New Hall Pottery Co., Ltd., Hanley
further information on the original "New Hall Works"
NOTE: This article which follows originally appeared in a 1956 book 'British Potters and Pottery Today', is based mainly upon accounts provided mainly by the firms themselves.
In the late eighteenth century New Hall made ceramic history as the first pottery in Staffordshire to manufacture porcelain successfully. A previous attempt at Longton Hall had ended in failure in 1760. About 1780 a syndicate of Staffordshire's potters purchased Cookworthy's patent from Richard Champion, and under the latter's guidance settled at New Hall to make porcelain.
John Turner, famous in the annals of pottery, Potter to the Prince of Wales, was a founder member of the company by whom Shelton Hall (New Hall) was acquired. This company was Hollins, Warburton and Co. and it was they who acquired Champion's patent and began to make porcelain. This, the second effort to establish the manufacture of porcelain in Staffordshire was successful, and marked the beginning of the Staffordshire porcelain industry.
John Turner died in 1787, but the joint stock company continued until 1835, when it was wound up. Even after that the works, under various owners, continued in operation and so persisted until, in 1900, the present company was formed and took them over.
When the New Hall Pottery Co. was founded in that year they took over also the business of Plant and Gilmore, who had been tenants of Shelton (New) Hall since 1892. Thus the company of today is sited on already historic ground. The business owed its origin to Robert Audley, who, at the age of forty, with no experience, became a Master Potter. The present flourishing firm is evidence that his courageous venture was crowned with success.
'Turnover' was his yardstick from the first; and, in 1913 (when King George V and Queen Mary visited the Potteries) it was authoritatively asserted that 'the Company is known all over the world as the largest manufacturers of cheap toilet sets and jugs.' In 1908 the Company produced and sold more than 50,000 toilet sets of the Waverley shape alone.
An extensive reconstruction scheme was entered upon and before the first World War the factory had been equipped with a new potters' shop and biscuit warehouse as well as two new biscuit ovens. These were followed in the early war days by modern kilns, which took the place of the old four-mouthed kilns of earlier days.
The war over another sweeping reconstruction took place, for an important part of the factory had been burnt down and left in ruins for lack of building material. At this period Shelton Hall was still standing. It was now demolished and replaced by a well-designed three storied building designed to house the packing department, the glost drawing warehouse and decorating shops. Three old intermittent glost ovens were replaced by a recuperative and regenerative chamber kiln of 23 chambers. At the time when this was lit off (1921) there was probably no other factory in Staffordshire doing its glazing by gas. It is still in use. (It should be explained, perhaps, that in this 250 ft. long kiln the fire moves through the stationary wares, whereas in modern tunnel kilns bogeys carry the stacked wares through stationary firing zones).
After the war Robert Audley took into partnership his two sons-in-law – Albert Cook and Harold Clive. The latter was an expert potter and a man of foresight. He realized that the demand for toilet sets was being killed by the growing popularity of fixed lavatory basins and that milk and beer bottles were supplanting jugs for certain everyday uses. He therefore turned his attention to dinner and hotel wares.
The economic situation during the decade 1926-1936 was one of peculiar difficulty and anxiety for all the potteries, including New Hall. There was no coal and no work for months at one period. Mr G. E. Stringer, Chairman and Director, to whose published account we arc indebted for much information, has summarised the situation in the following words: 'This year (1926) hastened, if it did not entail, the financial crisis of 1931, when our customers could not place their orders owing to a lessened demand and mounting stocks. The ordinary channels of trade were moreover being diverted into shops called chain stores with an immense capacity to sell a cup and its saucer for three-pence – tuppence for the cup and its handle and a penny for the saucer.... In order to sell something, men pretended to give away something else, and the so-called gift scheme affected every trade – silver, glass, leather and particularly pottery. The quantities required by these schemes were fantastic and in 1936 New Hall purchased the New Pearl Pottery to enlarge its capacity'.
During the second War New Hall, though it remained in production, voluntarily closed its decorating departments and became a chief source of supply to the various ministries concerned with the supply to the armed forces. In the years immediately following, production gradually swung back into its customary lines for the home market, while the overseas trade was, by 1948, in excess of anything achieved before.
Since the war a certain amount of reconstruction of out-of-date workshops resulted in improved conditions. The factory has been repowered and relit and many new machines have been installed for the benefit of the firm and employees.
Today, in the many excellent new patterns and the consistently high quality of the New Hall productions, is embodied the testimony that the company at the present time is worthily upholding the traditions which have been associated with Shelton Hall (New Hall) for so many industrious generations.
NOTE: This article which originally appeared in a 1956 book 'British Potters and Pottery Today', is based mainly upon accounts provided mainly by the firms themselves.
Questions, comments, contributions? email: Steve Birks