Pountney and Co Ltd, The Bristol Pottery
NOTE: This article which follows originally appeared in a 1956 book 'British Potters and Pottery Today', is based mainly upon accounts provided mainly by the firms themselves.
At least a century before Thomas Champion bought Cookworthy's patent and commenced to produce porcelain at Bristol, there were potters at work in the neighbourhood – at Brislington, producing good tin-glazed 'Delft' wares similar to those of Lambeth and Southwark. This is shown by the discovery, in 1914, of numerous potsherds on an old factory site, two at least bearing the dates 1652 and 1653. The discovery of this 'deposit' of kiln-wasters and fragments, which threw much important light upon the early ceramic history of Bristol was due to William Pountney, whose interest in the subject was derived from his father, for forty years proprietor of one of the Bristol potteries and whose family name is today borne by the firm which can trace back its history, in continuity if not by a family tree, for over three centuries, to that very site at Brislington.
Briefly to recount its earlier stages, we find the Bristol burgess rolls and Apprenticeship records refer to one Edward Ward who, in 1682, took as his apprentice his son of the same name and that he continued at Brislington until 1697, when he transferred the pottery to Thomas Frank. A few years earlier, in 1683, he had built another works at Water Lane, which came to be known as the Temple Pottery from its proximity to the Temple Church.
At this pottery, which continued in the Ward family until I746, Wares of excellent quality were produced and Edward Ward died a rich man, for his fine products secured a well-merited popularity.
In succession the works passed, first to Thomas Cantle and his son, next to William Taylor (in 1756) and then to Richard Frank, the son of Thomas referred to above, in whose hands it remained until 1785.
Up to this date the output was entirely of 'Delft' wares. But meanwhile Wedgwood and his imitators had been exploiting the new Queen's Ware and, at the death of Richard Frank, the Temple Pottery, under its new owner, Joseph Ring, switched over to the new technique. A man from Staffordshire was engaged to help in this project and, under the Ring regime, the factory prospered. He was killed by the collapse of a warehouse in 1788, but his widow, with William Taylor as Manager, carried on until her son Joseph Ring was old enough to assume the reins. Meanwhile, in 1791 one Henry Carter had joined the firm, which became Taylor, Carter and Ring, until Taylor retired in 1808.
An important milestone was the year 1802, when the factory, now the most important in the city, was re-named The Bristol Pottery, by which name it is still known. The output at this period included not only certain cream-coloured wares (Queen's Ware), but also blue-printed earthenware, which was at the time by far the most popular type of table ware for domestic use.
An important change in the management took place in 1813, when Ring took as partners Henry Carter and John Pountney, who had been in his counting house. Three years later both Ring and Carter having died, the entire control passed to Pountney, though he took as partner Edwin Allies, a combination which endured until 1835.
At this period their parted wares were of a quality to compare favourably with Derby, Worcester and Staffordshire. Blue printed wares, transfer-printed from engravings by a man from Burslem, included the Willow Pattern, views of Bristol and its neighbourhood and scenes from the plays of Shakespeare. Pountney was a gifted man. He carried on the good work initiated by Ring. He improved the technique and achieved a high standard, not only of the Queen's Ware, but also the so-called 'Parian', which became something of a specialty about 1850 under the care of a Hanley potter and modeller, Edward Raby.
From 1852, when Pountney died, there were several changes. For twenty years his widow carried on the business, then it passed to Captain Halstead Cobden and, in 1878, was bought by Patrick Johnston and a Mr. Rogers. In 1882 a nephew of the former, T. B.Johnston, joined the firm. A young man of ideas, he soon realized that the factory was out of date. He closed it down and took over other premises and, in 1887, formed a new company, Pountney and Co. with himself and a partner Charles Burn as Managing Directors. This factory was only a stop-gap, for he dreamed of premises which should be the last word in up-to-dateness.
Eventually, with financial help from his friend W. H. Bell (who became a Director in 1900) he was able to erect the present works, of which the Company is justly proud. Their new factory 'the first of its kind in the world', was finished in 1905. Conceived entirely by himself it is all on one floor and designed on the straight line principle, passing from the raw materials to the finished product in correct and labour-saving order.
After fifty-six years in the industry Johnston died in 1938, having been one of the first to recognise the importance of lithographic-transfers. These he made himself. He also introduced continuous firing and showed that it is possible to make both domestic and sanitary wares in the same factory.
In 1938 the first two tunnel kilns were in operation, one, the glost oven, being fired by gas produced from anthracite on the premises. The other is an electric kiln for enamel colours. A roller conveyor-system was introduced in 1946, and in 1953 an electric glazing tunnel.
The wares produced today by The Bristol Pottery are very diverse and it may be said that, in all branches of its output, the establishment of Pountney and Company, Ltd. is a worthy inheritor of the traditions initiated, as we have seen, three centuries ago in Bristol.
NOTE: This article which originally appeared in a 1956 book 'British Potters and Pottery Today', is based mainly upon accounts provided mainly by the firms themselves.
questions / comments? email: Steve Birks