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18 September 2014
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History of a Pottery

By Dr Alan Crosby and Chris Howe
Image of Canney Hill Pottery storage jars
Products from the Canney Hill Pottery 

Find out how to discover the history of a building that no longer exists. Join Cliff Howe as he searches for evidence of the types of pottery produced at the Canney Hill pottery and the people who worked them.

The Canney Hill Pottery
  • Could you write the history of a factory that no longer exists?
  • Where would you look for physical evidence of the building?
  • How do you find out what sort of pottery was made?
  • Discover how documents and maps can help rebuild the past.
  • Find out more about Cliff Howe and his history of the Canney Hill pottery.

Image of Cliff Howe researching
Researching the Canney Hill Pottery 
When I set out on this local history trail, very little was known about the Canney Hill Pottery, but, by the time I had finished, its story had been reconstructed.

The pottery was founded in the mid-1840s, at a time when the area was becoming heavily industrialised. It flourished during Queen Victoria's reign, but in the early 20th century gradually became unprofitable and closed in 1913.

'... all the evidence had to come from two sources: either written records ... or from the pieces of pottery ...'

During its peak period of output, it probably employed no more than 25 men, girls and boys. In the early years, the men came mainly from Derbyshire and south Yorkshire, while the young workers were recruited either from the potters' families, or from the local population.

Today there is no trace on the ground to show that there was ever a pottery there, so this meant that all the evidence had to come from two sources: either written records (both printed and in manuscript) and maps; or from the pieces of pottery produced at the works.

Image of a miner at home
A mining household from the Durham region 

I wanted to discover who built the Pottery and why it was erected at Canney Hill; why men from Derbyshire and south Yorkshire had gone to work there; what sort of products they had made; how long the pottery had survived; and how successful it was.

Published: 2005-03-03

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