Waterloo Kiln on the site of the former Swinton Pottery
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Swinton Pottery, renamed the Rockingham Works in 1826, was situated on both sides of Blackamoor Road in Swinton in the Dearne Valley in South Yorkshire. The site of the works is a scheduled monument and a surviving bottle kiln is a Grade II* listed structure.

The pottery was started in 1745 and had several owners over the years. It operated in partnership with the Leeds Pottery for 21 years after 1865. In 1806 the Brameld family took over. In the 1820s the Bramelds experimented with producing porcelain, but the business stuggled on and was bankrupt in 1825. Under the patronage of the Earl Fitzwilliam the business was renamed the Rockingham Works and continued producing fine porcelainware until 1842.

History


A small pottery using local clay and coal to make brick, tile and coarse earthenware pottery was established in 1745 by Edward Butler[a]Joseph Flint, according to English Heritage.[1] on land owned by the Marquis of Rockingham in Swinton. Butler was paying £11 in rent in 1759.[2]

William Malpass took over in 1763 and in 1778, Thomas Bingley and Willoughby Wood took over and traded as Bingley, Wood & Co. In 1785 the Swinton Pottery was amalgamated with Hartley, Green’s Leeds PotteryPottery established in 1770 in Hunslet, South Leeds notable for intricate pierced creamware known as Leedsware..[1][3] The Greens were from the Swinton area and the two potteries were run as one, trading as Greens, Bingley & Co in Swinton.[4] William Brameld started work at the pottery in 1786. The pottery underwent great expansion over the following decade, probably driven by John Green but as the company’s fortunes declined, friction arose between the Swinton and Leeds partners.[1][4]

Rockingham Pottery in Clifton Park Museum
Source: Wikimedia Commons

When the lease for the pottery was due for renewal in 1806, the Brameld family thought Swinton was being run down in favour of Leeds and offered to buy out the Leeds partners. The partnership was dissolved in 1806 when the Leeds partners withdrew and the Brameld’s renewed the lease. With help from the landlord, the Brameld family extended the range of earthenwares and added buildings to the complex, including workers’ cottages and a flint mill.[4]

The Bramelds began to experiment with porcelain production in about 1820 but they were not entirely successful, foreign trade was poor and the company struggled and became bankrupt in 1825. The pottery was offered to let but there were no takers. The landlord, Earl Fitzwilliam who had invested in the pottery when the Bramelds took over, rescued the company, with conditions, and it was renamed the Rockingham Works in 1826. The pottery had by then perfected the manufacture of fine and elaborately decorated porcelain and the following year opened a showroom in York. The Bramelds were ambitious but poor businessmen and struggled throughout the 1830s but were bankrupted again in 1842. The earl had died and his heir did not wish to continue and the works finally closed in 1842 when the remaining chinaware was sold and the works was again offered for let.[1][5]

Works


The Rockingham Works
Source: Rotherham Museums

In 1826 the works consisted of two biscuit ovens, five glazing ovens, hardening kilns, enamelling kilns, throwing rooms, a sliphouse, flint mill, warehousing, and a farm. Most buildings on the site, which is a scheduled monument, have been demolished except for Strawberry Cottage, which was part of the printshop range and a gatehouse. Other survivors are a bottle kiln for firing or glazing that has Grade II* listed building status and the pottery ponds that provided water. [1]

The bottle-shaped kiln is built of red brick in English bond and part-rendered. It has a door in the north side, a window in south, and various bricked openings including doorway in east side. It is a rare survival from what was an internationally renowned porcelain works.[6]

North of the gatehouse, coals and clays associated with the Swinton Pottery Coal outcrop were quarried from a seam about one foot (0.3 m) thick. The different clays, red, yellow and white, fireclay and a fine pipeclay were all suitable for brick, tile and pottery manufacture.[1]

Wares


Butler probably used the local clay to make course domestic pottery. Fineware was probably produced by the 1760s and creamware in the 1770s. Bingley and Wood pottery included teapots at 5d each, cream coloured chamber pots at 8d and courseware ones at 2d and some were sent to Wentworth Woodhouse. Greens, Bingley & Co expanded the range making among other items, printed wares, Tuscan teapots, enamelled plates along with courseware and chimney pipes. The Swinton and Leeds catalogues were identical. [7]

Rhinoceros Vase in Clifton Park Museum
Source: Wikimedia Commons

From about 1785 Swinton specialised in creamware dipped in a brown glaze which became known as “Rockingham Ware”. It was copied elsewhere but never equalled. After the Brameld family took control in 1806 the pieces were marked. The pottery made distinctive Cadogan teapots in green or brown glaze. Creamware was in continual production, some hand-painted but most transfer printed.[8] Most pieces were marked “BRAMELD”.

Serious production of Rockingham porcelain began at the works in 1826. The company employed artists from Derby and Staffordshire and the quality was very high. The early porcelain wares were often in a flamboyant rococo style and skilfully gilded.[9]

Items were made to demonstrate the manufacturing and artistic skills of the potters including giant vases. The Rhinoceros Vase now displayed in Clifton Park Museum in Rotherham was claimed to be the largest porcelain item fired in one piece in England. It weighs more than 50 kilograms (110 lbs) and is }convert|1.2|m}} high. It is decorated with painted enamel panels and raised oak leaves and acorns with burnished and chased gilding. A similar vase in the Victoria and Albert Museum is ovoid in form, 96 centimetres (38 in) high and 45 centimetres (18 in) in diameter. Designed by Thomas Brameld and painted by Edwin Steel, its decoration comprises groups of flowers surrounded by naturalistically modelled gilt acorns and oak leaves. Its handles take the form of gnarled branches; both vases have covers surmounted by a gilt rhinoceros, from which they take their name.[10][11]

Notes[+]

Citations



Bibliography


Clifton Park Museum Rotherham. “Rhinoceros Vase, Rockingham, Swinton.” A History of the World, 2014, https://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/objects/U98o6-arTr6HWn4-9M5iGQ.
Historic England. “Rockingham Kiln Blackamoor Road.” National Historic List for England, 2022, https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1314614.
Historic England. “Swinton Pottery (The Rockingham Works), 310m and 120m North West of Keeper’s Cottage.” National Heritage List for England, 2022, https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1020067.
Lawrence, Heather. Yorkshire Pots and Potteries. David & Charles, 1974.
V&A. “Rhinoceros Vase.” Victoria and Albert Museum, https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O8090/rhinoceros-vase-vase-and-cover-steele-edwin/.