Pottery making at Plymouth was revived in February 1925 with the initiative of Mr. J.H. Ellis, Chairman of The Plymouth and Stonehouse Gas Light and Coke Company of Coxside. The Gas Company wanted to promote the use of cleaner gas fired kilns, so organised an exhibition with pottery making demonstrated by Mrs Shuffey of Chelsea, London and her two daughters to encourage the production of pottery in the town. Later the Gas Company established a pottery workshop with a kiln situated in premises they owned at the corner of Gas House Lane, Coxside, Plymouth. Pottery made there had a promotional “Plymouth Gas Fired” mark impressed on the base of the pot.
In August 1926 Pottery and Glass Record reported that experienced Staffordshire potters (the Gees) had leased the site and they started producing pottery from clay dug there and fired by gas kilns. This was The Plymouth Pottery Co. Ltd established by H.J. Gee, H.J. Gee Jnr. A. Yeo and H.E. Turner. They planned to have a gas fired pottery on the Gas Company’s old site in Thistle Park Road and initially nothing came of it, although it was eventually reported that 6 persons were employed there.
The Plymouth Week Official Guide in 1927 (July 9th), gave tribute to the Gas Board Chairman and the Principle of the School of Art, Richard Barker A.R.C.A. for the production of pottery including those items with local interest designs such as the Mayflower and the Pelican pilgrim ships. There was also mention of several different styles of pottery being made including some using a mixture of two clays and others using different glazes and colours. It would seem at this time that the pottery remained under the guidance of the school of Art with benevolent help of the Gas Company in the hope that a strong business would grow from it. Certainly the six people reported working there possibly included two part-time students. A traveller was also obtaining orders for place named motto ware pottery. Some of this motto ware is unmarked although in some cases may be attributed by an incised shape number. At some time later it was said that pottery production was moved out of the Gas Company premises to nearby Sutton Road.
However late in 1927 the Art School principal remarked that there was no doubt that the facilities existed in Plymouth for making pottery and that a factory would undoubtedly be an asset for the town. Some of the PGF pottery designs are similar to pottery made by Forster & Hunt at Honiton and Hart & Moist at Exeter so it is possible that various transient potters worked there for a short time, also the quality of marked PGF pottery is varied and some items made were not marked, but can be attributed by unique design features or letter and numeral base marks.
It is thought that some fine art wares with blue birds in blossom were made initially but these are unmarked. However marked examples decorated with wading birds or fish are known and these are signed by two students. Mostly the pots made were small runs of motto wares decorated with Scandy sailing boat or cottage designs being often marked with place names. Some designs that are unique to PGF can be seen below. The making of pottery in Plymouth had some difficulty in surviving despite help from the gas company and ceased making decorated wares, it is thought, sometime shortly after 1929.
Little is known about the workers of this Plymouth pottery, although art pottery is known in blue with sgraffito decoration also marked with the initials CT or C.T.W.T. or FWJH incised on the base. These belong to Cyril Toms and Frederick Hawken who worked at the pottery in the morning and either studied or worked at the Plymouth Art School in the afternoon.
Pottery marks and backstamps with dates and more information for 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’.
Based on initial research by Reg Score 1990, with further research by Keith Poole 2012
PLYMOUTH GAS FIRED POTTERY – DETAILS FOR COLLECTORS:
Clay Body; Mottowares, fine ginger brown clay with tiny black flecks. Art pottery clay seems darker, possible due to a blue glaze residue being left on the base. Plain domestic wares possibly in white clay.
Formation; Wheel thrown, press moulded or jollied.
Bases; Mottowares bases are usually recessed, but may also be flat or concave.
Marks; Impressed ‘Plymouth Gas Fired’ on two lines and possibly with incised shape number numerals. If prefix by a C or S this indicats it’s a cream jug or sugar bowl of a tea set.
Handles; Usually extruded with square cut ends.
Decoration; Brown clay slip coated with sgraffito and slip painting, or sgraffito illustration on plain ground.
Patterns; Mottowares with slip and sgraffito decoration of Cottages, Scandy, Ship/boat, Cockerels, Seagulls or with dots and brush strokes. Art wares with slip and sgraffito decoration of Abstract patterns, Birds, Fish. Sgraffito only designs of Fish, Widecombe Fair Characters, or boats on a plain coloured background.
Lettering; Usually thin and controlled with open characters, but can also be hurried and thicker. Most has been done by the same worker but there appears to have been at least on other writer.
Special: Mayflower or Pelican commemoratives, St. Agnes Lighthouse Scilly Isle Cresset souvenir. Widecombe Fair and Silchester souvenirs.
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