Dartmouth Pottery jug with orange peel type surface and unusual decoration

Dartmouth Pottery jug with orange peel type surface and unusual decoration

There is Dartmouth Pottery Study Group on Facebook that aims to further the knowledge of Dartmouth Pottery history, the products, the staff and pottery workers before it is forgotten. For anyone interested (especially pottery workers) please use this link to the Dartmouth Pottery Study Group and request to join:  www.facebook.com/groups/387866154628843/


The Dartmouth Pottery was formed by Howard Koppenhagen in 1948 (production started in 1949) on a picturesque site at Warfleet on the west bank of the River Dart. In the early days they made some art wares and unusual items by contracts from other potteries unable to for-fill orders they had. Then for the returning tourist market they made motto tableware including tea plates, cups and saucers plus jugs at that time potteries when other potteries were limited in the use of colours (except for export items) for decorating, due to wartime restrictions still in place. Therefore much pottery of this period sold in Britain was decorated only in combinations of brown, amber, white or made from a blue dyed clay. However it would seem Dartmouth Pottery was better placed and had fewer problems using colour and were able to do colour decorated work for other potteries at this time. In 1949 the Dartmouth Pottery recruited Harry Crute who had worked in the Torquay potteries for many years and was responsible for bringing well known designs to the Dartmouth. These included designs such as motto wares, polka dots, seagulls, fish patterns and variety of scroll and sgraffito work.

In the first few years of production the decorators at Dartmouth were allowed some leeway to develop new designs these involved some simple slip scroll work to more elaborate paintings. Other unusual items were made possibly for business friends of Howard Koppenhagen while the pottery was working up from scratch and Howard was establishing the costings of pottery orders. Then they moved strongly into souvenir ware and the moulded items like flower vases and similar. Hand decorated work ceased in the 1960’s.

In the mid 50’s Dartmouth produced a fish shaped water jug which they called the Gurgling Jug which always caused attention. Early Jugs were made in either white clay or finished in a green glaze. Later in the production line other colours were used varying from deep blue, red and dark brown. Special gurgling jugs were by modelled by Leo Lewis for the Queen and Prince Philip to celebrate their visit to the Britannia Naval College in 1958. Many hundreds of the gurgling jugs were made to promote a variety of alcoholic drinks even though it was just to add water. Read on for more different periods of Dartmouth Pottery

Pottery marks and backstamps with dates made of this pottery as well as over 250 other Torquay, Devon and West Country potteries can be found in the TPCS Marks Book see ‘Products for Sale’

The Early Years c1949-1960

The Middle Years c1960-1980

The Later Years c1980-2002

The Early Years c1949-1960

A new pottery at Dartmouth started to be set up late in 1948 by Howard Koppenhagen the owner of the large old three-storied stone-built mill building previously used to manufacture cleaning products. The Dartmouth Pottery was not formally established or full production commenced until the autumn of 1949 although adverts saying ‘Overseas enquiries invited for limited amounts of Devon ware’ had appeared in March that year.

Howard a business man  visited Stoke on Trent prior to setting up a new pottery business with W. Miller and A. Harvey as co-directors. He advertised in the Stoke area for pottery workers in addition to those he employed locally. On the creative side of the workforce was Heather Marsh as decorator, Tonia Evetts as artist, Peter Eddy as decorator and young Peter Priddoe initially as artist who later worked all round the pottery. Shortly after the pottery opened John Carnell a thrower who had worked at Honiton was taken on at the recommendation of Charles Collard. An early employee in was the Art Department Manager Harry Crute, a very experienced local potter and artist. Harry had been the owner of the earlier potteries Lemon & Crute and the Daison Art Pottery, he had also worked for the Watcombe Pottery. Early in 1950 came Leo Lewis an artist modeller who made an important contribution to the early success of the business with coronation souvenir and sporting mug mould designs amongst others. Also that year Jenny McLeod and Deirdre Wood started as decorators, and then in 1951 Patricia Rowcroft a qualified ceramic artist from Liverpool was taken on.

Early products were brown clay pottery with simple cream slip patterns under an amber glaze moulded designs on brown or blue dyed moulded items with white slip on relief designs like the sporting tankards and Widecombe Fair souvenirs as due to wartime restriction still in place colour decorated pottery was only for export. Dartmouth obtained overseas orders for a number of items previously made by defunct potteries and in so doing was able to obtain and use colours prior to the restrictions being lifted resulting in some interesting art wares being produced in a style similar to those made earlier at the Honiton pottery. From very early on traditional Torquay pottery was produced, with cottage, seagull and polka dot souvenir wares made in abundance as well as some interesting fish and seaweed designs using the traditional mocha technique.

Of interest to Breweriana collectors would be the various gurgle jugs, knight figures and jugs made for the Black Friars Distillery to promote Plymouth Gin. See Collecting Themes -Breweriana.

A small amount of thrown pottery marked with the early impressed mark was produced by John Carnell in Honiton pottery shapes prior to the 1950’s before Dartmouth began to produce large number of brown or white slip moulded wares mostly with a deep green of brown glaze. Tall vases decorated with shape numbers 234 (the Princess vase) were advertised in Aug 1958. Also in that same year Dartmouth acquired premises in nearby Townstal to open up as a new business Britannia Designs. Initially moulded white wares were cast there and taken back to Dartmouth for firing also pottery made at Dartmouth was transferred to Townstal for decorating and some of this was marked Britannia Designs. It would have been about this time that the famous gurgle fish jug and other novelty items like the Old Mother Hubbard house and pixie money boxes were first produced.

Between 1954 and 1960 some 200 different numbered moulded shapes were made in particular flower arranging vases, planters and similar items as this was a popular pastime of the period. Also made were both useful and novelty items such as pig, owl and elf money boxes, a sitting poodle, a tall Siamese cat, fish dishes and frog and fish opened mouth ashtrays.

From initial research by R. Score. References: Dartmouth Pottery – A collectors guide, by Virginia Brisco and published by TPCS; Dartmouth and the South Devon Potteries, by Matt White and published by Crowood; Marks of Dartmouth Pottery & Britannia Designs by Keith Poole & Matt White.

For anybody interested in the history of the pottery building visit:  http://www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/en-387399-dartmouth-pottery-dartmouth-devon/photos

For Dartmouth Museum, who have linked to this page, please click on:  www.dartmouthmuseum.org

Please click on a photograph to view, then click on it again to return to this page.

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The Middle Years c1960-1980

After the sudden death of  Howard Koppenhagen and family in late 1955, his partner Richard Harvey carried on the business until it was sold in 1963 to G J M Hunt and Arthur Davies and in the early 1960’s Alan Brough an established potter worked there briefly as a designer. Harry Crute retired sometime in the early 1960’s and  Leo Lewis left in about 1964, a Mr Balkham replaced Leo Lewis to do the design and model making for the moulds. Later in 1966 Alan Cooper was employed becoming the long serving Pottery Manager. Hunt & Davis sold the business in 1969 to a local man Mr Cole who in 1980 sold out to Samuel Heath & Sons.

The pottery continued to produce the gurgle fish jugs first made in the late 1950’s in multi colours and these continued to be popular up until the business closed, although after 1966 only plain coloured ones were produced. The hand decorated polka dot, seagull and cottage wares continued to be made up until about 1965. The range of slip cast vases and bowls for popular flower arranging continued with mould numbers recorded up to 301, with a few numbers known in the 500 and 800 range. The interesting novelties were expanded like the Dartmouth Ferry tug boat, including the very collectable owl, cat and Old Mother Hubbard Cottage money boxes, especially worth finding is the reclining pixie money box. Self adhesive labels were increasingly used so many items will be otherwise unmarked.

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The Later Years 1980-2002

In 1980 Samuel Heath & Sons of Birmingham a manufacturer of bathroom accessories purchased Dartmouth Pottery to expand its range of products.

Heath’s retained the existing staff and management and continued with much of the flower arranging vases and bowls etc, introducing a new range of pastel glaze colours. The ever popular gurgle jugs continued including new Royal commemorative vases, bowls and a gurgle jug for the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana in 1981.

Shortly after that time Elizabeth Crowley designed some bird vases and these had base numbers like D221, D223 etc., the prefix D (as were many other items) indicated that it was made or earlier designs re-introduced by Samuel Heath at Dartmouth,  with Jack Dadd’s Apple range of pottery designs being introduced in 1989.

By 1991 staff numbers was reported as being only 20 with the majority of work being mould made. In that year trading was helped much equipment and stock was purchased and transferred to Dartmouth from the slimmed down Honiton Pottery. It included machines like a RAM press and stock including Rowena ware, children’s tableware, sheep, owls & pigs, with various resin masters, and moulds. The Rainbow and Cloud ranges designed by Maryse Boxer were introduced at Dartmouth in 1993 with later designs from Maryse included the Clown range of tea and breakfast ware. Other designs in 1997 were Aegean by Robert Welch and Circa by Rayner Steel Designs. Later the Samuel Heath catalogue featured over 180 new or re-introduced pottery items with D prefixed numbered base marks , very few of these have yet to be seen on the second hand pottery market and may be scarce items. In the spring of 1999 Samuel Heath & Sons sold the pottery to Peter Slaney.

Peter Slaney soon developed the pottery into a tourist attraction for the many visitors to Dartmouth. The top floor of the building renovated to a high standard as a showroom come café and lower down there was a shop with much pottery to buy at special prices. On the ground floor there were glass fronted cabinets with a fine display of pottery made in past years. At that time as well as continuing with many of the existing ranges of pottery there was a new larger gurgle fish jugs hand decorated in colour and also larger cod fish gurgle jugs for the American market.

A range of slate blue Chanticleer cockerel ware designed by Alice Cotterell of Burleigh and described as ‘bone china’ was made for the Intercontinental Cooking and Tableware Company (ICTC) for sale in the Harrods departmental store in Oxford Street, London.

Dates of backstamps & marks for this pottery can be found the Torquay Pottery Mark Book. See Products for Sale.

From reference to ‘Dartmouth and the South Devon Potteries’ by Matt White and new research by Keith Poole.

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