A History of Pottery Making in Swinton
There has been a long tradition of manufacturing pottery in South Yorkshire and particularly at Swinton. Early pottery finds in the area go back to prehistoric times. The local tribes found rich local clays were ideal for making pots for storage, cooking, eating and drinking.
The Romans appeared in the area shortly after invasion circa AD54. They built more complex pottery items like amphora’s, mosaiques, oil lamps, dining pots and sets. Danum (Doncaster) and the fort at Templeborough both evidenced extensive Roman pottery manufacture. There were potteries operating in both Rawmarsh and Conisbrough in the 1500’s. By 1750, the demand for pottery products was growing, decoration of pieces improved and ornamental and utilitarian pottery both had a market. The boom of the industrial revolution and the building of canal networks through Swinton in the 18th century meant that manufactured pottery could be transported easily to the larger cities and towns to sell to the masses. At Swinton there was to be found an abundance of coal along with yellow, red and white clays, meaning raw materials were on hand locally. The abundance of these was the main reasons for the establishment of commercial pottery manufacture at Swinton.
The Rockingham Pottery
The history of the reknowned Rockingham Pottery factory starts with the making of pottery, tiles and bricks at Swinton on a small scale in the 1750’s. The owner Joseph flint rented land off the landowner, Thomas Watson-Wentworth, 1st Marquis of Rockingham. circa 1755 Flint as operator was replaced by Edward Butler and his wife, Elizabeth. They continued manufacture until 1765 when William Malpass then took over the pottery from the Butlers. With plans for expansion in, 1768 he went into partnership with a William Fenney. Fenney had previously been a glassmaker in Catcliffe but who was bankrupted some eight years earlier in 1759. Some 20 men and 40 boys were employed by them.
The business traded on until 1778 when a new partnership called; Bingley Wood & Co, was founded. The partners Thomas Bingley and Willoughby Wood worked alongside skilled potters John Brameld and others. Neither Bingley or Wood was a potter but John Brameld had completed his apprenticeship as a potter in the early 1760’s. Some seven years later in 1785, another new partnership took overwith the name of Greens Bingley & Co. John Green was a member of a pottery making family who ran the successfull Leeds Pottery and close links with that factory were naturally established.
The Swinton Pottery operated very successfully but was always overshadowed by Leeds. By about 1801, it became clear that the “Leeds Gentlemen” as they were known, were intent on shutting the Swinton works down. By 1806 the Swinton works were at a low, production had almost come to a standstill.
John Brameld decided on action and appealed for help to the Wentworth landlord, Earl Fitzwilliam (Marquis of Rockingham). As a result of this, the Earl provided a huge loan of £2000 to allow John Brameld to buy himself out of the partnership and take over the running of the pottery. The 2nd Earl Fitzwilliam (1748-1833) owned the huge Wentworth Estate whose land stretched into Swinton. He had inherited his estates from his uncle, Charles Watson-Wentworth, the 2nd Marquis of Rockingham and former Prime minister who died in 1782. The pottery then continued under the name of Brameld.
John Brameld and son William set about developing the pottery. The premises were enlarged with a large Paintshop and Flintmill being erected.
The Earl Fitzwilliam was a big supporter of the Swinton venture and both earthenwares and later, the porcelain products, were purchased in great quantities for the centre piece Mansion, Wentworth Woodhouse.
By providing items to the estate meant that the many visitors not only saw the Brameld’s pottery they received the hard sell from the earl himself. Many orders came this way. This included a prestigeous order for teapots from the Prince of Wales (later George IV) in 1807.
All John Brameld’s four sons worked in the pottery. They began to not only restore the buildings they expanded the range of products including many fine artistic pieces. The four sons called; William, Thomas, George Frederick and John Wager Brameld, all played a part in the daily running.
To improve artistic quality they tempted established artists and artisans from Derby and Staffordshire to come and join them. The eldest William was the first son to join his Father in the business with Thomas following him thereafter. He was the artist designer amongst them and put product development above business. He was the driving force to produce porcelain.
About business William Brameld wrote in 1810 “We are able to carry on, but without a guinea to spare“. He ran the pottery in the best business fashion until his untimely death in 1813, thereafter Thomas became the mainstay of the family firm.
To expand sales; George Frederick spent time in Europe and St Petersburgh, Russia marketing the Swinton products. John Wager travelled widely in Scotland and England selling the Swinton pots. He also did some of the painting and decoration on later products of the pottery. They even opened a showroom shop in London. It was he who helped shape production. A notebook he kept survives containing recipes for glazes and different types of pottery “body” that he experimented with. (This book can be seen at the Clifton museum at Rotherham).
In 1815 production was expanded and a new ‘Hovel’ was built with an inner Kiln. It was called the Waterloo Kiln in commeration of the Duke of Wellington and his victory at the battle of Waterloo against Napolean of France. Earthenwares decorated with printed patterns and pictures were produced in large numbers, those made between 1806 and 1820 were generally unmarked. From 1820 however the impressed ‘BRAMELD’ mark was often used.
Decoration covered floral, romantic scenes, oriental designs and topographical views. Also scenes from history and literature were used, like the scenes from the story of ‘Don Quixote’, the eccentric Spanish knight created by the writer, Migeul Cervantes, in the 17th Century.
Some Black basalt wares were made as was cane coloured stoneware. Pieces were coloured in white, brown, blue or sage-green. Some pieces were decorated with applied figures like child musicians and the returning woodcutter. Full Breakfast and tea services were also made.
Perhaps the best known product of the Swinton Pottery was the rich brown glaze that came to be known as “Rockingham Glaze” or “Rockingham Ware”. This was first introduced in the 1770’s. The Bramelds made extensive use of it on products after 1806. It was such a success that other factories began to copy the style. It was developed and made with a secret recipe developed by ex Staffordshire potter Alfred Bagguley.
The brown glaze was often used on a type of pear-shaped teapot called the “Rockingham Teapot” after the last Marchioness of Rockingham who died in 1804. She had ordered up to eighteen of the teapots at one time.
A variety of green-glazed ware items were also made at Swinton. Plates, comports, tureens and dishes.
Cadoggan pots were first manufactured at Swinton. They were very strange shaped teapots. As they became popular, other factories copied them. These pots are shaped like a peach but have no lid on top. The wateris filled through a spiral hole in the base. As tea or coffee pots, they would have been almost impossible to clean. It is more likely that they were intended for hot water for topping up the teapot.
1826 was a horribilis Year of Crisis for the factory. Despite the hard work of the Brameld brothers they suffered severe financial difficulties. Foreign trading losses starved cashflow and rent arrears outstanding loan payments all added up. They were declared bankrupt just before christmas on the 21st December 1825. There were 300 jobs at risk and many local creditors with families to feed.
Earl Fitzwilliam was again called upon to come to the rescue. The Earl agreed to advance them several thousand pounds but on condition that their stock and personal effects stood as surity.
In gratitude, the pottery was renamed the Rockingham Works (after the Earl’s much admired uncle) and the griffin crest of the Wentworth family was introduced from then on as the pottery’s mark.
Thomas Brameld focused his efforts on the production of porcelain. A visitor to the factory called Rhodes was suitably impressed: “The porcelain works of Worcester, Derby and Staffordshire, have here a formidable rival ….”
The higher paid workers were always the artists who decorated the wares with their paintings of birds, flowers, fruit and landscapes. John Cresswell worked at Swinton from 1826. As an artist, he earned 7s.6d (38p) a day, rising to 10s.6d. (53p) after five years. Issac Baggeley came from the Deby factory in 1826.
There was a new influx of skilled workers. Thomas Brentnall for example, well known as a flower painter, worked at the Derby and Coalport factories before moving to Swinton in about 1831. William Landeg was also a talented artist. As well as artists, the pottery also employed modellers to make the porcelain figures. Thomas Griffin, who modelled the series of continental peasants made at Swinton, had previously worked at Derby.
Not all of the artists were men, Elizabeth Barraclough and Ann and Dinah Hodgson were also artists.
Other jobs existed at the pottery. They included flint miller, engineer, engravers. There were also the managers of different parts of the factory. In about 1829, William Horncastle was in charge of the warehouse, George Liversedge the printing department and William Speight the flint mill. Liversidge started there as an apprentice.
As artistic as the Brameld’s were they were not particularly good businessmen. By 1831 the debts were once again soaring, with the Earl as the biggest creditor of them all. The times were difficult, there were outbreaks of cholera and much political unrest. One lifeline turned out to become a liability. King William 4th ordered a full dessert service. The cost of producing this became very excessive. The pattern had to be designed and was of fantastic quality. Many abortive designs went by the wayside before one was finally approved. One big problem was that the King took delivery but never paid for it. (Note this can be seen on display at windsor castle). This prestigeous order brought in other work but these were high quality but low quantity orders which was uneconomic.
By 1840, the situation was very desperate. There simply was not enough work at the factory to keep everybody busy.
By the end of 1841, Earl Fitzwilliam (the 3rd Earl who had succeeded his father in 1833) had had enough. The pottery and stock were seized to pay off the debts of over £13000 owed to him by the Bramelds.
Attempts were made to re-let the works but these failed. As a result, the fixtures, fittings and equipment were sold at auction in May 1843. Thomas Brameld’s personal possessions and the remaining stock, were also auctioned.
Thomas and George Frederick stayed on at Swinton, running the flint mill to supply other local potteries. Thomas died on 23 November 1850 and George Frederick on 30 June 1853. Both are buried in St Margaret’s Church, Swinton.
Despite the ultimate failure of the Bramelds and the Rockingham Works, many of their products survive to this day. They are much sought after by collectors worldwide.
After the closure of the Rockingham Works in 1842, some activity continued on the site. The flint mill was run by the Bramelds until the early 185’s. It was then taken over by James Parker, a former employee of the Bramelds, who ran it until 1887. From Issac Bagguley and his son Alfred remained on site decorating wares bought from Staffordshire. Issac died in 1851 but Alfred continued on site until 1865. He then moved to Mexborough where they opened a shop on Bank Street.
By 1910, many of the buildings were gone. The flint mill was in disrepair and soon after, it was demolished.
The site is well worth a visit. The Waterloo Kiln, the pottery pond and one of the gatehouses can still be seen. Strawberry cottage was part of the old factory. It was then the painting shop and 3 stories high. The top story was later dismantled and a house created. The stone forms the boundary wall of today.
In the 1990’s successful lobbying by local heritage enthusiasts paid off in Swinton. The whole Rockingham Pottery site along with the surviving Waterloo Kiln was added to the scheduled stock of ancient monuments. Also the locally named Three Cornered Wood which has boundaries at Warren Vale Road and Blackamoor Road was scheduled. The wood was a former clay pit which had extensive re- filling with pottery waste once the clay was exhausted.
(For the most comprehensive publication about the Rockingham Pottery please refer to “Rockingham 1745-1842” by Alwyn and Angela Cox, Antique Collectors Club publication , This is highly recommended).
Quaint Century-Old Contract
Made With Famous Swinton Potter
Extract from South Yorkshire Times
Yellow and torn, ink faded, and surrounded with subtle aroma of things long preserved with loving care is a contract of service, 115 years old, which I was shown last week.
The contract was signed and sealed by fourteen year old George Liversidge of Rawmarsh in 1823 for a seven years apprenticeship to Thomas Brameld of Swinton, the famous manufacturer of “Rockingham Ware,” and it has been carefully preserved by Mrs. E. Ardron, of Station Street, Swinton who is the Granddaughter of the young lad so solemnly and eloquently indentured to a local potter.
The gradually fading writing of Thomas Brameld, elaborated with fine flourishes and artistic embellishment is still legible and is an excellent example of a former style of penmanship. The language used in the indentures may be full of legal repetitions, but it makes grand reading, and when recited, sounds majestically constructed and beautifully sonorous to our twentieth century ears. But the seriousness of undertaking an apprenticeship in those days and the quaintness of the puritanical conditions imposed can best be judged from this rhetorical excerpt.
“During all which term, the said Apprentice his said master well and faithfully shall serve, his Secrets shall keep, his lawful Commands shall do, Hurt or damage to his Master shall not do, or Content to be done, but to his power shall Let it, and forthwith his said Master thereof warn: Taverns or Alehouses he shall not Haunt or Frequent, unless it be about his Master’s business there to be done. At dice, Cards, Tables, Bowles or any other unlawful Games he shall not play: the Goods of his said Master shall not waste or them Lend, or give to any Person without his Master’s licence: Matrimony within the said term shall not contract, nor from his Master’s service at any time absent himself: but as a true and faithful Apprentice shall order and behave himself towards his said Master and all, as well in words as in deeds during the said term.
Brameld’s secret’s, were indeed worth keeping. During those seven years, George Liversidge’s father, one James Liversidge, a labourer of Rawmarsh, was abjured to provide for his son “sufficient and enough of Meat, Drink, Washing, Lodging and Apparel, and all other necessaries meet and convenient for such an Apprentice as well in sickness as in Health”. While the whole purpose of the apprenticeship was that Brameld “shall and will teach, learn and inform him, or cause him to be taught, learned, and informed in the Trade, Mystery, or business of a Potter, called a Printer on Earthenware”.
George Liversidge was paid two shillings and sixpence per week during his first year, a wage that was annually increased by sixpence, until in his last and twentieth year he was paid six shillings a week. George must have been a good and faithful servant, for inscribed on the back of the indenture – once again in Brameld’s neat and sloping hand is “Given up to George Liversidge 24th March 1823 with a present of five shillings in proof of his good conduct during his apprenticeship”.
The document was duly signed and sealed by James Liversidge, George Liversidge, Thomas Brameld and two witnesses George Robinson and John Hulme. George survived the rigours of his apprenticeship, reached manhood, married, and the facts of the greater part of his life are lost in the oblivion of the past. We know, however that his son was also a skilled potter and worker at the old Don Pottery in Swinton.
VISITING THE SITE
The remains of the pottery can be found near the Woodman roundabout, off Blackamore Lane. A car park is available and information plaques are in situ. Do walk round to the Waterloo Kiln and read about its history and uses. Look at the remaining gate house and you can see the hinges of the old gated access to the works. The Settling ponds are also host to wildlife.
A visitor commented as to how the inside was partitioned off into rooms . There did not seem to be any ceilings, just dark space. It appeared very gloomy as there were few windows. It felt cold and damp. (picture Mairi Beighton)
Rockingham Pottery Gallery
The Don Pottery
The Don Pottery was built in 1801 on the bank of the South Yorkshire canal of Rowms Lane close to its boundary with Mexborough. The Pottery founder was John Green who had been the managing partner of the Leeds and Swinton Potteries who briefly took over the Swinton Pottery. He remained there until 1800, when he unfortunatly became bankrupt. He was actually one of the most important and influential personalities of Yorkshire ceramics. He had previously resided in Hunslet but moved back to Wath.
The site selected for the pottery was ideally situated, by abutting the canal it could use water transport to carry in raw materials such as clay, flint and coal and then export the finished products, this would limit breakages of finished goods. The venture was set up initially as a partnership with Richard Clark, rope maker of Leeds and father and son; John and William Brameld of the Swinton Pottery. More capital was needed and in 1803, four further partners joined. They were John Green’s oldest son, John, William Clark of Leeds, John Milner of Swinton and John Wade, the son-in-law of John Brameld. They thereafter traded as “Greens, Clark & Co”. The venture that started out in a very small way soon extended to occupy some 2 acres. The land continued up to the site where the service station and car Sales Showroom are today situated on Bridge Street.
John Green Senior died in 1805 aged 62 and was interred in Wath Church Yard. John’s younger son, William then became a partner filling his fathers void. Further partnership changes followed and in 1810, the firm changed to the trading style of “John & William Green & Co” and then “Green & Co”. After 1823, the firm was solely owned by the Green family. The product range was greatly expanded.
The pattern book, issued in 1807, illustrates the range of Cream Ware available on order from the pottery. However, a greater variety of wares was produced and this is borne out by a bill-head issued by the firm in 1808 which states:-
“Greens, Clark & Co, Don Pottery, near Doncaster, Make, Sell and Export Wholesale all the various kinds of Earthenware, viz., Cream-Colour, Brown, Blue and Green Shell, Nankin Blue, Printed, Painted and Enamelled, Egyptian, Black, Brown, China &c., &c. Also Services executed in Borders, Landscapes, Coats of Arms, etc, and ornamented with Gold or Silver”.
Utilitarian Earthenware was the major product produced at the Don Pottery as occurred with the Bramelds a drift into porcelain production started in 1810-12. Although the early pieces of pottery were rarely marked, shards have helped identify the products. The earliest marked pieces were the “Orange Jumper” jugs issued to commemorate the election of 1807. In this election the local landowner Viscount Milton, of the Wentworth Estate took part, standing as a Whig candidate. These jugs have the motif ‘DON POTTERY’ painted in red on their bases.
The Lion with the Flam, impressed stamp that so many associate with Don Pottery did not appear until 1810. It is observed that the Don Pottery Book had a great similarity to the Leeds Pottery Pattern Books that were published in 1783 and 1794 respectively. This is perhaps not unsurprising considering the past relationships of the founders.
The pottery traded on as a large employer also attracting artists and designers from Staffordshire. The Don Pottery was the second largest industrial pottery in Yorkshire at this time employing some 600 people. Its finished products were exported to Russia, the Middle East and South America with the canal used as the starting point for the long journeys.
The profitability of the Don Pottery wained after 1830 weakening its balance sheet. John Green Junior who had been the main stay was at this time prevented by ill-health from trying to manage the business back into prosperity.
The partnership stumbled on but Bankruptcy proceedings were commenced against John and William Green in 1845. Unable to defend the actions the assets, equipment and stock of the Don Pottery works were sold by auction on 1st July 1845, the premises were advertised for sale as follows:-
Doncaster Gazette Jan. 16th:-
Sale by Mr. Bardwell
THE DON POTTERY
(Established in the Year 1801)
With all suitable and necessary Erections, – one very complete MANSION-HOUSE, with Gardens, Pleasure Grounds, Stables, Coach-houses, etc. – also several other DWELLING-HOUSES, &c. all situated in the Chapelry of Swinton, in the parish of Wath-upon-Dearne, in the West-Riding of the county of York.
TO BE SOLD BY ACUTION
by Mr. Bardwell
(By order of the Commissioners under a Fiat in Bankruptcy against JOHN and WILLIAM GREEN, Bankrupts,)
On Friday, the 30th day of January next, at the CROWN INN, in Rotherham, the said county of York, at Two o’clock in the Afternoon, in such Lots as shall be agreed upon at the time of the Sale, and subject to such Conditions of Sale as will be then and there produced, and exempt from Auction Duty.
All that very valuable and extensive POTTERY, called THE DON POTTERY, with the Sheds, Outbuildings, Hovels, Warehouses, Kilns, Counting-houses, Manager’s and Workmen’s DWELLING-HOUSES, and other suitable Erections built in the most substantial manner in a circular form, and covering SEERAL ACRS OF GROUND, the whole being made entire by the means of large ENTRACE GATS, and complete with all usual FIXTURES, and most advantageously situated close the BANKS OF THE DEARNE AND DOVE CANAL, by which Goods may be forwarded to all parts of the Kingdom.
This POTTERY (at which upwards of 600 Persons have been employed) has long been justly famed for the excellence of its manufactures; and its extensive and valuable connexion in England and on the Continent, renders it more than probable that the enterprising Capitalist would soon realise a fortune.
Also a modern-built MANSION-HOUSE, with suitable Out-offices, Gardens, Lawns, Pleasure Grounds, Stable and Carriage-houses, lately occupied by Mr. John Green’ and a comfortable and well-built DWELLING-HOUSE, with Garden, &c. adjoining, and lately occupied by Mr Wm. Green; and also one COTTAGE HOUSE, with Stables Farm and other Outbuildings adjoining, situated at or near Swinton aforesaid.
For all other particulars application is requested to be made to the AUCTIONEER: to Mr. WARBURTON, one of the Assignees, at the Lead Works, Sheffield; to Messrs. J. and W. Gray, Solicitors, York; to Mr. RICHARD BAILLIE, Solicitor, Tadcaster; Messrs. W. & E. NEWMAN, Solicitors, Barnsley; to Mr. BIRKS, Solicitor, Hemingfield, near Barnsley; or to
Messrs. RODGERS & SON,
Doncaster Gazette June 26th 1835:-
SALE by Mr. T. N. BARDWELL
China & Earthenware Manufacturers
The whole of the exceedingly valuable and well known STOCK of ORIGINAL and WORKING MOULDS COPPER-PLATE ENGRAVINGS to match the same &c &c at
Swinton and Rotherham in the County of York
Has received instructions from the Assignees of Messrs. J. & W. Green, Bankrupts
To Sell by Auction
Upon the Premises at DON OPTTERY aforesaid on Wed. July 1st 1835 and following days until the whole be disposed of the Sale to Commence at 10 o’clock each forenoon. The hole of the Stock of t ORIGINAL & WORKING MOULDS of every variety of shape, pattern and size, together with a large Assortment of COPPER PLATE ENGRAVINGS of the most approved designs to match the mould &c. Catalogues will be published in which will be given descriptive particulars of each lot, and which may be had three days before the Sale, on application to the Auctioneer (if by letter, post paid) at the Auction Mart Haymarket, Sheffield. Don Pottery is eleven miles from Sheffield, five from Rotherham, one from Swinton, and, nine from Doncaster.
Samuel Barker of the Mexborough Old Pottery purchased the Don Pottery works in July 1839. He resided in ‘Mexborough House’ situated where the Post Office now sits on Mexborough High Street. He was an extensive property and business owner. The Mexborough Old Pottery was also situated on the South Yorkshire Canal, less than a mile north east of the Don Pottery. The site is used today by the Liddle supermarket. It was established circa 1800 and was acquired in 1809 by the Barker family. Samuel Barker ran the two potteries together until 1848. Thereafter the Mexborough works was converted into an iron foundry and pottery making was confined to the Don Works. Samuel Barker’s three sons joined the firm in 1857 and the firm then traded as “Samuel Barker & Son”. The Barker family worked the pottery until 1882 and then let the works out to John Adamson, Jon Williamson, Edward Smith and Charles Scorah. This partnership continued trading as “Samuel Barker & Son” until 1893 when the pottery closed and the stock was once again sold to pay the rent.
Rotherham Advertiser 5th August, 1893
Sale by Flower and Mellor
UNDER DISTRESS FOR RENT
DON POTTERY, SWINTON, ROTHERHAM
ON THURSDAY & FRIDAY, AUGSUT 10TH
AND 11TH, AT ELEVEN O’CLOCK EACH DAY
Messrs. FLOWER and MELLOR will ELL BY AUCTION, as above, the whole of the TENANTS’ FIXTURES, STOCK-IN-TRADE, TOOLS, etc, estimated at about £2000, comprising about Two and a Half Ttons of Copper Plate Engravings, various designs, 80 Tons Flints, 20 Tons Ground Flint, 10 Tons Ground Stone, Ball Clay, China Clay, good Strong Cart horse, 3 Drays, 3 Carts, 2000 Glost Saggers, 20000 Biscuit Saggers, Work Boards, Blocks, Cases and Moulds, Printing Presses, Pavours and Runners, Roll Clay, fire Bricks, Quarries, Glaze Tubs, Pavours in Pans, runnrs in Pans, White Lead, Frill Blue, Colours, Oils, Glaze, New Pug Mill, Two New Plate Machines, new Slip House, Press clothes and Taps, Stilts and Spurs, New Gas Producers, Coal, Blacksmiht’s tools, Joiners Tools, Planks, Ladders, Roll Box, turning Lathes, 60 casks Finished and Unfinished Stock, Office Furntiure, Etc.
Auctioneers Mart and Offices,
Figtree Lane, Sheffield
The Don Pottery buildings were partly demolished in the 1880’s and 1890’s and houses and streets erected on part of the site (New Station Road).
The remaining buildings were used by Messrs. D. & J. S. Wilson for their business as wholesale china and earthenware dealers and decorators. In modern times, the most of the remaining pottery buildings were successively demolished. The last bottle-kiln was knocked down in June 1975.
Regrettably, unlike the nearby Swinton (Rockingham) Pottery, very little historical documentation is available for the Don Works. The products of the Don Pottery provide a major field for research and identification both for the ceramic historian and the collector.
Don Pottery has been a specialised field of collecting for the Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery since its establishment in 1909. The collection represents both the Greens and Barker periods and is the largest collection of Don Pottery in any public museum.
For further detailed information refer to;
THE DON POTTERY 1801 – 1893. Yorkshire Pottery. Griffin J.D. 2001. 240 pages. 290 colour illustrations. 14 black & white. Plus the 1806 design book in black & white illustrating 296 items. Hardback