The Potteries of Mexborough and District
When we speak of the potteries of this area of South Yorkshire most people automatically think of the glorious creations of the Rockingham Pottery whose fine porcelain was made for the rich and famous and is known world wide.
But this is not how it began. The pottery was situated at the junction of Blackamoor Lane and Warren Vale Road (the Woodman Inn side). At first it was known as the Swinton Pottery and in 1745 a man by the name of John Flint is found to be running the pottery there on land owned by the Marquis of Rockingham and in 1753 he sold it to Edward Butler who used local deposits of red and buff clay to produce a rather rough, coarse earthenware product. It wasn't until 1765 that a finer type of pottery was produced, when William Malpass and William Fenney purchased the works and used local white pipe clay, flint from the coast, and ball clay from Devon. In 1778 the pottery became Bingley, Wood and Co. and in 1787 it was taken over by the Leeds Pottery.
Then in 1806 via a loan of £2,000 from the Earl Fitzwilliam of Wentworth Woodhouse the pottery came into the hands of John Brameld and his son William who had worked for the Leeds Pottery for many years. The quality of the pottery had come a long way from the coarse rough product produced by Edward Butler fifty years previously and each different owner had brought their own particular type of improvements. The Bramelds began to make pearl and stone china decorated with unglazed transfer prints impressed with the trademark "BRAMELD".
In 1819 the works was being run by John Brameld's three younger sons Thomas, John Wager, and George Frederick, when a debt of £22,000 had accumulated caused by the Napoleonic Wars. The potter was in risk of closing and hundreds of local people losing their jobs and so the family went for help to the Earl Fitzwilliam who agreed to cover their debts.
From 1820 Thomas and John Wager Brameld began to experiment with making, soft-paste porcelain and by 1825 they were producing it on a commercial basis.
In 1826 the Swinton Pottery changed its named to the Rockingham Works in honour of the Earl Fitzwilliam (who inherited his estate from his uncle the Marquis of Rockingham) who had saved them from insolvency, and the family crest which .was a red griffin was taken as the factory's mark and to show what skills were to be found at the pottery a huge vase was made measuring forty-five inches in height and weighing one hundred pounds it was the largest piece of English porcelain to be fired in one piece at that time and was named the Wentworth Rockingham Vase. They employed many prestigious porcelain artists and the gilding done was of an exquisite standard, and Isaac Baguley moved from Derby to work for them.
Their work became renowned for its high quality and in 1830 King William IV requested a two hundred piece dessert service. No expense was spared in the
production of this highly gilded set and on completion it was discovered that it had cost more to produce than was paid by the royal personage. But it gave Rockingham prestige they changed the colour of their griffin to puce and placed "Manufacturer to the King" beneath it they also decorated teapots etc. with crowns, and orders from the aristocracy, and the new rising middle class grew.
They began to produce not just things for the table but also vases, ewers, and scent bottles, potpourri vases, and baskets with modelled flowers on them all gilded and enamelled in bright colours.
In 1833 the old Earl Fitzwilliam died and was superseded by his son. So in 1841 when the works again found itself in financial difficulties and the Brameld Family went to the Earl Fitzwilliam expecting to find the customary help it was not forthcoming, the young earl preferring to put his money where he knew he would receive a financial gain ie. pits and canals, and so the reign of the Rockingham Pottery came to a sad end. The Rockingham Pottery was advertised for sale in the Sheffield Iris on 31st. December 1842.
As you have just read in 1826 the Swinton Pottery run by the Brameld Family changed its name to the Rockingham Pottery and began to make elegant items of porcelain. But alongside the gilt ornate porcelain they also made pottery for everyday use, these had transfer prints of the Willow Pattern, the woodman returning home, the Castle of Rochfort, exotic birds and insects in twisted trees, and the adventures of Don Quixote. Later their pottery can be found with a rich brown or green glaze. So if you find a piece of pottery marked "BRAMELD" it is really Rockingham in disguise.
Swinton Bridge Pottery
Very little is known of this pottery with the exception that it commenced business in c1830, in fact many people are not aware that a pottery existed on the site.
The Don Pottery
The Don Pottery was established in 1801 by Mr. John Green and situated on the banks of the South Yorkshire Navigation Canal on Rowms Lane, and was just inside the parish boundaries of Swinton.
In 1800 the managing partner of the Swinton Pottery (later to be known as the Rockingham Pottery) Mr. John Green went bankrupt, and in 1801 with his partners
Richard Clark, and John and William Brameld of the Swinton Pottery he opened a new pottery not far away, they traded under the name of Green, Clark, & Co. and the pottery was named the Don Pottery. In 1803 more partners joined including his eldest son John.
In 1803 John Green died leaving the pottery to his son John and it was at this time that his younger brother William joined the firm as a partner. In 1810 the firm changed its name to John & William .Green & Co.or sometimes it is found as just Green & Co, and then in 1823 it became owned wholly by the Green Family.
In 1810 they also changed their pottery's mark to a lion seated on a wreath holding a lance, on which the pennant sometimes has printed the word Don. Their address at this time was Don Pottery. Near Doncaster and by coincidence their mark was also the crest of the Corporation of Doncaster. On a recent visit to the Doncaster Mansion House, Mexborough and District Heritage Society found many pieces of pottery made by the Don Pottery depicting the "Lion and Flag- mark of the pottery.
By 1830 the Don Pottery had begun to deteriorate mainly owing to the ill health of John Green and in 1835 bankruptcy proceedings began, it was finally sold by auction on 1st July 1835.
The pottery buildings themselves were purchased by Samuel Barker who also owned The Old Mexborough Pottery. For a number of years he ran the two potteries as one concern until 1844 when the Old Mexborough Pottery stopped production and in 1848 he converted it into an iron foundry and renamed it the Don Iron Works.
In 1857 Samuel Barker's three sons joined the pottery and it traded under the name of "Samuel Barker & Sons." They worked the pottery jointly until 1882 when it was leased to the partnership of John Adamson, John Williamson, Edward Smith. and Charles Scorah.
The pottery finally closed in 1893 arid the assets were sold off to pay arrears. Houses were built on part of the site and the pottery buildings were used by Messrs D. & J.S. Wilson who both sold and decorated china and earthenware.
Buildings connected with the potter, still survive and part kilns could be seen on the site as late as 1993.
The Mexborough Old Pottery
This was situated on Cliff Street close to where Elizabeth House now stands to the south of the by-pass on the banks of the South Yorkshire Navigation Canal. It was established at the end of the Cl8th by Robert Sowter and William Bromley who traded under the name of Sowter & Co and produced pottery of a high standard bearing transfer prints.
In 1804 the Mexborough Old Pottery was purchased by Peter Barker who originated from Staffordshire and had previously been the manager of the Swinton Pottery. It was run by Peter and his brother Jesse Barker, they were succeeded in c1809 by Samuel Barker who was the son of Jesse Barker.
In 1835 the buildings of the Don Pottery in Swinton were purchased by Samuel Barker. He ran both potteries together for a time until 1844 when the Old Mexborough Pottery closed. Four years later in 1848 he converted it into an iron foundry which he named the Don Iron Works.
This was situated at the junction of High Street, and Garden Street, Mexborough and produced pottery from c1838-1886.
The pottery largely made novelty items in decorative pearlware for display purposes which was very popular during the 1840's. The most well known of these being the grandfather clocks, which were approx. 9in in height and trimmed in puce, yellow, green, blue, and brown, they sometimes had figures with them. The hands of their clocks always read 6 o'clock and they are marked on the rear "J. Emery/Mexboro".
It is believed that the workers living in Regent Terrace which was a row of three storey terraced houses, situated to the north-west of Chapel Walk Steps off Dolcliffe Road, and in a corner of the terraced block was a stone built detached house in which lived Mr. Emery and his family.
Isaac and Alfred Baguley
These were father and son and originated from Derby, Isaac being the manager of the gilding and decorating department of the Rockingham Pottery.
Following the closure of the pottery they took over this part of the works decorating porcelain and earthenware which was purchased from other potteries.
In 1855 Isaac Baguley died and in 1865 Alfred moved the firm to the junction of Dolcliffe Road and Bank Street now "The Hoover Service Centre" where he continued to work until his death in 1895. This part of Mexborough is to be found in the Local Board Book of 1870-1890 and is referred to as "Mr. Baguley's Corner," it tells us that there was at least one kiln on the bend of the road opposite "The South Yorkshire Times" offices and numerous decorating workshops. I am also reliably informed that his sales shop and home were to be found on Bank Street in three storey shop opposite the end of the flyover.
The Rock Pottery
This was situated to the north of Bank Street and was so named because the backwalls of the workshops were part of a rocky outcrop.
It has recently been discovered that this pottery was a far larger concern than previously believed. The 1839 Tithe Map and Award tells us that the pottery buildings extended from the junction of Dolcliffe Road and Bank Street to the Spiritualists Chapel. It tells us that in that year it was owned by Ried & Taylor (sic.) Manufacturers, but that they also rented from the Lord of the Manor, Townsend Close. This is now a park at the junction of Herbert Street and Harlington Road and once was a quarry. They also rented Clay Close. and Clay Gate Close, and owned a strip of land to the north of this all situated off Clayfield Road. and became the Coalfield Brickworks. They also owned a wharf, cottages, and slip houses, which extended from land to the east of Bramald Construction Ltd. Station Road, Mex. to Walker's Bingo, Market Street. Also eight cottages and gardens on Bank Street adjacent to the Red Lion Public House
It is not known exactly when the pottery was established but it is believed that it traded during its early years as Beevers & Ford. It was purchased in 1839 by James Reed who was succeeded ten years later in 1849 by his son John Reed who changed its name to the "Mexborough Pottery". Under him the pottery was extended still further and more kilns constructed. When the Rockingham Pottery closed John Reed bought most of their moulds and produced many items from them, they are of differing transfer prints and also plain green with raised leaf design impressed simply with "Reed".
John Reed died without leaving any children and the pottery continued under the management of Mr. C. Bullock until 1873 when the pottery was purchased by Sydney Wolf of the Ferrybridge Pottery, it then came under the managership of Mr. Bowman Heald until its closure in 1883, when it was purchased by William Wilkinson of Swinton.
In 1887 Jubilee Buildings was constructed to the southern edge of the old pottery land on Bank Street, this was followed a few year later by a group of other buildings.
Then in 1903 a new Wesleyan Chapel was built on the site.
Many of us will have seen on programmes such as the "Antiques Roadshow" small houses made of pottery. In many cases these are not houses at all but commemorative money boxes made in the shape of churches or chapels, and many potteries made these including the Rock Pottery. On Bank Street opposite the Wesleyan Chapel stands a derelict old stone building once the furniture showrooms of Willis Ainley, this was constructed after the Napoleonic Wars as Mexborough's first non-conformist chapel and people getting married or having babies christened there would go across the road to the Rock Pottery and there have models of the chapel made, on which was placed the relevant date and occasion. These commemorative models are now worth quite a few hundred pounds, while the property they were modelled on is left to rot.
The main part of the pottery has long since gone but if you look closely enough parts of the pottery can still be found. The original entrance and access road to the pottery can still be seen between the chapel and the Chinese Take Away. To the rear of the chapel stands a car maintenance firm part of which contains remnants of the pottery buildings, and another remaining building can be found in the car park to the rear of shops on Bank Street close to the South Yorkshire Times Offices.
The Denaby Pottery
This was to be found on the banks of the River Don opposite the winding wheel which depicts the site of Denaby Colliery. It was established primarily to produce fire bricks, but in 1864 it was taken over by a Staffordshire potter by the name of John Wardle and his partner Charles W. Wilkinson, unfortunately it did not have a very long life and by 1870 just as Denaby Colliery was beginning to produce coal the pottery closed, and it is believed that John Wardle moved to Middlesbrough. While they were in production they made everyday items of printed earthenware although an enamelled pearlware jug has been found and a brown glazed earthenware money box in the shape of a toll bar house.
After the closure of the pottery the buildings were turned over to the production of bone meal and glue and towards the beginning of the C2Oth it was taken over by Mr. George Lunn of Old Denaby as a depot for his dairy. The buildings were finally demolished in c1930 to enable a bridge to be constructed over the level crossings at Denaby Main, and over seventy years later we are still waiting for that bridge over the level crossing at Denaby Main.
Writen by your Archivist
With grateful thanks to Graham Oliver for all his help.
The Story of The Rockingham Pottery by Cloe Bennet
The History of Swinton by Rev. H.W. Quarrel B.A.
Rockigham Pottery & Porcelain by Alwyn & Angela Cox
Don Pottery Pattern Book by Doncaster Library Services
Doncaster Museum and Art Galley
1983 Exhibition Catalogue of Don Pottery
Yorkshire Potteries, Pats, & Potters by Oxley Grabham
A Celebration of Yorkshire Pots by Northern Ceramics Society 1997