Several potteries making saltglaze were operating within a four mile radius of Chesterfield at the end of the nineteenth century.
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These pages are based on the work of Josie Walters, whose permission to use this information is gratefully acknowledged by Janine Mannion-Jones, the owner of JMJ Pottery.
Photographs used in these pages were taken by CEDM Photo and Video Department at the University of Derby and Michael Taylor for the Nottingham Castle Museum. © 2003.
Web design and production by Mark Jones, enile.co.uk.
Collectors are probably familiar with the label 'Brampton ware' as referring to the more ornate sprig decorated pieces such as puzzle jugs, toast racks, jugs, teapots and coffee pots, made from an almost white clay which gives a light honey surface in a salt firing. However the Brampton potteries also made pots with a dark brown colour more usually associated with pottery made in Nottingham. In the eighteenth century, Nottingham had become so famous for its finely made brown pottery, that 'Nottingham ware' became the generic name for all dark brown saltglaze made in the Midlands, although no items can be attributed to Nottingham after 1800.
The Brampton potteries made types of ware that were very similar to each other, but individual factories also specialised in particular lines. Large quantities of bottles, kegs and barrels, jam jars, stew and saucepots, storage jars, flat dishes, turtle and beef pots, bowls, pudding moulds, colanders and water filters were produced, besides more ornamental pieces. Only a few pieces of Brampton ware are marked and therefore individual pots are difficult to attribute to specific factories. The issue is further confused by the fact that the potteries worked co-operatively and might contract work to another factory in the area if they received a large order, and in some instances workmen would move from one factory to another. This history will therefore consider the Brampton pottery industry as a whole.
Collanders and bowls
The pottery owners worked co-operatively and formed a Potters' Association in the second half of the nineteenth century. The Association met every month in the Star Inn in Chesterfield and collaborated in buying essential materials in bulk, standardized the sizes of pots, agreed prices and decided and fixed rates of pay. This co-operation between the potteries kept competition at a minimum and encouraged business at all the factories.
Many of the pottery owners were also connected with coal mining, and were colliery owners. They could extract the refractory clays needed for salt glazing and also had large quantities of coal available which were needed to fire the kilns. The location of the Brampton potteries in an area so rich in raw materials was, of course, a contributory factor to their success in the nineteenth century.
Besides being geologically well situated, the Brampton potteries also had access to good transport for their wares. The Chesterfield canal provided water transport via the River Trent to Hull, and goods were sent by road south through Derby and Birmingham and north via Sheffield, Leeds, Manchester and the port of Liverpool. The development of the railway system, beginning with the North Midland Railway in 1840, made distribution of pots outside the immediate region easier and cheaper, and increased the market potential of the ware.
The factories generally handled their own sales, rather than making use of middlemen, and supplied a variety of businesses besides specialist glass and china shops, such as grocers, ironmongers and co-operative stores, drapers and furnishers, as well as wine and spirit shops, and breweries. These outlets were principally in the Midlands and the North but there is some evidence to show that some of the potteries used travellers and agents to visit customers in the East and far West of England, and a few hawkers bought pots for resale. The potteries also exported goods to the colonies (for example, India, Australia, and South Africa) and to Holland.
Holl lock - photograph used by kind permission of the Chesterfield Canal Trust.