Little is known of early pottery, but it is believed that the forming of clay into a pot shape - started around 6000BC, near the beginning of the Neolithic period. The first pots were made with rough coiling and were unfired in the modern sense - but were hardened under working conditions, in the cooking fire.

Around 3000BC, at the beginning of the Bronze Age, people had begun to use the slow wheel, i.e. a wooden disk which was turned; so aiding the shaping process and perhaps providing less walking for the Potter.

Then, around 2000BC, the fast wheel, (more like the wheels of today), first came into use; along with it came mass production - as it was possible to make quite a few pots, every hour – i.e. working on a treadle system.

Around the time of the Roman Empire, pottery started to be moulded and cast and the black clay was replaced with red clay.

 

The Phoenicians invented glass blowing and this became a serious rival in terms of drinking cups vessels etc.

Another major development was the Chinese discovery of porcelain around 700AD.  It was expensive to produce so the West Asian Potters invented lead glazes - to give an imitation of porcelain but cheaper and less onerous to create. Pottery developed in every country and in many different ways, with fantastic elaborate carvings or mouldings. Many new glazes were discovered with lavish gold and silver decoration.

Throughout history, pottery has been used to express people's social identity and status. Many of the designs were also taken from cloth, (it is interesting to note that the majority of the Poole Pottery designers started off, in the field of surface design, before joining the ceramics industry).

The most famous of the English Potteries is Josiah Wedgwood's founded in 1759. Josiah came from humble beginnings’- but went on to produce what is probably the most famous pottery in the world. During his time (1730-1795) he personally introduced Queensware (1762); Black Basalt (1768) and finally Jasper (1774).  Wedgewood, was also instrumental in the production of bone china. Wedgwood is still producing today at Barlaston, Stoke.

The Rise of Poole Pottery

Poole Pottery is part of the manufacturing legacy and industrial revolution, that created jobs and made the Town of Poole wealthy and thriving. As such it has always been "the one to watch".

 

Poole Pottery itself, has seen many changes over the years and today the majority of production is carried out by slip casting, (liquid clay poured into a mould), or jolleying production, (a shape is formed with a tool by pushing and turning). The finished goods are always hand crafted - with the painting being carried out by experienced, skilled painters and potters.

When Jessie Carter purchased the forerunner to Poole Pottery, (i.e. the tile company started by James Walker and the Architectural pottery company in Hamworthy), a large percentage of the production was in tiles and architectural ceramics. Jessie’s son, “Owen” had a friendship with the great artistic potter William de Morgan and developed reduced lustre glazes: this was the start of experimentation and innovation at Poole Pottery, which is still a trailblazer today.

In 1906, the pottery employed the thrower and decorator James Radley Young, who along with Lily Gilham, were encouraged to decorate with their own patterns and variations on basic designs. The early design were simple sprigs of flowers and banding and owed much to refugee potters such as Joseph Roelants and the influence of Roger Fry and Vanessa Bell and other Omega and Bloomsbury artists.

By the end of the first war under the name initially of Carter the products soon became known as “Poole”. Harold Stabler encouraged a young potter called John Adams to move from Stoke on Trent along with his wife Truda, (also a ceramics artist) and in 1921 a new company was formed - Carter Stabler and Adams - a subsidiary of the parent company. Truda set about designing a range of more elaborate patterns and with the help of other painters such as Ann Hatchard and Ruth Pavley - put Poole Pottery firmly on the map as a studio for the next 20 years. During this era following the war, there was a great euphoria and creative energy and many exhibitions were held in which the new range of products could be on display; it was a time that also saw a large expansion in production and the hiring of many new capable artists The designs grew more and more elaborate with wonderful new colours and great attention to even the smallest of details. One of the notable changes in this era was to move away from red clay to white in 1937 – which is still the basis of production today...

Whether it was an everyday dinner service or a one off piece for an anniversary the ceramic artists  skills knew no end and along with artists at the time such as Arthur Bradbury, (whose drawing were used for a series of intricately drawn ship chargers), the reputation of Poole, grew. The Second World War brought this to a halt, as no decorated production could be sold to the home market and only limited items were sent overseas. Poole Pottery produced mainly utilitarian wares during this period and plans for expansion were resignedly laid in storage.

Following WWII, the pottery had to take stock; Harold Stabler had died in 1945 and John Adams had retired in 1950, therefore Cyril Carter was now left at the helm; along with many talented artists he set about reconfiguring the design for a post war market visually into sprig’s, (simple and elaborate to speed up the amount of production). Wonderful designs such as the TR Grape Pattern or the Leaping Deer still continued to be in production, along with many new variations of popular table lamps. 

Following the retirement of John Adams in 1950. Lucien Myers took over as Managing Director; John had started a series of post war improvements to the pottery kilns and production equipment; Lucien set about the task of finding a new design director.

The first initiate was Claude Smale a former Royal College of Art student who, along with Ruth Pavely, designed the now very collectable Festival of Britain range, 1951. Nobody knows why Claude left after only six months; perhaps the strain of being a recent graduate and in at the deep end with all the complexity of modern-day pottery operations was overwhelming?  Poor Claude!

Following Claude’s departure Poole acquired the services of Alfred Burgess Read; born in 1898 Alfred had designed some kitchen tiles for Carter and Co, as far back as 1923 at the behest of his former teacher Harold Stabler, (of Carter Stabler and Adams). Alfred came from an industrial design background working at the famous lighting firm Troughton and Young and at only 27 had become a director. Alfred had a very hands-on approach and fascinated by their skill worked very closely with Ruth Pavely, (Senior Painter) and Guy Sydenham, Master Potter/Artist).

Alfred and Guy worked tirelessly to produce a new range of wonderful free flowing and bio-morphic shapes with elliptical mouths designed both for casting and traditional hand throwing.

 

To decorate these new designs along with the well-established Streamline tableware range Alfred Read and Ruth Pavely created an exciting range of hand painted and predominantly abstract patterns. These new ranges were first shown at the Tea Centre Regent Street early 1953; that same year, Poole Pottery reopened to the public.

By 1956 the range had grown to include the utility tableware, cruet sets, butter dishes etc. Experimental glazes and bold colours such as Black Panther, Lime Green and Red Indian complemented the freeform shapes and were sold both as solid and twin tone wares. Both the above were brought as mix and match with customers often buying several different colours to contrast alongside each other to make a display on their home sideboards.

Alfred’s daughter, Ann, Joined the company in 1951 having trained at Chelsea School of Art. Ann specialised in short run production plaques: of approx. 52 different designs in various plate and charger sizes between 1956-57. Ann also designed a pattern for production on tableware called Bamboo, laid onto the black panther glaze, one of the most stunning dinner services ever produced.

Despite the success of the period, Poole began to look to the future, on the 1st January 1958 - Robert Jefferson became the new resident designer and under his guidance Poole was able to maintain the momentum of the 1950s and move confidently into the 1960s…

Dolphins have been the mascot emblems of Poole for many years; and as if to celebrate this - Delphis, (Greek translation), reminds us of the fluid grace of the mammals movement. The later themes then took on other inspirations from nature, always finding the essence of movement and freedom. The very earliest Delphis pieces were all hand produced with the most intricate of carved patterns; [hence why Studio Poole, adopted the Dolphin as their logo].

As time moved on, – a standard range of shapes were produced by slip casting or press moulding, which became the mainstay of output: but the skill of the potter was not forgotten and many of the tall (sometimes referred to as umbrella stand), vases, were still made by the potters on the wheel, exhibiting the expertise required to produce exacting standards of height and width.

Next came the Aegean range introduced in 1970, (masterminded by Leslie Elsden the culmination of his career which spanned 50 years), this was a darker palette with sgraffito and silhouetted designs which took studio and production to a higher plane. Twenty-two standard shapes were utilized, and it was seen as a replacement for the earlier Delphis range.

Spurred on, with all eyes on Poole Pottery we next saw Aegean Atlantis, with its deep carving and one-off produced pieces, and the beautiful jewel-like Ionian, (only produced for a short time in 1974, as it was very labour intensive), which kept the reputation for innovation alive...

With Poole Pottery’s appointment of designer Robert Jefferson - this had the effect of not only bringing years of experience, but also a new sense of freedom to create individual pieces within the craft studio. Robert worked with the well-known thrower Guy Sydenham, who was a prolific ceramics artist. Sadly, Guy passed away in late 2005 and he is still remembered and sorely missed...

Potters and designers with such great names as - Harold and Phoebe Stabler, Truda Carter, John Adams, Alfred Read, Guy Sydenham, to name but a few - have all shown direction and innovation in Poole's own case. There is a Facebook page, run by Sue Smith,  (Poole Pottery Collectors Club), dedicated to all the past creative individuals that have contributed to Poole Pottery, some of these creatives, still live in Dorset, (probably), e.g. Karen Brown, Carol Cutler, Eddie Goodall, Jenny, Haigh, Charlotte Mellis, Janet Parker-Laird, Zdenka Ralph and we remember Christopher White who still works as a ceramic artist in Sweden, but really there are 100's of people, they need a reunion!

One of the most famous, little known contributors is Mr. Uri Geller; and this shows the power of Poole Pottery to draw everyone to want to “Have a Go” at creating their own masterpiece!

As with all businesses, the last 50 yrs have seen many changes to the way manufacturing is carried out; Potteries change location to consolidate resources which is understandable and inevitable. Poole Pottery moved to Stoke on Trent and we affectionately remember local Dorset Potter, Sean Flint, who moved with them.

Keeping the Legacy Alive

We are very proud to say that on the 1st March 2018, our flagship store, Studio Poole opened on the quayside, (opposite, the site of the soon to be demolished, Poole Pottery Retail store). This momentous day, signifying the strength of regard, to keep Poole Pottery in Poole, was celebrated by the then Poole Mayor, Sean Gabriel, his wife, Mrs Gabriel and the Deputy Mayor and the Poole Pottery Collectors Club Secretary, Sue Smith; in fact Master Potter Alan White will tell you, he is sitting at his wheel not 100 feet, from where he sat 52 yrs ago, as an apprentice potter which makes him smile! We have plans to move forward by looking back, at the wonderful work carried out at the old studio in the 1960s and 70s, where each piece was an individual achievement with no two pieces quite the same. We are lucky to offer the services of Lorna Whitmarsh, and Nikki Massarella and Jane Brewer, (Ceramic Artists). The design legacy lives on!

We were also, very lucky, to have the encouragement and energy of the now retired, Mr. Bill Pluck, Curator, Sales and Production Manager, (and did you know, amazing international Marathon Runner), for many years, who worked at Poole Pottery from the time he was only 16yrs.

The Company Director of Studio Poole, John Lejeune, is a past curator and concession at Poole Pottery with a long history of loving Poole Pottery - hence his email address, pottyaboutpoole!

Wow! Are you still reading this history? 

The final word, is that today, Studio Poole, on Dolphin Quays has the same Master Potter and Ceramic Artists who have worked on Poole Quay, (for over 100 yrs between them!) and they are still producing pottery with the same care and dedication that put Poole Pottery on the map; you can expect, with this level of quality - the heirlooms of tomorrow and affordable, world class luxury. Enjoy!