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18 September 2014
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History of a Pottery

By Dr Alan Crosby and Chris Howe
Early research

Image of Cliff Howe in the Local Studies Centre
Cliff researching in Darlington Library 
  • Discovering the local community through local records

I had been researching my family history for many years and had also taken a course on 'Sources for Local Historians' at the local Technical College. These activities meant that I knew my way around record offices and archives and was aware of the many sources that could be useful in tracking down information about the Pottery.

'It was not unusual for men from other counties to be working as coal miners in the area ...'

There were fairly obvious ones such as census returns and parish records to provide information about people, and others that are used less frequently by local historians. Electoral rolls can be especially useful for finding people when researching the 20th century, a period for which census returns are not yet available.

Rating lists can provide information on the value of property, and enable the researcher to spot changes in usage. My previous experience allowed me to interpret and understand these sources, and to use them to follow clues along the discovery trail.

Image of a miner from the Durham region
A miner at work in the Durham region 
The first records of the Pottery I saw were those in the 1851 census returns, an important source for 19th-century local history. It was the first census to record among other details, the relationships and birthplaces of the inhabitants of all households.

Seeing the pottery workers listed in the returns for Coundon and Canney Hill intrigued me, because I noticed that they were not local men. It was not unusual for men from other counties to be working as coal miners in the area, but 'outsiders' making pottery in this corner of County Durham was surprising. Why had they done this and what was their story?

So the project sprang to life and I decided to find out more about the Pottery and its history. Luckily, my career as a research chemist had given me a good grounding in following trails of investigation; although I had some clues, a decision had to be reached on what to do next.

I realised that the Pottery was as much a part of the history of my 'home village' as the collieries and the ancient fields, and I felt a real excitement in following an historical trail which I knew nobody had done before.

Published: 2005-03-03



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