ROGER FROST: Cliviger’s part in the pottery industry

Would you be surprised if, on examining a number of old maps of the Cliviger area, you found details lik – land named “Holme Bank & Ovenhole,” a field named “Pot Oven Pasture” or a farm of the name “Stone Jug Farm?”

Tuesday, 19th October 2010, 3:16 pm

If you looked further you would come across a complex of buildings identified as Robin Cross Pottery and two more, one called Old Pot Oven and the other New Pot Oven.

Those who think they know about the history of local industry are just as surprised when they come across references to the pottery industry in our part of the world. They think Stoke-on-Trent is where potteries should be made, forgetting that numerous English towns made pottery in the past.

I know Whitehaven quite well as my mother’s family came from that part of the world but, my family being connected with the iron and coal industries (not to mention other activities which I suspect were largely illegal), even I was surprised to learn of the town’s former pottery industry. Were you aware of the potteries in Liverpool or those in Leeds? Of the latter I have long since been an admirer, especially the pierced creamware, some of which is spectacular.

Sign up to our daily Burnley Express Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

This article is the second in an occasional series inspired by the Radio 4 programme “The History of the World Through 100 Objects,” presented on the BBC. In that programme the director of the British Museum had taken an object from the museum’s vast collections and used it to tell us something about world history.

At the Express we have been somewhat less ambitious as we have selected only 10 objects from the collections at Towneley Hall though we might add more in future and consider the collections at Gawthorpe Hall for inclusion in another series.

The item chosen today is a pottery vase made in Cliviger in 1857. It has the initials “AS” incorporated into the design and the piece is typical of the pottery or earthenware made in Cliviger. If you care to look at Titus Thornber’s “A Pennine Parish: The History of Cliviger,” on page 86, you will find two more examples of Cliviger pottery and it is not all that long ago that a Cliviger agateware teapot, made in the coronation year of 1911 and inscribed “Mr and Mrs R. Broadley,” was made available for auction.

Towneley Hall has a number of examples of Cliviger pottery on display. They are immediately recognisable by those who know about the local industry. The pieces, though, are not unique. They bear a close resemblance to the products recently made at the Weather Riggs Pottery in the Lake District and a number of other country potteries in the North of England.

Technically, the objects are known as slipware because they, after the first firing, are covered in a slip made from refined clay mixed with water and given an opaque lead glazing before being fired again. The finished pots are usually a brownish red colour and some of them have white markings which add much, not only to the design but also to the information about individual pieces.

Cliviger pottery has been made since the early 17th Century but the oldest known piece, because it is dated, is a loving cup of 1671.

The industry, which was only small scale by Stoke-on-Trent standards, lasted until the mid-19th Century when mass production in the West Midlands, and elsewhere, undermined the local craft industry which fell out of favour.

However, the history of the Cliviger pottery industry is important to us in the Burnley area.

We are reminded by it of the days before industrialisation when localities, to a much greater extent than many of us now appreciate, had to be self-supporting and sustainable. Cliviger had the coal, the fire clay, the water and, possibly, the lead needed to make the glaze but it is difficult for us to imagine the workings of the three Cliviger potteries.

There are no remains of the kilns or of the blungeing tanks that would have been required and, similarly, it is difficult to spot where water courses have been moved to provide water for the pottery works. It is a little more easy to find the areas from which the clays were dug but, for this, you have to know what you are looking for. In fact it was wondering why a particular piece of land on the Burnley to Todmorden Road was like it was – undulating and almost barren — that I realised it had been used from which to extract clay.

Visit Towneley Hall and have a look at its collection of Cliviger pottery.

The pieces are varied, interesting and charming all at the same time.

The colours you will see might not have been appropriate had they been used in the dining rooms of the gentry but they would have been splendid in the lowly cottages that most of our ancestors would have called home. Cliviger pottery gives us a real insight into most of our pasts.

I would like to thank Ben Parsons of the Express for taking the picture we have used today and Mike Townend of Towneley Hall for helping with the choice of items for this series.