Note that this article was
originally written in 1968 by Mrs. P. Reeks.
last remaining Verwood pottery finished producing pots in
1952 for economic reasons. This, the Cross Roads Pottery had
now become the site of the Verwood Heathland Heritage
Centre. This picture shows pots being
dried at the rear of the premises in the 1930's.
It is possible that this pottery came into being in
the days of the Romans. Salisbury
records show that in the third and fourth centuries yellow
clay was taken, from Verwood for use in the Roman New Forest
potteries. The Verwood pottery's early history is uncertain
but it is thought that it was re-established in the twelfth
or thirteenth centuries.
The present, owners of the pottery worked in the
pottery glazing, and stacking the kiln during the last few
years of production. By 1968 the last two
potters; Mr. Bailey and Mr. Meshech Sims were dead, but in
1967 their assistant Mr. Len Rims was able to explained the
The picture of the
Cross roads pottery, shows the kiln being unloaded in
the 1930's. The men are understood to to be from left to
right; Mr. Jim Scammel, Mr. Brewer, Mr Len Sims, Mr. Mesheck
Sims and Mr. Bert Bailey.
Much of the clay dug in the village was yellow,
this was mixed with blue clay brought from Holwell by horse and
cart. In latter years the clay was brought in
from Corfe Mullen and was
blue-grey. The yellow clay was used for flower
pots as it was porous; the b1ue clay was used for pitchers
because of its strength. Mixed together the clay
was used for various pots.
When the clay arrived at the pottery it was left to
soak in water for two or three days in a brick pit about ten
feet square, set in the floor of a room adjoining the
workroom. Before the clay was removed from the
pit a hole was dug in the clay and the surplus water dipped
out. The clay was then dug out and put in a
heap, where it was turned with a spade, which had to be
washed frequently with water. Eight or nine
hundredweight of clay was then taken into the workroom to be
wedged. Sand was thrown on the floor, the clay put on this,
and then Mr. Sims began to tread the clay with his bare
feet. When trodden it was then rolled up and
more sand put down. The clay was wedged in this manner three
time and took one and a half to two hours.
Pieces of clay were then cut and weighed, a certain
weight for a certain sized pot. The scales had odd pieces of
old iron as weights and the sizes of the pieces of clay
ranged from two to three ounces for an egg cup to thirty
four to thirty five pounds for a bread an. The clay was then
wedged by hand ready for throwing.
Two people were
needed to throw a pot, one threw the pot while the other man
manipulated the wheel to the speed required by the
potter. The complete harmony of both was essential and
after experience, this was obtained without a word being
spoken. The picture shows Mr. Herbert
Bailey (known as Bert) finishing a pot with Mr. Harold
Churchill operating the hand-driven wheel.
There were two wheels which at one time were worked
all day long, ten men being employed. The older
and larger wheel was mechanically very simple. An assistant
sat at one side holding the long, rough pole which was
connected to a crankshaft, directly attached, to the wheel
head. By pushing the pole backwards and forwards
the wheel was turned.
The second wheel was smaller and an assistant was
required to turn a handle. This was connected to
the cog wheels and chain of an old bicycle set in a heavy
Both these wheels were used for many years, the
potters preferring them to the electric wheel installed
during the latter years.
When a large 'breadcrock'
had been thrown and cut from the wheel it was lifted by two
men, one on either side of the wheel supporting the sides
with their arms.
The drying was done either outside in the sun in
summer, or on sanded boards inside placed in the rafters or
the workroom. Peat was burned on the workroom floor at
night to aid the drying.
The pots were then raw-glazed, very few being
completely glazed. Most were glazed only inside;
jugs were partly glazed outside. In earlier years salt glaze
was used but during latter years powdered galena was sent
. The galena was mixed with water and applied with a large
brush. This was allowed to dry completely before
firing, which operation took place only every four to six
weeks, depending on weather conditions, the kiln being in
The circular kiln was built in a large earth mound
and the kiln chamber resembled a well made of
bricks. The firing chamber was under the well
and had one fire mouth. The floor of the well was perforated
to allow the flames through to the pots.
The kiln was stacked from the top, the operator
climbing down a ladder inside and receiving the pots from
another operator outside. As the pots were usually glazed
only on the inside, smaller ones could be stacked upside
down inside larger ones. Thus little kiln space
was wasted. The pots were stacked on top of one another to
the top of the kiln, which was then covered with sherds.
The fuel used was wood, and firing took up to three
days and nights beginning with a small fire and gradually
building it up to get more heat. During this time the fire
needed constant attention and towards the end of the firing
faggots and gorse were put on to clear the fire and flux the
glaze (flashing). No aids were used to determine
the kiln temperature, this being determined-by the skill and
experience- of the potter. When the. required
temperature was reached certain bricks in the side of the
kiln were watched carefully until they attained a recognised
redness of heat, or until the sherds at the top of the kiln
became coated yellow. One pot was then removed with a piece
of iron with a hook on the. end, for testing.
The kiln was then cooled gradually by blocking up
the entrance to the firing chamber, leaving a very small
hole. When the fire had been let out the kiln was left for
two or three days to cool before it was emptied.
The wood firing brought out the natural red and
green markings. The pots were seldom decorated, although
sometimes a stamp was used, pressed into the pot after
throwing. The stamps were set on a dock wheel mounted on a
handle, which was placed against the pot revolving on the
wheel. The revolving pot turned the clock wheel and the
stamp was repeated round the pot.
The breadcrocks and pitchers were traditionally
Verwood pots. Some other pots made were :- cups,
candle sticks, vases, bird baths, flower pots, money
bottles, ornamental pots, milk jugs, sugar bowls,
casseroles, chamber pots, wash basins and jugs and perfumed
bricks. These bricks were approximately two inches long, one
inch wide and three quarters of an inch deep, and were sent
to a Broadstone perfumery to be perfumed.
Many years ago Verwood potters was exported from
Poole to the continent. In about 1914 twelve of the Verwood
potteries were forced to close partly due to the war and
also to the fact that enamel ware was then on the market at
a reasonable price and was unbreakable.
The remaining pottery is now part of Verwood's
history. It became a tea room and then a hardware store and
has now become the Verwood Heritage Centre.
Apart from treasured pieces of Verwood pottery in the older
folk's homes the last of the pots are now in the Red
and at Salisbury
Museum. The electric kiln used in latter
years was sold to the Godshill Pottery and the electric
wheel was collected by two monks for use at the Prinknash
Pottery. One of the original wheels remains and can
still be seen on the premises.
Copyright © P