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Verwood Pottery

 

  EAST DORSET AND VERWOOD POTTERY INDUSTRY  

The East Dorset Pottery Industry, known collectively as “VERWOOD POTTERY” thrived from earliest time on the clay soils of the neighbourhood and with ample firing material close at hand.   The major production was of domestic earthenware although finer and more unusual pieces have been found from earlier times.   In the latter days ornamental and novelty items were produced

Until the end of their useful life, the methods of production had not varied from Roman times, all the processes being carried out with no mechanisation or electrification.   For example, the clay was always trodden by foot and not mixed in a pug mill.   The wheel was turned by an assistant with a pole or handle.  The kilns were wood fired.   As such the Crossroads Pottery, then the last remaining in the area, attracted national and local newspaper attention in the early to mid twentieth century.

The industry was not confined to a local sales base.   Hawkers, or “higglers”  took the wares for sale over a wide area of southern England.   It was also exported abroad, especially to Newfoundland which had a thriving trade with the nearby port of Poole.

The demise of the industry began when railway transportation made lighter enamel ware from the Midlands more widely available.   Initially the same means increased the distribution of Verwood Pottery when a cart full was able to be sent ahead by train and collected when the higgler had emptied his original load.   However, the stage was set for a radical change in household utensils and demand for the heavier pottery dwindled away.

One by one the potteries ceased production, the last remaining being the Crossroads Pottery, on a strategic route between neighbouring market towns, whose doors finally closed in 1952.

Although the kiln mounds where the pottery was fired have since been removed, the cob workshop with drying racks above has remained in its original condition and is the only example known of its kind.

It is not possible to say exactly when the present workroom was constructed but it would have followed a pattern handed down over generations.   The site has been documented at least from the early 19th century but recent excavations have produced much material predating 1790.   It is possible that the site, which had its own adjacent clay pit, was in use even earlier than this.

 

 
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