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Griffydam Pottery

The 1882 O/S 1: 2,500 O/S map identifies a disused pottery building adjacent to 544 at the end of the road which forks off Elder Lane  marked 497. The rather large building has two round kilns in the centre and just to the north in the field, there is what appears to be a kiln also, although we can’t be certain of that.  The pottery is situated on what was referred to as Swann’s Meadow at the time of the 1806 inclosure. The illustration next to the pottery and marked 545 is clearly the clay hole for the pottery. On a 1901 map, the pottery building, the shaft and the possible stand alone kiln have all gone, but the clay hole remains. On a 1925 map, even the clay hole has gone so it must have been filled in by this time. Everything points to a self contained small industrial complex being here perhaps back to the early 1800’s.

The official name for the business which has loosely been referred to as “Griffydam Pottery” was in fact the “Griffydam Brick, Interlocking House Tile and Earthenware Works”. From this we can clearly deduce that it was much more than a Pottery.


It is not possible from information currently at hand to know how long the site was open.​​  In December 1889 the site was being operated by Messrs. Lager and Lakin and was being put up for sale as a going concern. However, it seems unlikely that a buyer was found as the 1901 revised, 1903 issued O/S map, confirms the site as being disused. No further evidence has been found to suggest that the site was ever reopened. 

It is recorded that between 1874 and 1880, Joseph Smart & Son (brick and tile makers on the Lower Brand), worked a small pit at Griffydam, probably extracting coal leased by the Curzon family of Breedon. The company was registered in Ashby de la Zouch. It would have been severely limited by the “Thringstone Fault” to the north, and the workings of the former Pegg’s Green Colliery in other directions. Two shafts were sunk, one just to the south of the pottery clay pit. It is possible that one of the two shafts would have been the down shaft and the other an up or air shaft, but we cannot be certain of that. Presumably the mine was worked to provide coal for firing the brick / tile / pottery kilns on the site. 


We cannot, at this stage, dismiss Joseph or James Smart having an involvement with the pottery, as in White’s Directory of 1877 and Wright’s Directory 1880, Joseph Smart & Co, including his son James, were listed as Earthenware Manufacturers in Griffydam.  This is a term normally associated with the manufacture of pottery and not bricks and tiles.

There is a great deal of evidence to show that a proliferation of pot sellers, pot carriers or pot hawkers as they were known are living in the area including Griffydam, up to the late 1800s, particularly in Coleorton where there were 49 recorded. Surprisingly, even as late as the 1851 census, there are 8 Earthenware Pot Sellers / Dealers / Hawkers recorded in Griffydam.

The earliest record found of a “potter” in Griffydam was a William Burton who is mentioned in a Lease and Release document dated 1830 (DE9109/50/1-2 now deposited at the L&RRO).


In the 1881 Griffydam census, a Joseph Bourne aged 40 and born in Staffordshire is listed as a mould maker living with his wife Francis aged 42 who was born in Griffydam. Living with them is her daughter Eliza Richards aged 23 (unmarried) and her children, suggesting this was Francis’ second marriage. Eliza’s children are a son Eli Richards (aged 15), who is given as a potter, and a son Thomas Richards aged 13. There is also a Grandson Joseph Richards aged 4. Following the path of the census enumerator’s walk, it suggests they are living in the area of the pottery.


Thomas Coulson, aged 55 and born in Sheepshed was listed as a fireman in the 1881 census. This could have been at the brickworks kiln or the pottery kilns.


Again in the 1881 census, Rosy Hodges aged 22 and her sister Mary Hodges aged 19 who were the daughters of John and Hannah Hodges, are both given as working at terra works (Earth). This can presumed to be the pottery and not the brickworks as references to people working there is clearly stated by the enumerator as working at brickworks. He would have no reason to change the description. No pottery workers are listed in the 1841, 1851, 61 or 71 censuses for Griffydam.

The earliest known specialist pot seller in the Griffydam / Coleorton area was Edward Warden of Griffydam, a carpenter by trade. When his will was made in 1614 he listed a large number of debtors, many of whom could be identified from Ticknall. The references imply that Warden had paid in advance for the ware from the potters and that it was packed into “fatts” or casks for transport The Warden family continued to be involved in selling pots after Edward’s death, and his son John, also of Griffydam, witnessed the will of the Ticknall pot maker Richard Gardener of Scaddows in 1614 and the inventory showed that John Warden owed him a debt of 26s. 8d. (from “Ticknall Pots & Potters” by Janet Spavold & Sue Brown).


In the poll-book of 1775, two freeholders of Worthington, James Radford, and Francis Swan (pot-carrier), are entered as being resident at Griffy Dam.


It is almost certain that local hawkers initially obtained their pots from the several pottery manufacturers in Ticknall from the late 1500s.  They would have transported their wares around the country to fairs etc in the early days by pack-horse. Initially, they would have only had muddy cart tracks to travel on but once the turnpike roads became established in the mid 1700s, Griffydam, Pegg’s Green and Coleorton were well placed to take advantage of these, being surrounded by turnpike roads going in all directions, meaning horse and carts were able to carry larger quantities of wares with reduced breakages.

Many examples of broken pottery has been unearthed in the vicinity of Elder Lane, Griffydam, This is almost certainly shards of broken pottery left from where a pot seller or hawker lived, possibly even dating from the days of the Warden family or Francis Swan mentioned in the following paragraph.


In the fields, known as Dye House Close (see Woven Woollen Cloth Industry) a lot of pottery was dug up from the lower part of the valley through which the brook runs. The best examples found were given to Peter Liddle (Leicestershire Archaeologist & Historian) who said it was the best Cistercian Ware made in Ticknall, he had seen in the county – this is further confirmation that the pot sellers were obtaining their wares from Ticknall. The most common pottery shards found on the site are rims of Pancheons which are large shallow earthenware bowls or vessels wider at the top than at the bottom, and were used especially to stand milk in to let the cream separate. These were probably manufactured at Coleorton Pottery opposite the hamlet of Lount. It is thought that this pottery was likely to have been dumped there at some time.

Further information about Griffydam pottery works can be found in Samuel T Stewart's book entitled Griffydam Brick, Patent Interlocking House Tile and Earthenware Works

Pottery Map.jpg
Pottery Shards 4.jpg

Remnants of pottery dug up around the site of the Pottery. They are mostly rejected biscuit from the first firing prior to glazing, and appear to be a similar form of pottery to Measham ware with a dark brown Rockingham glaze. 

Pottery Shards 1.jpg
Pottery Shards 3.jpg
Pottery Shards 2.jpg

The above 3 photographs show various shards of pottery found on the site of a property in Elder Lane. This is further evidence of Pottery Sellers / Hawkers living in the area.

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