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18 September 2014
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History of a Pottery

By Dr Alan Crosby and Chris Howe
A doomed pottery

Image of a commemorative jug
A commemorative jug - one of the last products to be produced at the pottery 
I came to the conclusion that although the Canney Hill Pottery never achieved national importance, during its life of over 70 years it had an undeniable impact upon the local community. Its products had a distinctive style and such a lustrous glaze that they would be particularly attractive to miner's wives of the period.

This, I believe, was the reason why the Pottery survived until 1913, despite the overwhelming competition from Staffordshire. Production of flowerpots for the Bishop's glasshouses and chimney pots helped the cash flow, but it was the more specialised pieces that kept the enterprise in business.

'It helped the household budget of many local families.'

The Pottery also gave a limited opportunity for women to find work - few servants were employed in mining communities, and local employment for girls and women was otherwise scarce. It helped the household budget of many local families.

There is some evidence that larger quantities of earthenware products were exported further afield in crates and that Coundon Station which opened in 1885 was used as a depot for returning empties.

Image of Canney Hill Pottery site in 2001
The site of Canney Hill Pottery today 
In the end, the Pottery's closure was probably due mainly to a lack of demand. A change in fashion, perhaps, which could be met by the vast resources of the Staffordshire potteries but not by the limited means available at Canney Hill. The Pottery was still in the hands of the Cooper family but they had made no money out of it, so without further financial backing the whole enterprise was probably doomed.

I wrote up my findings as an article for the Durham County Local History Society Bulletin, and am fully satisfied that I achieved the targets laid out when starting this project. There are obviously still gaps to be filled in, but local historians soon become aware that total recovery of a story from the past is not always possible either because of limited, or missing, source material.

However, I am proud to have been involved with recording the chronicle of this little-known industrial endeavour, and hope that the Canney Hill Pottery can now take its well-earned place in history.

Published: 2005-03-03

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