POTTER ABOUT HORNSEA
Heritage on the High Street
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Pottery Poetry by Mary Aherne
The Artisan Garden
Welcome, visitors, to Hornsea’s Pocket Garden,
little haven of tranquillity on Newbegin.
Take your time and, most importantly, look down,
explore the bricked floor beneath your feet.
What are these shapes and symbols, these shards? Repeating
rows of flowers and leaf motifs compete
with staring fish-eyes, scores of vertical lines.
This is no ordinary garden. It has designs
on you; asks you to contemplate the world of calcined
kaolin, of moulds; the chore of sponging and fettling,
and just how jolly was the job of jiggering and jolleying?
To imagine the Pottery worker’s day, feathering
contrasting coloured bands of slip on clay.
4 Victoria Avenue
An old Victorian terrace near the sea front,
that’s where it started. Two brothers modelling
plaster-of-Paris ‘fancies’ in the scullery to sell
as souvenirs to Hornsea’s rising tide of tourists.
It’s 1949, and everyone’s still reeling, dealing
with the aftermath of war: CC41 utility clothing,
power cuts, meals of spam and snoek,
fresh meat rations down to 10d a week.
Bombed out and bankrupt – not
the most auspicious time to start a pottery.
A second-hand kiln, size of a biscuit tin,
was installed in the coal store and when fired
it melted the butter in the adjoining pantry.
Now they were cooking, working with clay.
Soon posy troughs, pink elephants, clogs,
Tommy Twaddle and Sam Thatcher Toby jugs
filled the shelves in the old wash-house.
Colin modelled while Desmond delivered
these quirky bits and bobs in his old banger.
Those early days recorded in black and white:
serious men in overalls shaping moulds,
a young chap who cycled every day
from Beverley kept busy mixing clay
by hand in an old tin bucket. Listen!
You can almost hear the purr of the Catterson
Smith, white-hot heart of the Hornsea Pottery.
Sprayers, Jolleyers, Spongers and Fettlers
Sprayers, jolleyers, spongers and fettlers recall
the glory days when pottery put Hornsea
on the map. Geoff the jolleyer made between
three and five thousand mugs a day.
Tony the mould maker earned a fiver a week,
12/6 more that he got delivering groceries
for the Co-op. May loved spraying the fauna,
and then the Elegance. Sprayed a gold leaf
on some special ashtrays for Hull Brewery.
Herbert’s first job was on the biscuit kiln
and ‘the girls’ were busy sponging and fettling.
John drove the kids round in the minibus
while Joan led tours, sold seconds
in the factory shop. All of Lydia’s family
worked there – Mum and Dad and sister Ruth.
Dad pulled pints in the ‘Good Companions’ club;
Mum had her own plate-making machine.
What Lydia loved was jolleying, while friend
Jean stuck handles on the mugs hour after hour
all day long with spits of slip and a little brush.
Went like clockwork. You had to be quick.
Below is a poem written by Hornsea School and Language Student, Quinlan Gillespie, about the Pottery:
In a dark brown box a forgotten treasure lies in the murky cellar,
Trying to find a new light to quench the darkness,
Looking for a friend to help out with its burden
And reminiscing the height of its life
At the beginning, the crown jewel of a extremely large collection,
The famous Israelite Statue the only one of its kind
No one could tell what terrors were to unfold
The crash of the business, the debt and the depression
A dreamer looking to the future
Because it knows that it’s going to reclaim its former glory
This is why I tell this story
To help the fantasy become reality.