Bilston and Bradley Potteries
Frank Sharmanpage 3
John Bacon, Prince of Potters
Ivor Noel Hume has produced a neat explanation of these dates and names. He suggests that Bew leased the pottery from the Myatt family, sometime before 1845, who took it back when Bew gave up the lease early in 1851.
Noel can also fill in much important information for this period. He now has in his possession two jugs, the information on and from which he has, with the assistance of much further research, been able to interpret.
The actual potter of these two jugs was one John Bacon: he signed them. The suggestion is that Bew was primarily a chemist, not a potter. He took the lease of the pottery as a going concern. It is possible that John Bacon, who was born in Normanton, Derbyshire, had served his apprenticeship under Benjamin Myatt and was a practising potter when Bew took over. Bew put Bacon in charge and he remained in charge until some time before 1860 when he was married in Nuneaton, Warwickshire. (In the 1881 census he was still living and described as "Potter (Earth Mfr)" suggesting that he had set up on his own account, perhaps on his marriage and move to Nuneaton).
Noel has analysed the details of these mugs and has identified the people for whom they were made. This interesting information will appear in his article in Ceramics in America in 2005.
There is a third item to mention. This is a mug held by the Ashmolean Museum, who had received it as "perhaps Fulham, Mortlake or Lambeth" but later attributed it to Bristol. Noel's analysis of the details of this mug have lead to the Ashmolean's accepting that it was Bilston made by John Bacon.
Noel reminds us that "There can be no doubt that between the years 1842 and 1849 John Bacon produced much else at the Bradley Pottery that was unmarked and still unidentified".
Of Bacon's 1842 jug Noel says the work was "a highly accomplished creation both in its shaping and in the evenness of its firing". His conclusion on the identified works as a whole is that: "Both the grandeur of the dated jugs and the quality of the Cockayne mug strongly suggest that Bacon's run-of-the-kiln output was the equal of anything then being made by the competitors at Mortlake, Lambeth, Fulham or Bristol while his best ennobles him as a prince among potters".
Since this page first appeared on this site Ivor Noel Hue has published an excellent and beautifully illustrated article on John Bacon: Ivor Noel Hume, John Bacon, Prince of Potters, in Ceramics in America 2005, The Chipstone Foundation, 2005, at pp. 20 - 36.