proving that Pottery Farm is indeed the former location of Eccleshill Pottery.

Google Street view of Pottery Farm

Today, Pottery Farm is a prize winning alpaca farm that trades as Pottery Alpacas. I’d like to think that William Bateson was responsible for introducing alpaca farming to the country, but I think this is unlikely. The “pottery-cum–farm” as described in the Dalesman article was likely to have been a small holding with a few animals mainly providing food for the family.

I have contacted the present owner of Pottery Farm via Facebook and they do occasionally get people approaching them wanting to look for bottles and pots on the land. They also confirmed that the large round stone outside his driveway was found on the land whilst renovating the house, so it is very likely pottery related? I suspect a blunger stone, a glaze grinder or possibly even a fly wheel?

Shaws of Dawen, Waterside

Adjacent to Eccleshill (Darwen) is another small hamlet called Waterside which is an interesting name to any Burton Pottery historian. Could William have named Waterside Pottery, Burton after this Waterside? Waterside near Darwen is famous for having a very successful pottery factory, still in business today. Shaws of Darwen have made ceramic sinks for the last 125 years at their factory in Waterside. They didn’t invent the Belfast sink, but their factory has been making Belfast sinks for longer than any other pottery. Shaws of Darwen began in business when the son of a local coalmine owner discovered that a by-product of his father’s coal mine was a rather fine fireclay. He decided to utilise this material and base a business around it. Shaws of Darwen began in 1897 and expanded in 1908 with the building of their factory at Waterside. This all happened 30 or so years after Eccleshill Pottery though. However it does prove the suitability of Eccleshill for pottery manufacture and the availability of stoneware clay in the area. Also I feel that the close proximity of Shaws of Darwen to Eccleshill Pottery could have had important ramifications if business at Eccleshill Pottery had continued into the 20th Century. I will revisit this point later.

The return to Burton-in-Lonsdale

William and Nanny had seven children. The first three were born in Burton whilst William was still working with his father at the Potters Arms Pottery; the remaining children were born in Eccleshill. Nanny sadly died in 1866 at the age of 37 and I can only imagine that she died in childbirth, with the child surviving the birth, as their last daughter was born in the same year (1866) and very tellingly was named Nanny after her mother. This event must have been devastating for the entire family and it seems that this tragedy was the catalyst for William’s return to Burton-in-Lonsdale.

William would have been 40 years old when Nanny died. He was left with a young family of seven children, the oldest being 12 years old. I can only guess that his decision to return to Burton-in-Lonsdale was based upon a need to return to his wider family and familiar small village to help him bring up his children. I can’t imagine how hard it was giving up everything they had built up at Eccleshill Pottery. Without this sad event though, there would have been no Waterside Pottery in Burton-in-Lonsdale.

Nanny was buried at, St James Church, Over Darwen 17th June 1866.

William, now aged 42, moved back to Burton-in-Lonsdale sometime around 1868 (unpublished essay on the Burton potteries by R.T Bateson and H.Bateson).   

William’s father Richard also moved back from Darwen. The 1871 census records Richard living in Lancaster with his daughter. He is listed as an “unemployed potter”. Richard very sadly died in 1872 at the age of 77. He was buried in Burton-in-Lonsdale.

Eccleshill Pottery under William Bateson would have lasted for approximately 10 years, from 1858 to about 1868.

Greta Bank Pottery and Blaeberry Pottery

Once back in Burton, William found work at Greta Bank Pottery, which was owned by James Parker who at the time was mainly producing stoneware bottles. William worked as the foreman at Greta Bank Pottery and did a lot of “travelling” for James.  I think “travelling” implies that he went on the road to source potential customers and acquire orders. This would have proved very useful networking for future business.

William rented Blaeberry Pottery from his uncle, John Bateson. Blaeberry Pottery hadn’t been used for a number of years and was semi derelict. The kiln, known affectionately as “old Timothy” was in a state of disrepair and needed major renovations. Outside of work hours, William and his sons, started to repair the kiln and get the pottery ready for production. William and family were all resident at Blaeberry Pottery by the time the 1871 census was recorded.

“He saved all the money he could, and rented for £20 a year, Blaeberry Pottery, which had belonged to John and Elizabeth Bateson (John was William’s uncle), which was now in ruins. He lived in the dwelling-house which was then attached to the pottery. During the evenings, William, with his boys, re-built the pottery, which he eventually bought, re-naming it Waterside” (Dalesman magazine March 1949, volume 10)

Blaeberry Pottery was something of a “potters paradise”, as it had opencast coal and open cast stoneware clay in the field adjacent to the pottery, so fuel and materials were effectively free.  Added to this, there was a steady supply of water, courtesy of the River Greta, which ran directly past the pottery.

I’m not sure how long William worked at Greta Bank Pottery, or when the first kiln was fired at Blaeberry Pottery. It’s possible that in the early days, William worked at Greta Bank Pottery at the same time as running Blaeberry Pottery? The 1871 census states that William is at “Blaeberry Pottery in Low Bentham Ward employing 4 men 2 boys and 3 bottle casers”, which would imply that Blaeberry Pottery was in production at this time.

William’s sons, Robert, Richard (yet another Richard!) and Henry all worked for their dad.  William’s third son Henry, or Harry as he was always known was a natural on the pottery wheel. Harry went on to become a phenomenal thrower. In his prime, Harry was able to throw 120 six-gallon bottles in a day. The weight of a ball of clay required to make a six-gallon bottle is 66lbs! I mention this in my book “The Last Potter of Black Burton”, but I feel it is worthy of another mention here.

The company William Bateson and Sons was formed sometime in the early 1870s. William also changed the name of Blaeberry Pottery to Waterside Pottery around this time.

The 1881 census states that William is resident at Waterside Pottery employing 9 men and his eldest three sons are described as “Father’s assistants”.

Around the mid-1880s, James Parker decided to sell Greta Bank Pottery. I’m not sure what James’s reason was for this. It’s possible that James just wanted to retire and had no natural heir to the pottery? It’s also feasible that James realised the “Tour de Force” that was William Bateson and Sons and decided to quit whilst he was still ahead?

I feel sure that the sale of Greta Bank came as a surprise to William. I think William realised that the sale was too good an opportunity to miss, as it would effectively eliminate competition at the same time as acquiring all of Greta Bank Pottery’s customers.

William Bateson and Sons bought Greta Bank Pottery from James Parker in 1887.

 “James Parker worked the pottery (Greta Bank Pottery) until 1887, when it was bought by William Bateson who had worked and travelled for James since his return from Darwen about 1870” (unpublished essay on the Burton potteries by R.T. Bateson and H. Bateson)

William Bateson and Sons finally bought Waterside Pottery in 1888 after renting it for many years.

It is testament to the strength of the stoneware bottle industry at this time that William Bateson and Sons were able to persuade the banks to allow them mortgages on two potteries within a year of each other.

For at least a decade William Bateson and sons ran Waterside Pottery and Greta Bank Pottery in tandem.

Waterside Pottery

The 1891 census records William at the age of 65 living at Chapel Lane, Burton-in-Lonsdale, with his occupation being “Living on own means”. This would suggest that he had retired from pottery at this time and left his sons to run the business.

Sadly, William died at the age of 66 on 20th April 1892, leaving behind him a pottery legacy and a seemingly secure future for his family. William was buried at All Saints Church in Burton-in-Lonsdale. William left £1958 14s. 7d in his will which is approximately £298k in today’s money and must have been a considerable fortune for a potter from Burton.

“This is the last will and testament of me William Bateson of Burton in Lonsdale in the county of York, pot manufacturer. I revoke all other wills heretofore made by me and appoint my sons Robert, Henry and Frank Metcalf trustees and executors of this my will. I give and bequeath to my grandson William Bateson my gold watch and chain for his own use. I direct that my daughter Nanny shall have the use of my household furniture and effects for the term of her life provided she shall so long remain unmarried and from and after her decease or marriage I direct that the same shall fall into and form part of my residuary estate hereinafter mentioned. I give and bequeath the following pecuniary legacies, that is to say: to my son Richard four hundred pounds, to my daughter Hannah More nine hundred pounds, to my said daughter Nanny ten hundred pounds subject to the payment of my debts, funeral and testamentary expenses and all the pecuniary legacies heretofore bequeathed. I give devise and bequeath all the rest residue and remainder of my estate real and personal whatsoever and wheresoever unto and to the use of my said sons, Robert, Henry and Frank Metcalf in equal shares as tenants in common provided always and upon the express condition that the said sons allow my said daughter Nanny during her life or until her marriage should she desire to do so to occupy the dwelling house and premises which I now occupy free of rent in witness whereof I have this my last will and testament set my hand this twenty ninth day of December one thousand eight hundred and ninety one. William Bateson” (will and last testament of William Bateson 29/12/1891)

William’s sons Robert, Henry and Frank carried on the business at Waterside Pottery, introducing a steam engine and then expanding the pottery around 1900-1905 from one to three kilns to cope with the demand for stoneware bottles.  Waterside Pottery went on to become the largest and arguably the most successful Burton pottery, particularly from the 1890s up to the First World War. The story of Waterside Pottery is available in my book, “The Last Potter of Black Burton”.

Epilogue

William Bateson recovered from two traumatic incidents in his life that he had little control over; Firstly, the loss of the Potters Arms Pottery and then later losing his wife and having to give up Eccleshill Pottery. The fact that he was able to successfully begin again after both of these events shows the remarkable mettle of the man and I am left wondering what he could have achieved without these two setbacks?

But for the death of a mother, Eccleshill Pottery would have continued. William Bateson and Sons would surely still have been formed but Waterside Pottery in Burton-in-Lonsdale would never have existed. How would Eccleshill Pottery have fared in this alternative future? I suspect if they continued making stoneware bottles, they would have prospered up until the First World War and then they would have started to slowly decline, as happened at Waterside Pottery. The question is would being in a different location have influenced the choices they made to prevent this decline in trade happening and secure the future of the pottery. Ironically a possible solution was literally three fields away behind Eccleshill Pottery. Shaws of Darwen were using the exact technology that Eccleshill Pottery would have needed to invest in to stay in business as an industrial pottery beyond the 1920s. Shaws were working with plaster moulds and slip casting. They would have employed mould makers, pottery engineers, kiln builders and designers and, I suspect, would have had strong links with the potteries of Stoke–on-Trent. At their peak in the 1920s Shaws were employing 600 people on a 26 acre site. Surely Eccleshill Pottery would have been influenced, by what was literally going on in their backyard and picked up on the advantages of plaster moulds and possibly poaching some of Shaws’ employees? It is also not beyond the realms of possibility that Eccleshill Pottery and Shaws of Darwen could have collaborated, after all their wares were not in direct competition. Perhaps in an alternative future, Shaws and Batesons of Darwen, Waterside, would exist, producing bespoke sinks and tableware.

When writing about events that happened so far in the past it is inevitable that mistakes and miss-interpretations can be made. For me the only Achilles heel of this essay is that I have been unable to find any details of the relation/uncle that had a pottery in Blackburn/Darwen. I have credited William’s father with building Eccleshill Pottery, however there is a possibility that the relation/ uncle may have built it, if his name was also Richard Bateson (not an uncommon name within the Bateson family!). Suffice to say that William’s father was sent to live and work at a relation’s pottery in or near Darwen as a young man and ended up working at Eccleshill Pottery, which he may have built. Further research may reveal more…..

I would have struggled to write this without the research provided by Julie Gabriel-Clarke of Burton-in-Lonsdale and Eileen Cowan of Eccleshill and I would like to thank them here for all their efforts. I also found the following two articles invaluable; the Dalesman article of 1949 and the unpublished essay on the Burton potteries by R.T. Bateson and H. Bateson. The Dalesman based their article around the reminiscences of William’s youngest daughter, Nanny who would have been 82 years old at the time the article was published.  

I am grateful to Jeremy Bradshaw and Sue Ellis (both descendants of William Bateson) for the following:

William Bateson (1826-1892) had 7 children with his wife Nanny Metcalfe (1829-1866).

Robert Bateson (1855-1908) – Born in Burton. Married Susan Jane Kidd and had 6 children. Robert split from William Bateson and Sons in 1902, because he didn’t think the company was moving in the right direction. He sold his share: and bought and ran Greeta Pottery until his untimely death in 1908.

Richard Bateson (1856-1934) – Born in Burton. Married Catherine Rooney and had two children in 1896 and 1898 in the USA. Richard’s occupation on the 1881 census is described as”Father’s assistant (Stone bottle)”. He obviously then chose to move away from pottery.

Henry Bateson (1858-1922) – Born in Burton. Married Alice Timperley. Father of Richard Timperley Bateson (The Last Potter of Black Burton). Henry was the main thrower and joint owner of Waterside Pottery.

Martha Alice Bateson   –  (1861-1890) – Born Eccleshill, Lancashire

Hannah More Bateson –  (1862-1945) – Born Eccleshill, Yorkshire (it is possible that Yorkshire is a mistake on the 1881 census)

Frank Bateson – (1864-1938) – born Eccleshill, Lancashire. Married Mary Ann Triffit.  Joint owner of Waterside Pottery with his brother Henry

Nanny Bateson – (1866-1959) Born Eccleshill, Lancashire.

Lee Cartledge (Bentham Pottery) – 2023

Gladstone G30 pottery wheel review

Gladstone Pottery Wheel Review

Gladstone wheel review – G30 Gladstone Classic wheel (£3102, price includes delivery and adding wheel studs) – 7/10

We bought a new wheel this summer (2021). I thought it would be good to review it here and update the review over the next few years.

We’ve always thrown on Alsager wheels at Bentham Pottery. Our two Alsager wheels were bought in the 1970s and have so far both had over 40 years of use in a production pottery. I think we have had them serviced twice. I have been doing quite a lot of teaching recently and so decided to get another wheel as a backup in case one of our Alsager wheels is ever out of action.

I would have definitely bought another Alsager wheel, however, unfortunately they are no longer in production, so I did some research and bought what I thought was the next best thing, a Gladstone wheel.

I have always liked throwing on tall upright wheels, like the Alsager wheel. To me these wheels look like “how a wheel ought to look” (in my opinion). I’ve never got on with the “shimpo type” wheels, as I feel a bit hunched over them. They have always made me feel like an adult sat on a child’s tricycle! The Gladstone wheel was the closest I could find in dimensions to an Alsager wheel.

The Gladstone engineering wheel that I eventually chose is the G30 Gladstone Classic. This is definitely one of Gladstone’s more expensive wheels. My reason for choosing the G30 Gladstone Classic over their other wheels is that it features an adjustable seat that looked as though it could be adjusted quickly and easily. I have always felt that having an adjustable seat would be an advantage, as depending on what you are doing on the wheel you can get more comfortable by being able to make small adjustments to seat height. Also I thought it could be useful for teaching, as I would be able to raise the seat higher or lower to enable people of different heights to throw easier.

The G30 Gladstone Classic cost me £3102 in total. The £2 narked me slightly. Perversely I’d have rather paid £3200 as at least I would have been under the illusion that the price had been reduced to the nearest £100! The wheel was actually £2892 – adding studding to take my wooden bats cost £108 and delivery was £102.

I felt that £108 to add two studs into the wheel head was possibly a bit overpriced, considering the cost of the wheel. However they did a good job with it and the studs fitted perfectly into my wooden throwing bats.

Gladstone wheel review. G30 Gladstone Classic wheel. The wheel arrives at Bentham POttery
Gladstone wheel review. G30 Gladstone Classic wheel. The wheel arrives at Bentham Pottery.

Delivery is to the kerb and not into the building. Getting the wheel into the building requires a bit of effort, and definitely needs two fit people to lift it. Make sure you don’t lift it by the plastic basin, as you will break the basin doing this. I took the seat off and used this as one lifting point. The person lifting on the other side of the wheel has to reach low down. The first problem we encountered is the wheel would not fit through the pottery door. I took the door off its hinges. The wheel still would not fit through the 31 inch door frame. I had to remove both the footrest and the speed control pedal from the wheel before we could manoeuvre it through the door frame. Removing these items is relatively easy. There are 6 bolts in total to undo. Hurrah, the wheel was now inside the pottery. I rebuilt it and rehung the door and un-wrapped the wheel.

The wheel does look stunning. The polished wooden finish gives it a real feeling of quality. I have no doubt that the great Josiah Wedgwood himself would be proud to be seen on one! I was desperate to throw something on it and give it a real test, so I weighed out fifty 12oz balls of clay and proceeded to throw mugs. The first thing I noticed is how quiet the wheel is compared to all the other wheels at Bentham Pottery. The second thing I noticed is that the speed control sticks badly in various positions. This definitely wasn’t the “extremely smooth running and sensitive speed control” as advertised on Gladstone’s website. I had to hook my foot under the pedal at times to make it move. I continued and made the 50 mugs despite my growing irritation with this problem. I found it very difficult to judge the wheel other than how bad the speed control was. I sent an email to Gladstone and frustratingly got an automatic reply saying that Gladstone Engineering were closed for the next two weeks for the annual “potters holiday”. Somebody though must have read the email as I was delighted to get a phone call the very next morning from a helpful and apologetic chap called Geoff from Gladstone, who told me exactly what spanners and Allen keys I would need and how to go about fixing the problem. I really like the fact that Gladstone got back to me so quickly (despite the potters’ holiday) and that the wheel can be opened up like this and problems can be fixed with common tools. Regrettably I never got round to doing this fix though, as at the time I was fully occupied with pottery courses, summer shows and order deadlines. However, I found that the speed control pedal actually loosened and improved with constant use from students over the summer and so now 3 months later the pedal is only sticking occasionally at high speeds and low speeds. I have found that a quick firm tap on the pedal releases it when it is stuck and I no longer have to hook my foot under the pedal. If the problem persists though, or gets worse then I will have to contact Gladstone again, as I have completely forgotten the fix. I do think that Gladstone need to review their policy on how they check their wheels before sending them out to customers, as sending out faulty wheels is not a great marketing strategy, especially when sending them to a second generation production potter who teaches many throwing courses and actively blogs!

With the speed control problem improving, I was able to more fully assess and review the wheel.

The wheel has a three way rotary switch. Straight up is off, turned towards you and the wheel is on and operates in an anti-clockwise direction and turned away from you the wheel is on and operates in a clockwise direction. Personally I would be happy with the wheel just turning anti clockwise, but I guess it’s good to have both options, especially when teaching very left handed people who might prefer the wheel spinning clockwise. The rotary switch is slightly quirky in that you have to follow a definite procedure when turning the wheel on. The rotary switch must be in the off position when turning the power on at the mains you then have to wait for an audible click and the red led lighting up on the rotary switch before turning the switch to an on position. If you get this sequence wrong then the wheel will not turn on. If the wheel is left on and unattended then every so often the wheel will start spinning. I’m not sure if this is an electrical fault, a fault of the speed controller or even a deliberate nudge to let you know that the wheel is still on?

The wheel is very quiet. It has a slow acceleration. If you press the pedal all the way down to the floor, it takes about 2 seconds to get up to full speed. I’m not sure what to make of this delayed response? I’m not saying it’s a bad thing; it’s just something that I need to get used to, or at least spend more time with before commenting. I’m guessing that the slow acceleration is deliberate and not a fault with the pedal? My other wheels all respond relatively instantly. I feel that the top speed of the wheel is a little on the slow side and I would definitely prefer it faster especially for centering the clay.

Gladstone wheel review. G30 Gladstone Classic wheel.
Gladstone wheel review. G30 Gladstone Classic wheel. The adjustable seat showing the seat clamp and grooves
Gladstone wheel review. G30 Gladstone Classic wheel.
Gladstone wheel review. G30 Gladstone Classic wheel. The seat can be swung to one side, which is great when space is a problem.

The seat is comfortable and has 7 height adjustments with 1.5 inches between each adjustment. I would prefer smaller increments than this and possibly even fewer adjustments. To change the seat height you unscrew the bolt below the seat and align it with one of the 7 grooves on the seat post. This is a bit tricky as you can’t actually see the groove you are trying to screw the bolt into as it is hidden inside the seat post clamp. I would prefer a sprung mechanism to this, because it would be quicker and I feel it would locate into the grooves on the seat post easier. The seat bolt does become loose during throwing causing the seat to move from side to side slightly. This doesn’t bother me too much though. One advantage of this seat is it can be swung to the side when not in use and so the wheel takes up less room in the pottery. Despite my criticisms this is the best adjustable seat I have yet come across on a pottery wheel.

Gladstone wheel review. G30 Gladstone Classic wheel.
Gladstone wheel review. G30 Gladstone Classic wheel. The wheel basin undercuts and curves slightly, which makes it a very comfy wheel to work on.

The wheel basin/splash tray is white, which makes it a bugger to clean, although in terms of health and safety and keeping dust down this is probably not such a bad thing. The wheel basin has a drain to a pipe where a bucket can be placed by the side of the wheel. I have never understood the need for this drain and bucket arrangement. I’ve always just sponged water from the basin into whatever water container I use for throwing. The drain pipes invariably always blocks with clay and the bucket full of sludge and water just takes up floor space and is an easy target for knocking over or putting your foot into when stepping off the wheel. Why do wheel manufactures continue to use this system? Thankfully the basin comes with a plug, which is now in permanent residency in my wheel. The wheel basin cleverly undercuts under the wheel turntable. This allows the throwers thighs to fit into the wheel and feel like part of the machine. I really like this undercut and feel that it helps to make for a very comfortable throwing position (more comfortable than the Alsager). I found that the rounded edge of the basin sill was uncomfortable on my arms if throwing all day. The Alsager wheel sill is flat on top and is definitely more comfortable because of this.

Gladstone wheel review. G30 Gladstone Classic wheel.
Gladstone wheel review. G30 Gladstone Classic wheel. The Alsager wheel basin rim is on the left and the Gladstone basin rim is on the right. The slightly flatter rim of the Alsager is definitely more comfortable if you’re doing a long session on the wheel.

The wheel easily takes a Giffin Grip trimming tool (see my review on Giffin Grips here), with plenty of space between the Giffin Grip and the basin wall ( it is a much tighter fit in the Alsager wheel).  I have emailed Gladstone about the possibility of producing a wheel basin extender wall so the trimmings from the Giffin Grip don’t all end up on the pottery floor. I am still awaiting their response to this email. I feel all wheel manufactures should consider making a basin wall extender as the Giffin grip is such a useful tool.

So in summary then it is a mixed review. Would I recommend this wheel? I think it is a bit expensive for somebody taking up pottery as a hobby. Gladstone do produce a cheaper wheel called the Bailey, which I feel targets the hobby market more. I wouldn’t actually rule out buying a Bailey wheel myself, so my students can experience a more affordable wheel.

 I think the wheel is definitely worth considering from a professional potter’s point of view, although if you’re strapped for cash you could pick up a second hand Alsager on eBay (they tend to sell for £600-£1200 depending on condition) or if you get on with the “Shimpo style” wheels then you could buy one of those wheels for considerably less money.

This review is slightly tainted by Gladstone sending me a wheel with a faulty speed control. I think I was unlucky here and possibly a victim of having a wheel made and delivered to me on the Friday before the Stoke-on-Trent annual potters’ holiday.

I will update this review every so often so as to see what the longevity of the wheel performance is like. I am also interested to see if I will gravitate more to this wheel, or stay with one of our trusty Alsagers?

Pros;

•             Comfortable throwing position. This is really a big pro, so many wheels are uncomfortable

•             Relatively easily adjusting seat, although I’d prefer smaller increments in the adjustment.

•             The wheel looks stunning.

Cons;

•             It’s expensive.

•             Speed pedal sticks at times (Well mine does, although it is improving with use)

•             Requires two people to lift it and you may very well need to take your door off the hinges to get it into your workshop/house.

•             Slow top speed.

•             The price you see on the website is not necessarily the price you end up paying! After writing this review I noticed that the price of the wheel on Gladstones website was £2760 (three months after I had bought it) whereas the price I was charged was £2892. I took this up with Gladstones expecting them to refund the difference, or at least give me some credit for future purchases. They did neither all I got was the following response;

Yes we had a look and all the other prices were updated to the new price but we missed the G30 so it was still showing the old price , the price is £2892 we have updated the web site appreciate you pointing this out to us.”

Kathy, Sharon and the 5000 Papal Bowls.

Sharon Gardner recently attended one of our five day throwing courses. The following is a true story in Sharon’s own words and with her permission that I thought was worthy of sharing;

It’s strange how life can work, sometimes people come into your life for a reason. At 17 years old in 1983 I was asked to write a piece of coursework for my A level General Studies course, I had no idea what to write. I had recently completed an O level Ceramics course (See Photo 1)

Photo 1 – Sharon’s O level pots

I can remember sitting with my Dad on a Sunday afternoon reading The Times supplement, in the centre was a full page story of a female potter who had been commissioned to complete 5,000 communion bowls for Pope John Paul’s visit to Manchester and Liverpool 1982, I was inspired by this woman, at the end of the article was the name of her studio.  (See Photo 2)

Photo 2 – Article on Kathy and the Papal bowls

I spent all day on that Sunday calling 192 (that’s how we located phone numbers in in the mid 1980’s) to find out the woman’s telephone number, I plucked up the courage to call at 8 pm. Kathy Cartledge answered the ‘phone, she was polite, and I instantly warmed to this formidable woman. I asked if I could interview her for my coursework and add the interview as an appendix to the work, she agreed and I offered to call her back later; ‘no, let’s do it now,’ said Kathy. I was inspired and a little in awe of this well-known and professional person. My Dad searched the house for a pad and pen whilst I talked about the work I needed to complete and why. Kathy allowed me to interview her for over an hour, she told me how she obtained the commission and how she had needed to help of her whole family to complete the work.

Move forward 37 years later, I had a successful career in education and a family and lived in North Lincolnshire. My husband had encouraged me to re-visit my love of pottery a few years before. I had attended adult education classes, but I had never been shown how to throw a pot, as a gift he booked a cottage and a 5-day course at Bentham Pottery in North Yorkshire in September 2021 (see photo 3)

Photo 3 – Kathy Teaching Sharon how to throw at Bentham Pottery

We stayed in the cottage on the farm, it was a fabulous base for the course and to explore North Yorkshire.  On the Wednesday evening Barry was watching the England V Poland football match on the TV, I decided to watch the rest of Lee’s videos on the website that he had recommended prior to the course, I went on to read about the history of Burton in Lonsdale pottery and out of interest  read the history of Bentham Pottery … image my surprise when Photo 2 came into view … this was the woman I had interviewed 37 years earlier. I was overwhelmed with joy and admiration for the business that Lee and Kathy had created and couldn’t wait to tell them the next day.

Kathy and the Papal bowls

At coffee we all sat round the studio table, Kathy made drinks and we ate the dark chocolate KitKats that had become part of our daily routine, Cath, Ange, Debbie and I all sat relaxing and discussing our mornings work, I had to tell them all what I had discovered. I ask the group if they minded me telling them a short story whilst Kathy was present, they were all happy to hear how my life had come full circle and how I had spoken to this woman earlier in my life, Kathy cried and we all couldn’t believe the coincidence.

My only regret here is that I cannot phone my Dad to tell him the same story, unfortunately Ian Evans died on 4th Sept 2019, I would adore to tell him how he had run round the house looking for that pad and paper and how Kathy had wept at me recounting the story of a quiet 17 year old girl, sitting on the stairs of  1 Grosvenor Wood, Bewdley, Worcestershire, desperately scribbling down questions that later would create an outstanding piece of coursework, and how each time in my life I have been in an interview situation and asked the final interview question; ‘Who has inspired you in your life?’ I have told the story of a woman potter who created 5,000 communion bowls for the papal visit of 1982. A amazing and quite wonderful coincidence.

Sharon Gardner

Throwing Pots Left Handed

Throwing pots left handed

I put the following post on a Facebook group recently, questioning how to teach left handed people how to throw pots and in particular what wheel direction you should use. The responses were so interesting I thought it would be worth sharing them on my blog;

How do you teach throwing to left handed people? I have only ever had wheels that spin anti clockwise, so I have always taught the same hand positions (more or less) whether people are right handed or left handed.

I have just bought a new wheel that has the option to spin clockwise. Should I now teach left handed people on the clockwise wheel with their hands the opposite way round (for opening out and lifting the wall)?

I’m left handed and I throw right handed with tons of left handed habits. Just teach right handed, they will figure it out (at least I did)

I’m left handed and teach students that are left and right handed. I practiced throwing clockwise and counter clockwise so I can demonstrate on either side of the clay. If I have to fix something gone a bit wild, I switch the direction of the wheel to my preferred direction if necessary to get things back under control.

I teach left and right handed the same way, spinning anti clockwise. To me it’s a bit like playing piano, throwing requires working with both hands. There are minor differences for left or right handed but the principle is the same.

I’m a leftie who doesn’t believe we should throw any differently. There is no such thing as a left handed piano; both your hands are doing something equally important, there is no dominant hand.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re left handed or right handed. Japanese and Koreans throw with the wheel spinning clockwise, and the rest of the world throws with it spinning anti-clockwise. Both hands are needed to throw, so it doesn’t really make a difference which your dominant hand is. The other one just needs to learn more.

I’ve taught hundreds of people. They struggle wayyyy less when you switch the wheel. Make the effort to try to learn their direction. It makes a huge difference

I’m totality left dominant and started learning with the wheel going counter clock wise.. I was in a tec school program with a good instructor. I made some progress over several weeks, but when I switched the wheel it felt intuitively right to me. I think it is more about body position,, orientation in space,, direction of lean …etc. I teach both right and left handed people.

Some people are more at ease with the wheel going one way than the other, there is no rule really, I have left-handed students who throw like a righty and turn like a lefty! What works best is the correct technique. Another reason for using a kick wheel

I throw right handed as a left handed person. If they have never thrown before + they won’t know there is another way. As an adult I have become much more ambidextrous because of computer use. I’m sure the kids are the same way.

So what I do is start off teaching by letting the student experience both left handed and right handed. I start off doing it the right handed way because I am right handed and then if I see they have difficulty, I turn the wheel on in the opposite direction. The student makes the decision which way they prefer.

Throwing is a two handed process. In Japan they spin the wheel the other way and that is nothing to do with right or left handedness. Just carry on as normal. The psychology is interesting. Potentially the focus may be on the inside instead of the outside of the pot which affects the results in an interesting way

I reverse the wheel and my hand positions with left handed people and sit opposite them. But I have found a lot of left handed people are not fully left, many prefer throwing right handed.

Everything is the same it is just a different dominate hand. So before you speak or show someone, think of what you do with your right hand and do the same with the left, and vice versa. Trimming and everything is easier for some left handed people when you change wheel direction.

I am left handed and was taught the right handed way I believe when you don’t know anything at all it doesn’t matter you learn the way you are taught! Was so funny the subject was never brought up when I was learning. And months later my teach said, “wow you’re a lefty?” And I said yes, she laughed and said well now you’re a right handed potter!

I am left handed and learned right handed. All you are doing is having the strong hand inside the form like they do in Japan. Handedness isn’t important on an electric non-kick wheel.

I’m left handed. I throw on a counter clockwise wheel. It is a two handed process. Neither hand is dominant.

I find that the issue isn’t often with throwing but with trimming. Most people can learn to throw either way, but trimming is a whole other story. I teach with my wheel turning clockwise and just explain and demonstrate the different hand positions

I’ve been throwing for 43 years, teaching for 20: left handed potters throwing counter clockwise have the advantage, as the left hand is inside, and easier to control the form that way.

I would demo counter clockwise to my beginning wheel students. After observing them for a few class meetings if I noticed any that were really struggling I would ask if they were left handed and have them try throwing with wheel going clockwise. For some VERY left handed students having wheel going clockwise helped.

I am also left-handed, and throw counter clockwise. Both hands have such important jobs at different times that I honestly think unless you are truly ambidextrous it doesn’t really matter. I have wheels that switch and give students the option but few of them choose to do so.

No matter which hand starts out weaker (and brain stupider), it will strengthen both physically and neurologically until they’re pretty much equal, regardless if you’re throwing counter clockwise in the US or clockwise in most other countries.

I am a left handed teacher with 27 years’ experience & all my students are taught to throw with the wheel going counter clockwise. Pulling is done at the 5:00 position.

Well they are using both hands. I wouldn’t focus on right handed or left handed because some cultures learn to throw with the wheel going clockwise regardless of what of what hand they use. My teacher taught me that it’s not about left or right. It’s about what you prefer. Let your student experience throwing both ways.

I’m left handed and my left handed pottery instructor taught me to throw right handed as she does, simply because many pottery wheels don’t switch direction for left handed throwing. Also, we left handers, living in a right handed world our whole lives (door knobs, car ignitions and switches for example are all right handed), so we are very adaptable. Plus, since our dominant hand would be inside the pot being thrown, we have an advantage supposedly too.

If the wheel has an option for lefties this is what I do:

First I teach the right handed way. Then I adjust the switch to spin for left handed and tell the student to do everything opposite what I say. Once they have experienced both I allow them to choose. More times than not they continue to throw like right handed folks

Both hands have different, but equally important roles to play and I teach this to my students. There really is no left/right dominance issue when you think in this way

As a leftie I prefer a clockwise spin. Tried for ages the other way and when I changed the direction it just clicked. So talk about which hand the clay catches, or the dominant hand rather than right or left. Let them try both way and see what feels best

The same way you teach right handed people! Both hands have to work together to get it done. It doesn’t matter which hand is dominate. I can throw in either direction. Clockwise or counter clockwise.

I’ve always had all wheels going counter clockwise. It is so new to students working with both hands together that right or left handedness doesn’t really make a difference. The students whom I have taught and and throw have also told me that handedness us not an issue.

The responses show that nothing conclusive can be drawn from this question. There is clearly no such thing as a right handed or a left handed wheel when traditionally in different parts of the world people have learnt how to throw with the wheel spinning in only one direction regardless of what their dominant hand is (Japan – Clockwise, Europe – anti-clockwise). I think there is a strong case for arguing that both hands are of equal importance when throwing, so does the direction that the wheel spins really matter when learning? (I suppose I could test this theory by attempting to learn how to throw with the wheel spinning clockwise).

Some left handed people are happy making pots with the wheel spinning anti-clockwise and some prefer the wheel spinning clockwise. My feelings are that centering and opening the clay out can be learnt with the wheel spinning either way, no matter what your dominant hand is. The question is when you lift the wall do you prefer to work at 4/5 o’clock with the wheel spinning anti-clockwise, or do you prefer to work at 6/7 o’clock with the wheel spinning clockwise? Interestingly a few people have commented that with the wheel spinning anti clockwise a left handed person is at advantage when lifting a wall, as this puts their dominant hand inside the pot and so gives them more control over shaping the pot.

One thing I have discovered and a number of replies confirm this is that when turning a pot, left handed people seem to prefer the wheel spinning clockwise as with the wheel spinning anti-clockwise it puts them on their backhand.

After much reflection on this issue, I have decided to continue teaching with the wheel spinning anti-clockwise regardless of which hand is dominant. I am partially forced into this anyway, as four of the five wheels we have at Bentham Pottery only spin anti-clockwise.

Vevor Pottery wheel review

Vevor Pottery Wheel Review

Vevor Pottery wheel review

Vevor pottery wheels are currently available all over the internet. They vary in price from about £70 to £130, which represents very good value for money, although it has to be said that some people experience problems with them (see the full review). I have reviews below of two different Vevor pottery wheels. One was brought into the pottery by one of my students and the other was bought by another student who sent me her own review and experiences of using her Vevor wheel.

Vevor wheel review one

I shared the following review to a number of social media groups recently;

“A student brought their wheel into the pottery this week. She paid £70 for it new. These wheels are currently all over the internet (they have gone up in price a bit, £100-£130). They are usually branded under the name Vevor. I had quite low expectations of it,   however I was proved wrong. The motor is very quiet, the wheel works well at low speeds and high speeds, the foot controller is very precise and the wheel has plenty of traction, torque and momentum (at least with a 12 ounce ball of clay). The wheel weighs very little and is very transportable. Okay it’s not perfect, you need to make a small table for it to raise it off the ground, cos it’s a bit on the small side and the tray digs into your arms a bit and doesn’t hold much water. However for the price it represents great value for money and for somebody wanting to learn how to throw on a budget, it really isn’t such a bad option. It would be excellent for children, as it’s a bit smaller than a standard wheel. I’ve no idea what the longevity of these wheels is. I guess time will tell.”

Since writing this review I have had quite a lot of negative and positive responses to this wheel. Some people have had the wheel for over 12 months and all is still well (the student that brought the wheel in to show me has had it for two years now. She recently sent me photos of the studs she has put into the wheel head to take wooden bats). Some people found the wheel only lasted a few weeks before breaking. One lady said the wheel stopped working after one day (she was reimbursed her money). One person said the wheel worked fine until they tried to centre a 5lb ball of clay on it, this apparently finished it off.

Vevor pottery wheel review - throwing
Vevor pottery wheel review – throwing a vase

It does seem that you are taking a bit of a risk buying this wheel. Maybe you will be lucky? If you do buy one I’d definitely only use small balls of clay, say up to 1lb and keep mopping out the water, as this may well increase the longevity. If you can get it for as little as £70 and it lasts 6 months with weekly use, you have probably got a bargain. My student actually managed to practise and learn the basics of throwing bowls and cylinders on hers.

Vevor pottery wheel review - sudded wheel head
Vevor pottery wheel review – Wheel head with studs to take a bat

Update 10/02/2022; Just received the following email re this Vevor wheel;

“Hi Lee,
Just been reading your blog regarding these super cheap pottery wheels.
I like you run courses and was looking into the wheels to assess for students.
I got one off eBay and yes they seem to work ok but the one I got, and
I think they probably all come out of the same factory in China, was
Electrically very dangerous. No earth and water could very easily get
inside the machine. I had it inspected by an electrical engineer who
was appalled at the way it was constructed. I tried to engage with the
Seller but go nowhere and had to claim my money back via the card
Company. I also tried to alert trading standards but though they
recorded my concerns I think it unlikely anything was done. How stuff
like this can be sold here is worrying.”

Vevor wheel review two (review by Helen)

I became hooked on pottery after the first few throws.

Knowing that I needed more of this in my life I began to think of ways I could practice every day and feed my new habit.

It wasn’t sensible for me to pay out a lot of money for a wheel, firstly, I wasn’t good enough at throwing to justify that amount of money on a hobby. Secondly, I wanted to see if I was going to stick at it, to still be enjoying it while experiencing the reality of cleaning up all the time, making mistakes, preparing the clay, getting frustrated etc. Thirdly, I WANTED to improve my skills, and I knew the only way of doing that was to practice, and only way I could do this, was by purchasing a small, relatively cheap wheel.

I did a little research and decided that the vevor would do just fine. Here is a link to the model I went for. VEVOR 280w 25cm Electric Pottery Wheel Machine Mud Blocking Pottery Bar Ceramic Diy | VEVOR UK

It took a while to arrive due to the delays with the postal service at the time, but by the last week in September 2021 I had my very own potter’s wheel.

Vevor pottery wheel review

I’d like to talk through the initial problems, then I can focus on the good stuff.

Setting the wheel up is very simple, literally take it from the box, place on the floor, fit the splash pan, sorted!

Well, kind of sorted……my first issue was the height, it’s incredibly low to the floor and it took me a while to establish a comfortable working position, I tried all sorts before settling on a formula that worked well for me and my situation.

Furniture risers did the job of lifting the wheel to the perfect hight for me, they also fit the legs of the wheel very well, with the bottom of the legs sitting snugly in the well of the risers.  I used two on each leg, six in total, to get the lift I needed. Here is the link to the raisers I used. Utopia Bedding 8 Piece Premium Adjustable Furniture Risers (4 High and 4 Short) – Heavy Duty Riser with Strong Space saving – Bed Riser, Table Riser, Chair or Sofa Riser (3 to 8 Inch) – (Black) : Amazon.co.uk: Home & Kitchen

The stool I ended up with you can find on pottery supplies websites, however, the same thing is a lot cheaper on Amazon, even though I am not totally happy about purchasing from Amazon, it does, sometimes save you a few pounds. Drive Rotating Rounded Bath / Shower Stool with Swivel Seat : Amazon.co.uk: Health & Personal Care The adjustable height feature is perfect.

Once set up I eagerly started to throw some clay, unable to work out why everything felt uncomfortable and the clay wasn’t really doing what I asked of it, it slowly dawned on me that the wheel was far from level. Silly mistake. So out came the spirit level and I adjusted everything using some bits of wood that were lying around. Problem sorted and I began to really enjoy practicing my throwing skills.

It soon became apparent that if I wanted to make a few things in one sitting without the risk of misshaping what I had made whilst taking it off the wheel, then I would need to use bats.

At only 25cm, the wheel is smaller than on a standard pottery wheel so I needed to find somewhere I could purchase bats of the correct size. I found some on Etsy, which I was much happier about using than Amazon. They were quite expensive, I think I paid around £60 for 5, however, I felt the purchase would be worth the cost. If you’re lucky, you might know a joiner who would be happy to cut some for you, which would be the cheapest option.

 I was a bit nervous to drill them, not wanting to make any mistakes but I measured carefully and drilled two holes in each one.

The pins I used for the wheel I ended up getting from Halfords, but they are not difficult to source.  With great care I marked the top of the wheel where the pins needed to go and drilled, using the correct size drill bit to enable the pins to fit perfectly, and bingo! The bats fitted like a dream.

Being able to throw on a bat made things a whole lot easier and gave me more confidence to experiment with the clay.

Seven months later, I’m still using this wheel and I have to say I’ve been surprised at how good it has been. The wheel can be used either clockwise or anti clockwise which might be useful for some. The foot pedal is comfortable to use, it’s responsive, and it’s easy to maintain the correct speed for your needs.

I do think your expectations shouldn’t be too high with this wheel, it does have limitations. The amount of clay you can throw, for example, anything above two and a half pound of clay and the wheel starts to slow significantly, anymore and you can hear the motor struggling.  Also, I find the splash pan a bit clunky to remove and fit back on as well as the fact that it easily leaks and won’t hold much water. But, as something to get started on, to allow practice at home and develop your skills it is a fantastic little wheel and good value for money.

Giffin Grip Review

Giffin Grip Review

I have known about the Giffin Grip for a long time. They have after all been manufactured since 1978. I’ve always been put off them though, because they are expensive and always look a bit fragile and “plasticky” and I guess I’m also guilty of subconsciously thinking that “Real Potters” centre pots with a delicate tap tapping and then placement of clay around the pot to hold it in place and, indeed, we have been using this exact method for over 40 years at Bentham Pottery.

Whilst visiting a student of mine recently I noticed that she had a Giffin Grip. I asked her to demonstrate it for me by turning one of her pots and I must have been suitably impressed with it, because I went ahead and ordered one for myself the next day. I didn’t really pick up on the two main problems with the Giffin Grip during this demo. I will come back to these later.

The Giffin Grip costs £230 from Potclays (U.K). Be careful when choosing, as there is a left hand version (for wheels spinning Clockwise) and a right hand version (for wheels spinning anti-clockwise).

I was suitably impressed by the manufacture of the Giffin Grip. All previous thoughts about it being fragile were very quickly dispelled, as I assembled it with the easy to follow instructions. The Grip can be mounted on any wheel diameter by simply moving the three arms under the Giffin Grip to give a very accurate fit. The grip comes with four different sizes of pot support arms that can be used depending upon the size and shape of the pot requiring turning. For bowl and plate shapes no support arms are required as the Grip clamps them on their rim.

Clamping a pot into the grip is very easy. You just place the pot roughly in the centre and rotate the Giffin Grip clockwise (with a right handed Grip). There is a slight skill to this, but you master it very quickly and the pot is held very firmly in place. It is an absolute joy to do, as providing the pot was thrown on centre a quick twist of the grip will centre it and hold it in an instant. It is definitely far quicker than centre-ing the pot yourself and holding it in place with pieces of clay!

It was only on turning a pot that I noticed the two problems with the Giffin Grip. The first problem is that the Grip raises the wheel height by 4 cm, which means it is higher than the wall of the wheel basin, with the effect that ninety percent of the turnings from the pot end up on the floor and not in the basin. The second problem is I tend to use the basin wall as a rest for my arms whilst holding the turning tool. This is no longer possible with the wheel effectively being 4cm higher. I came to the conclusion that I had made a mistake buying it. We tend to throw between 60 and 120 mugs (or equivalent pots) per day at Bentham Pottery. The thought of all the turnings from these pots going on the floor is really something I am not prepared to put up with, as you will end up treading the clay all around the pottery and creating a good deal of unhealthy dust.

However, before putting my recently purchased Giffin Grip on ebay, I decided to try an experiment with it. I rolled out a long coil and wrapped it around the top of my wheel basin to create a 4cm wall (effectively raising my wheel basin wall by 4cm). I then took the 60 mugs I had thrown the day before and proceeded to turn them all using the Giffin Grip.

Giffin Grip review - Clay wall
Giffin Grip review – The clay wall
Giffin Grip review -Bowl about to be turned
Giffin Grip review – Bowl about to be turned
Giffin Grip review - Mug about to be turned
Giffin Grip review – Turning 60 mugs

The clay wall immediately solved the two problems with the Giffin Grip. All the turnings went into the wheel basin and I was able to lightly rest my arms against the clay wall. Turning was an absolute joy and I confess to smiling every time I clamped a pot onto the Giffin Grip. The realisation of how much time I could have saved over the years by not having to tap pots on centre and then stick clay around them slowly dawned on me. I finished turning the mugs in record time. I guess you can say I was hooked.

I have discovered that a clay wall around the wheel basin can be made on a Monday and wrapped with plastic when not in use, meaning it will last all week. It actually improves with age as you can lean on it more when it is leather hard. This though is only a temporary solution to the problem. I really need an actual solid wall that can be lifted on and off the wheel as required. With this in mind I make the following plea to all wheel manufacturers. Can you please manufacture a wheel basin extender for use with a Giffin Grip? Such an item would give you another product to sell and it may encourage more customers to buy your wheels, knowing that this is something they can purchase at a later date. To be honest considering that the Giffin Grip has been manufactured since 1978, it is hard to believe that no wheel manufacturer has yet made a wheel basin extender (maybe I am wrong about this, please email me if you know different). The problem could well be that potters are not vocal enough about telling the manufacturers of pottery equipment what they really want from it. With this in mind I will send this review to Gladstone Engineering in Stoke, who manufacture the wheels that we use. Hopefully it will give them some food for thought. In the meantime I will attempt to make my own basin extender (possibly carving from foam board). I have noticed looking through some of my Facebook groups that many potters have attempted to increase their basin wheel heights to solve this problem, although none of their solutions look brilliant to me.

So two months after purchasing my Giffin Grip and I’m still lining my wheel basin with a clay wall and doing all my turning using the Grip. I’ll update this review when I manage to manufacture a better wheel basin wall solution. Would I recommend it as a product, even with the two problems? Yes definitely.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my Giffin Grip review. Please feel free to email me if you want to ask any questions.