Bridgwater Jugs – 19th Century ‘Severnside’ Redwares

On Facebook’s British Country Pottery Collectors group page recently a number of people have been sharing and discussing a particular group of 19th of early 20th century redware jugs. They are typical of the broad family of shapes made around the Severn Estuary and most closely resemble those from Bridgwater and Bristol. A key issue with the wares is their relationship with the industrial stonewares produced in the 19th century particularly in Bristol – see my earlier post English Country Pottery – or is it?  What follows is a personal view and very much open for discussion. Severnside is my term and not obligatory but seems useful.

 

‘Severnside’ jugs from Somerset and South Wales. Top: My own selection of pots that I would suggest are from Bridgwater. Below: Jugs from South Wales illustrated by Andrew McGarva in his book Country Pottery. Left: Ewenny; Right: Large jug at rear from Bargoed near Cardiff and bottom right, South Wales (the other two are from Devon). (with apologies to AM/A&C Black for copying photos from their book). Bottom: Severnside jug possibly from Bristol (Lizzie Induni).

The family of shapes are distinct from the North Devon wares, typically more angular, often have handbuilt or applied handles and decoration is very rare. The clay bodies are varied but often pale – orange to pink – and fairly coarse. Nothing like the smooth Fremington clays. A particular quality that has been discussed before is their close relationship to industrial stoneware forms of the kind being made in Bristol in particular. The makers of these wares seem to be defined by the estuary rather than the Bristol Channel and the potteries are often closely associated with the extensive coastal brick and tile industries and in Bristol with the collieries. A range might run from Minehead/Dunster to the south, up river by Bridgwater, Burnham-on-Sea, Weston-super-Mare, Clevedon to Bristol and Kingswood then across the Severn and down the Welsh shore taking in Newport, Bridgend, Ewenny and Cardiff. By the time you get to Ewenny the influence of North Devon is becoming strong especially through slip and sgraffito decoration.

The pots and particularly the jugs share a range of characteristics. The clay is generally paler than North Devon wares and fires to an orange or straw colour rather than a terracotta red. The lead glaze is also often orange-brown rather than honey and a pale straw coloured edge is not unusual. The glaze is usually dipped to the shoulder which is marked by a single or double incised line. The shapes are characterised by almost vertical necks which step sharply away from the shoulder and relatively short bodies. The rims are either pinched to create a groove just below the edge or formed with a rib to give a very round everted shape. Handles are either pulled-on-the-pot with a single thumb impression at the base or quite commonly extruded, coiled or pulled, and pressed onto the body. The latter is unusual in Britain and rarely seen on ‘country’ pottery outside this area.

The particular group of pots under discussion were these.

img_1816

The two Severnside/Bridgwater jugs that started the discussion. (Wren Franklin).

   Sevenside/Bridgwater jugs from Doug and Hannah Fitch’s collection. 


Severnside/Bridgwater jug belonging to Lizzie Induni.

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Severnside/Bridgwater jug in the collection of the Somerset County Museum. (Photo: O Kent)

I would like to suggest that this particular group come from Bridgwater because they are clearly related to a collection of wasters and pots from the Chandos Glass Cone in Bridgwater, excavated in 1976-7. The glassworks closed in 1733 and the cone was reused for various purposes afterwards. From around 1827-1939 it became a redware pottery latterly as Browne’s Pottery and Deal Yard and the Somerset Trading Company, both closely associated with the brick and tile industry in Bridgwater. Kilns seems to have been built inside the cone – finally demolished in 1943. The precise manufacturer or date is uncertain and some pots like the slipware dishes look so much like Donyatt that you wonder if all the pottery was manufactured on site – some perhaps retailed from elsewhere.

 

Pottery from excavations at the Chandos Glass Cone, Bridgwater. Probably Browne’s Pottery/Somerset Trading Company, 1840s-1939. Bore, E. and Pearson, T., 2009. ‘Red Earthenware Pottery from the Chandos Glass Cone, Bridgwater.’ Proc. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History, 153. 131-150. (Available online).

The jugs, bottles and other shapes march well the pieces in my photo at the top of the page and in the hand the clay and glaze colours are right. The only big difference is the handle form. All the jugs have applied handles and not pulled-on-the-pot ones. This matters and our pots are perhaps either from a later period than the excavated ones or from a related pottery in the nearby area. The use of this kind of handle and the very vertical necks of the Severnside pots are key characteristics for me in linking these redware to industrial and urban production. Many of these potteries are closely tied to the brick and tile industry along the Severn shore and a somewhat industrial aesthetic seems to me apparent – perhaps the potters themselves trained in the big stoneware potteries and acquired techniques from that. If must also be about competition.

For more discussion see my earlier post English Country Pottery – or is it? Bristol Jugs and Pitchers. 

With thanks to Wren Frankin, Doug and Hannah Fitch, Lizzie Induni, Tim Bartell and Tim Bowen Antiques.

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