Deptford Potteries

There were potteries in Deptford, possibly during the 17th century, but certainly throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, the last only closed in 1961.

Nathan Dews' The History of Deptford in The Counties of Kent and Surrey (1884) says “The Deptford Ware for which the town was noted in the last century is not now made”. I have, however, been unable to find any description of “Deptford Ware”. Was it was some form of glazed earthenware or did it include the sugar moulds and crucibles that are known to have been made at Deptford?

Three large potteries operated during the 19th century:
• The Upper on Church Street and Copperas Lane (later called Bronze Street). Established about 1701 it finally closed in 1961.
• The Lower on Copperas Lane by Deptford Creek. This functioned between c1730 and c1860.
• Church Street Pottery. This functioned between c1730 and 1887.

A number of smaller potteries are also recorded.
Sprigged stoneware was certainly made at Deptford because two different marks are known - “STONEWARE POTTERIES / DEPTFORD / ESTABLISHED 1701” and “JAS CARROLL / DEPTFORD. / POTTERIES / EST 1701”. The 1701 date indicates that both originate from the Upper Pottery. This had been run by members of the Parry family from c1730 until James Carroll purchased it in 1891. In 1918 Deptford Ware Stoneware became part of the Tamworth, Staffordshire firm of Gibbs & Canning, So most of their previous SRDs would have been from Tamworth. But they obviously made a sensible link to SE London as the Jars were filled at the SRD that was about a mile from Deptford. [Considerable controversy still exists for the meaning of "SDR", but it would appear "Supply Reserve Depot" is the most likely meaning.]. Later the company made electrical insulators and oven linings until finally closed in 1961.
Gibbs & Canning also acquired the Bromley by Bow pottery of F.Brayne & Co, whose literature shows a sprigged jug, although no marked examples are known. [Sprigging or sprigged decoration is an embossed decoration on pottery, usually press moulded shapes applied to greenware or bisque. Clay body for the sprig is pushed into the mould, the back scraped flat, then released on a damp cloth pad. The greenware is wetted lightly with a brush, and the sprig is pressed lightly with another cloth pad to push out water and air. The technique is generally credited to John Astbury, who applied the innovation to Staffordshire figures in the early 18th century. The technique was refined by Josiah Wedgwood for use on jasperware.]

An 1841 dated water colour drawing exists (British Museum) showing a building with a sign “DEPTFORD STONE POTTERY”. This is stated by Derek Garrodd in “Research Into The Deptford Potteries” (Kent Archaeological Review Autumn 1989) to be the Lower Pottery, however another reference in Lewisham Archives attributes it to the Upper Pottery. It may be significant, bearing in mind the use of the plural “POTTERIES”, that the Parry family also owned the Lower Pottery from c1755 to 1840.

Small pottery manufacturers appeared in Deptford in the 17th and 18th centuries. These businesses needed to specialise because of the competition faced from similar industries in Staffordshire. Domestic and industrial ware was produced, such as sugar moulds, flowerpots, chimney pots and crucibles. Deptford became an important suburb of London in the 16th century, when it was one of England's main shipbuilding sites. The Royal Dockyard and The East India Company's yard were established here during the reign of Henry VIII. Despite the town's reputation as a major industrial centre in the 18th and 19th centuries, the large majority of its resident families were poor. Most of the men were unskilled labourers doing seasonal work at the dockyards. Many unsavoury "fragrances" lurked in the air, as the locality was home to glue works, gasworks, tar distilleries, breweries and manufacturers of artificial manure!

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