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North Devon Pottery


HHistorian and author Alison Grant has completed her book on North Devon Pottery.
Introduction to the book

Many North Devon people are interested in local pottery. They appreciate especially the handsome harvest jugs with their bold designs of ships in full sail, or rural landscapes with verses that evoke scenes of peace and plenty and the jovial atmosphere of harvest suppers. Most of these jugs were made in the nineteenth century, a relatively late period in the history of the industry. Until recently, nothing was known of its earlier development. When Llewellyn Jewitt visited North Devon to gather material for his pioneering work on ceramic art in Britain, published in 1878 he found that local memories did not go back before 1800. He was shown only one ‘interesting relic’ of earlier times, an earthenware chimney-pot from a Bideford pottery bearing the date 1668. In the two hundred years that had passed, the names of earlier potters had been forgotten and knowledge of their work lost, yet the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries had been the period of the greatest expansion of the industry. This became clear in 1960, when Malcolm Watkins published the first study of North Devon pottery to make use of archaeological finds. Since then archaeologists have been able to identify sherds of North Devon ware from excavations. These finds add a new dimension to the study of the industry, for as well as enabling the fabric and form of past products to be examined, they provide important evidence of their distribution.
Archaeological evidence is used in this book to help rediscover some of the forgotten past of the North Devon pottery industry, and most of the seventeenth-century information is drawn from the documentary sources used for the University of Exeter PhD thesis in history on which the first edition was based. For the second edition I am adding a little about medieval pottery, which archaeologists are now finding was also made in North Devon, and am including the pottery of later centuries. Therefore this edition is considerably larger.
For the purposes of the study, North Devon is defined as the area within a radius of approximately fifteen miles from the market towns of Barnstaple, Bideford and Great Torrington. In this edition, the manufacture of pottery, and the wares themselves are described first. The book then identifies many North Devon potters, but not every man or boy who worked as a potter’s labourer in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as some probably never threw a pot! Potters are discussed in the context of the communities in which they lived and worked. As before, the last part of the book is concerned with the distribution and marketing of the wares, showing that North Devon became the pivot of a fan of commerce extending, at its greatest point, westward as far as the colonies in North America and the West Indies. In the seventeenth-century the pottery industry had more than local significance, and played an important part in some aspects of Irish trade, as well as the early development of the colonies. In later years, these markets contracted considerably, and the industry itself declined. In spite of many changes, however, an industry still exists, after over 800 years, and its influence past, present and even future, has been, and is, immeasurable.


‘NORTH DEVON POTTERY’ is published by Lazarus Publishing and costs £20.

Tel: 01237 421195
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