Headed invoice from Woodlesford Art Pottery.

Woodlesford and Swillington Bridge Potteries. By Simon Bulmer.
(From the Leeds History Journal and Rothwell Record)

Woodlesford Pottery.

The pottery was located at the bottom of Pottery Lane on the track leading to the canal. In the early years the pottery manufactured coarse earthenware. There were kilns, sheds, stoves, drying houses, drying ground, workshops and wharf on the site. It is unclear however just when Woodlesford pottery was established. A number of potters lived in the Woodlesford and Oulton areas in the later part of the 18th century. 

The first documentary evidence for it existence was in 1819 but it can be assumed that it existed prior to this date. Charles Collins the owner became insolvent in 1819 relinquishing his lease of the pottery to Joseph Wilks. By 1821 Wilks had become the owner as he secured a mortgaged on the pottery of £300 (approx £30,000) and was trading as ‘Wilks & Co’ by 1823.

By 1830 a John Clark was documented as being the tenant. It is likely that around 1831 Woodlesford pottery was referred as Blackware Pottery, which seems to have been renamed after it was extended. On the death of Joseph Wilks in 1832 the property was sold to Thomas Clark, butcher with John Clark still the tenant. 

Jardiniere by Woodlesford Art Pottery.

Thomas Wildblood and his son Thomas Jr took over the pottery in 1837, manufacturing the same type of wares under the name ‘Wildblood & Co’.  Thomas Jr continued at the pottery after his death of his father in 1842. The pottery continued under the name ‘Brunt & Co’ until it became bankrupt in 1846.  

By 1849 James Shackleton, Benjamin Taylor and William Gibson had bought the pottery, which was still producing coarse earthenware goods. Also at this time the partners ran the Leathley Lane pottery at Hunslet. Benjamin Taylor ran the Woodlesford site but traded as ‘Shackleton, Taylor & Co’.

Benjamin Taylor was recorded as the sole trader by 1861 where he remained until the1870’s. By 1881 Horn Brothers had taken over pottery. They too also ran a second pottery the ‘Australian Pottery’ at Ferrybridge. By 1888 Hewitt & Jenkinson have taken over the pottery and traded as such for a number of years.  

James Senior acquired the pottery in 1892. Using workmen from the ‘Leeds Art Pottery’ in Hunslet he traded as ‘Woodlesford Art Pottery’. The end finally came for the pottery in 1895 when it ceased trading after nearly 100 years.

The early days of the pottery it produced coarse and black earthenware goods all were unmarked and therefore very difficult if not impossible to distinguish from other local potteries. By the mid 1800’s it was producing fine enamelled and transfer printed wares to stone bottles, saltglazed stoneware and tiles.Advertisements of the period show that they had a variety of patterns for 100 china tea and coffee services. Later on it produced decorative wares under the name of ‘Woodlesford Art Pottery’ including vases, Jardinières, plant pots and tiles most of which were marked.

Leeds Intelligencer, 20 August 1842.

August 11. Much respected by a large circle of friends and relatives, 
after a long and painful illness, borne with Christian fortitude 
and resignation, in the 63rd year of his age, Mr. Thomas Wildblood, 
of the Black Ware Pottery, Woodlesford. 

The deceased had been a member of the Wesleyan Methodist Society 
48 years, 30 of which he bad been a zealous and active leader. 

Leeds Mercury, 5 October 1864.

At the West Riding Court, Leeds yesterday, Margaret Hobson, of Garforth, 
was charged with bigamy. The first marriage took place about twenty years ago, 
at the Stockton Parish Church, and at that time the defendant and her intended 
were living at Middlesbro’. 

The legal husband, John Hobson, is at present employed at the Woodlesford 
Pottery. From some cause the defendant left her husband’s roof but had 
returned, and had lived with him within the last five years. 

On the 2nd June, 1862, the defendant was again married at the Leeds Parish 
Church, to a man named George Dixon, a collier, of Garforth. 
Defendant was committed for trial at the Leeds Assizes. 

Swillington Bridge couple.

Swillington Bridge Pottery. 

The pottery was situated on the bank of the River Aire just next to Swillington Bridge where in more recent times Leeds University used to have its boat club. 

The pottery was built around 1791 almost certainly by William Taylor who had worked at Rothwell and Castleford potteries. He became bankrupt in 1795 and the pottery was taken over by William Butterill and Richard Rhodes trading as ‘Butterill & Co’. A notice in the Leeds Intelligencer on 3 June, 1799 gives the name of two other partners – Joseph Garritt and Samuel Rainforth, both of Woodlesford. The notice said that by mutual consent, on 4 April 1799, Rainforth left the partnership with the others declaring to carry on the business and honour all its debts. A witness to the agreement was Benjamin Holroyd, and it stated that Rhodes was “of Idle, in the Parish of Calverley.” All of them were described as “potters”.

By 1807 the Leeds Mercury reported that the pottery was now in the hands of ‘James Clarkson & Co’. It changed hands again in 1810 becoming ‘John Hindle & Co’ but by 1814 the land owner William Wilks transferred ownership of the site to his son William Wilks Jr. It then traded as ‘Hordhirst and Greasebath’. By this time the site comprised of a dwelling house, pottery, limekilns, a wharf, eight cottages and five acres of land.

By 1817 the tenant was recorded as being William Wildblood trading as ‘Wildblood & Co’. It is likely that this is the same company who ran the Woodlesford pottery under the same trading name some 20 years later in 1837.  

Swillington Bridge pottery as shown on a survey of the Aire and Calder Navigation in 1821. The Lowther Arms Inn is also marked on the other side of the river.

By 1833 James Reed and Benjamin Taylor has taken over Swillington Bridge pottery and trading as ‘Reed & Taylor.’ They also ran the ‘Mexborough and Ferrybridge’ potteries. 

The pottery site was sold in December 1838 to Sir William Lowther of Swillington and the partnership of ‘Reed and Taylor’ was dissolved in the 1840’s, however Benjamin Taylor continued production on the site with his son Samuel trading as ‘Messrs Taylor’. By 1843 the cottages were occupied by men working for ‘Messrs Wildblood’ who ran Woodlesford Pottery. In 1845 a premises survey indicated that it was the former site of Swillington Bridge pottery therefore implying that it no longer existed as a manufacturing pottery.

Swillington Bridge. Large Platter. 1830s.

The wares produced by Swillington were creamwares, pearlwear, transfer printed brown and blue Chinese landscape dishes and plates, Willow pattern, kitchen ware decorated with slipware and mocha designed mugs. Large examples of loving cups were also manufactured with inscriptions of Eshaldwell Brewery, probably produced as advertisement items for local pubs. Most of the latter products had various identifying marks and were therefore much easier to identify than Woodlesford and Rothwell potteries.

Leeds Intelligencer, 26 April 1845
MESSRS T. and W. HARDWICK beg to announce that they have received Instructions to SELL BY AUCTION, upon the Premises, at Swillington Pottery,
Swillington Bridge, on Thursday next, the lst Day of May, 1845,
Consisting of Bricks; Timber; Stones; Slates; Windows;
Doors; Window Sills, & etc; forming the Biscuit Kiln;
Painting and Printing Shop; Racking Shed; and Dwelling House,
which will be Sold in Lots.
Sale to commence at Twelve o’Clock.

19th century map showing Woodlesford and Swillington Bridge potteries.

From Yorkshire Potteries, Pots and Potters by Oxley Grabham, Keeper of the York Museum. Published in 1916. 

I have, unfortunately, not been able to ascertain when this pottery was first started. It was working in 1845 under the firm of Gibson and Shackleton. Then Benjamin Taylor had it, and the last proprietors were Messrs. Hewitt and Jenkinson. It closed down as an eathenware pottery in 1891 but was worked as a fine art pottery for two or three years later. There were three kilns, but only common household ware, such as pots, dinner services, etc., were made. No marks were used, except the names of the patterns on the back of some of the pieces, such as ” Willow,” ” Eton College,” etc. 
We have a sauce-boat of this ware, for which, along with the information given above, I am indebted to Mr. Benjamin Walker, of 10 Church Street, Woodlesford, who worked at the pottery for about thirty years, starting in 1857, at the age of fourteen. 


Situated in a field adjoining the river Aire and the bridge which spans the same, very little is known about this pottery. The 1845 Survey marks a pottery of black ware near Swillington Bridge. It is said to have been closed owing to the smoke from the fires blowing across the Lowther’s park. Large trees now grow over part of the site, and very few people know that a pottery ever existed here. Specimens of this ware are very rare. We have the only marked piece that I have ever seen. It was most kindly presented to us by Mr. J. R. Kidson, of 116 Albion Street, Leeds. It is a round plaque, with figures in relief in colours, and incised on the back, “John Wildblood, Swillington Bridge Pottery, July 12th, 1831.” Mr. Thomas Boynton has a big jug but it is unmarked, and Mr. A. Hurst has a large two-handled loving cup, also not marked, with this inscription on it, between two lines of painted flowers:

” Eshaldwell Brewery is known very well
For brewing good ale none it can excel
Pay off your old scores and order again
For I’m sure of the ale you cannot complain.”

Bentley’s “loving cup” made at the Swillington Bridge pottery.