18th and 19th-century thrown chimney pots in Bristol. The Sugar House Pottery

8-9 Grove Road, Blackboy Hill.
Late 18th-century

Following on from the last blog – I have been looking at the rooftops around the top of Blackboy Hill on the edge of Durdham Down. In the 19th century this was a small hamlet surrounded by stone quarries. Much of the old hamlet survives in amongst the later shops and houses. Some of the quarries are still very obvious – great rock faces around Quarry Steps and a huge hole in Durham Park now with an entire hospital in it. Others have been backfilled completely and many are hidden amongst the housing as vertical steps and terraces in places like Worrall Road, Grove Road and Woodbury Lane that people take fore-granted as natural features.

Thrown chimney pots on 8-9 Grove Road.

I thought this would be a good place to look for hand-made chimney pots not least because the Sugar House Pottery which made many of them was only a mile away on the other side of the Downs in its earlier years. The pottery advertised in 1773 that they made:

‘all sorts of useful and ornamental chimney pots, so much approved of and esteemed for their singular qualifications for curing smoky chimneys, which has its desired affect after every other method has been tried. Likewise all manner of useful and ornamental garden pots. The chimney and garden pots are made of so peculiar as sort of clay that they are warranted to withstand the severity of the frost and weather without scaling off or losing any of their useful ornaments.’ Felix Farley’s Journal, 3 April 1773.

Many of the older buildings have red thrown pots, some with a cream slip wash still visible on them. Later 19th century buildings are typically finished with yellow extruded and assembled pots of which the rook-like ‘bishops’ are the most common. The Sugar House Pottery closed in 1863 (by then in Avon St in the centre of Bristol. There were of course other redware potteries in Bristol as for instance the Barton Hill Pottery. For more on The Sugar House Pottery see Reg Jackson’s article in the Transaction of the Bristol and Gloucester Archaeological Society.

Castle Bellevue and Bellevue, 19 Grove Road. c. 1840.

Many houses have had their pots removed or replaced over the years of course. On the other hand, old pots are unlikely to be replacements. Whilst the point at which the thrown pots stop being installed is hard to pinpoint precisely, it is clear that by the 1870s they have gone altogether.

57 Worrall Road. Late 18th or early 19th century. This house is between two of the big quarries below Quarry Step and has thorn pots on all its chimneys. The centre pot is the only example with a wind-baffle I have found. Wind must be a problem here – many of the replacement pots around Quarry Steps have them. Note the two different rim-forms.
The Blackboy Inn (renamed in the 1990s to commemorate the much older original – this was the Elephant and Castle). Part of a whole block built c. 1845. Thrown pots are scattered amongst a variety of replacements.
22-24 Wellington Park. c.1840
13-15 Wellington Park. 1840s or earlier. The thrown pots nestle in the valley whilst fancy moulded ones decorate the front. The bishops on the outer chimneys are definitely replacements. I’m not sure if the fancy pots on the front are original or not but they are hand built fireclay ones (the right hand one has lost its top).
1-3 Greenway Road, c1855. A few thrown pots survive amongst assorted replacements. 
A little further way from Blackboy Hill, late 18th century houses in Lower Redland Road. Like Castle Bellevue and Bellevue up on Grove Road, these would have looked out over fields. A good crop of thrown chimney pots on top.
Elgin Park 1867-8 and West Shrubbery c. 1870. No thrown pots. These are all yellow fireclay moulded and extruded examples manufactured by the brickworks in south and east Bristol. All the later 19th century houses in the area have variations on these, most often the chess-piece-like bishops.
It is interesting that there don’t seem to be any pots after the 1860s given that the Sugar House Pottery closed in 1863. It is also clear that the late 19th-century thrown pots from Conway Warne’s potteries in Clevedon and Weston-super-Mare are nowhere to be seen.
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