Local brickearth and clay supported the manufacture of bricks, tiles and garden pottery in Brentford. Much good quality clay came from Coles Hole, a deep excavation which survives today – it is the Potomac Lake in Gunnersbury Park. The Rothschilds bought it to extend their grounds and adapted the adjoining tile-kiln to be a gothic boat-house on its banks.
The potters would probably have used the local clays, which fired red, to basic domestic pottery as well as high quality roof and flooring tiles and chimney pots for local builders to use. Given the number of large estate gardens, numerous nursery gardeners and market gardeners in this area of Middlesex they must also have had a ready market for flower pots (both plain and ornamental), forcing jars and garden urns. For example, the inventory of George Masters of Strand on the Green in 1734 included a hundred small garden pots, worth 6 shillings, and 4 watering pots valued at a shilling each.
Potteries are mentioned in a number of sources. In the 17th century potters were paying rates in New Brentford – John Robins in 1693 and Richard Yeoman in 1699. Wealthy brickmaker, James Barratt Snr, owned the ‘pothouse’ which lay behind his pub, The Bull, in Old Brentford at his death in 1750. This descended through the marriage of Barratt’s grand-daughter to Sir Thomas Edwardes.
From the 1760s the Bull Lane pottery was leased from him by the Turner family. They invested in the business, putting up 14 cottages – Pot House Row – for their workers by about 1780, and running what was described as an ‘extensive pottery’ in a 1797 directory. At his death in 1791, Daniel Turner, the proprietor, was very comfortably off. His will mentions his chariot and horses and his plate, china and books and he also had farmland, farming equipment, crops and animals. He left the business including his stock and ‘Pottery Implements’ to his widow Elizabeth and son Thomas, to be run as “Turner Widow & Son”. They were to take equal shares of the profits. On Elizabeth’s death, her other son, Daniel, was to take a half share in the business. The business seems to have failed in 1820 as the stock was auctioned off – perhaps the sons were not so astute as their father had been.
A pottery continued here until at least the 1890s; it is remembered today in Pottery Road.
This remarkable painting shows the interior of the Bull Lane Pottery in Brentford in the 1840s. It can be dated by the name “George Robinson” on the chimney pots, as he owned the pottery throughout that decade. The whereabouts of the painting today are not known but this photograph was taken for Gunnersbury Park Museum when it was unable to afford to buy it at an auction in the 1980s.
The building was constructed from brick with an unplastered timber ceiling and the leaded mullioned windows suggest that it dated from the late 17th century. The potter on the left is forming a large forcing jar with a conical lid and has tall chimney pots waiting to be taken to the kiln on the board alongside his wheel. He has to stand on a step to handle the clay for these substantial products so cannot reach his foot pedal – instead it is being operated by a boy using a lever beneath the table.
The potter on the right is holding up a garden urn; it is unlikely that it was manufactured in one piece on his wheel in this form, though he has his foot on the pedal beneath the table to operate his wheel. This is probably a pose for the painting. Alongside are weighed out equal slabs of clay – more are being brought to the potters by the man on the right. A row of small flowerpots stands on a ware-board beside him, ready for carriage to the kilns.
The children posed in the foreground for the picture have a toy wheelbarrow, a straw hat and their pet animals. It seem unlikely that they would be allowed into the workshop in their best clothes on any other occasion!
Additional note, 14.04.2013
A piece posted on 27 March on Pam Woolliscroft’s Spode history blog provides another view of pottery products for gardeners. It considers those made by Spode and by Copeland and Garrett and in passing mentions Mr Ashford, a red potter of Clapham, Surrey, with illustrations of his fine double flower pots.
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