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The Harwood family and the Clarence Potteries

The Harwood family and the Clarence Potteries

This is the story of three generations of the Harwood family and the Clarence Potteries, to begin the tale we will we will deal first with their connection with the Stafford pottery in South Stockton, or Thornaby as it is today.

William Smith, a builder, founded the Stafford pottery situated between Thornaby road and the river in 1825 with a clay pitt in close proximitry for the manufacture of brown ware. However shortly afterwards he decided to branch out into making the more saleable white ware by importing the specialist clay from the West country. Then he went headhunting in Stoke on Trent and  engaged, and ultimately took into partnership  Mr John Whalley,  a potter of considerable skill to carry out the work. The company changed ownership over the years but went on producing some very good pottery up until 1904.

By the late 1826 William Smith & Company were selling more white ware than brown ware  as a consequence the brown ware pottery on the same site was let to other interested parties, and this is where the Harwood family enters the picture. The London Gazette gives us the first clue when it tells us in 1831 the Partnership between Peter Harwood, of Cornforth, in the Parish of Bishop Middleham, in the County of Durham, and Thomas Harwood, of Thornaby, in the Parish of Stainton, in the County of York, Brown Earthenware manufacturers, carried on at the Stafford Pottery, in the Township of Thornaby aforesaid, was dissolved on the 10th day of August instant by mutual consent.

Peter and Mary Harwood’s son, Thomas, was born in Coxhoe in 1804. Peter was the proprietor of the Cornforth Pottery, Coxhoe although in 1808 an advert in the York Herald offered the Pottery to let, I presume no suitable tenants were found as Peter Harwood along with his son Thomas were still described as earth ware manufacturers in that location in 1828. So between then and 1832 the family moved to South Stockton where presumably Thomas managed, with his father’s backing to lease, or purchase sufficient land and buildings to begin a pottery operation on his own account. Thomas is mentioned in an abstract of title to free hold hereditaments and premises known as “The Stafford Pottery” dated 4th March 1903 detailing lists of ownership, in his case warehouses, kilns and other buildings in 1860, twelve years later on the same document in 1872 he is described as the late Thomas Harwood Brown ware Pottery.

An interesting reference in a book on English Brown stone ware published in an 1834 notes Thomas Harwood of the Stafford Pottery paying £4 8s 9d in the Whitby collecting area as duty, which helps in confirming the time and place they were manufacturing their pottery.

1836 seems to have been quite a momentous year for Thomas. There was an almost crippling strike at the Stafford Pottery lasting just under six months, what effect it had on his operation is yet to be discovered but there is bound to have been some detrimental fall out, and as a consequence he must have started planning the development of the business on an alternative site. The other big event was his marriage to Ursula Gray in Nunnington, Yorkshire on the 15th of August of that year. This was followed by the birth of their first son, Peter, named after Thomas’s father in 1838. Followed by John in 1839, Thomas William in 1841 & James in 1843 which was the same year their Grandfather Peter died.

1843 also produced a local newspaper story in the February of that year, of a dreadful hurricane. The winds came from the North-West which caused considerable damage helped by the Tees inundating the lower part of South Stockton. A large chimney 100 feet high was blown down at the South Stockton Pottery, the property of Messrs. Smith & Co. Along with a chimney at the Clarence Pottery between Stockton and Norton which shared the same fate. In addition at the Clarence Pottery a gable end and roof were blown down and two men were buried underneath the rubble, one of them managed to escape with a few bruises but the other named as David Lighter was severely injured.

The consensus of most authorities is that the original Clarence Pottery site opened in about 1837. It was situated in the Mount Pleasant area of Norton, near Lark Hall Square/ Brown Jug pub area producing rudimentary brown ware from their own clay pits initially of not a very high quality although it seemed to improve over the years. In an article held by Stockton Reference library it states the land for Pottery had been leased from a local brick-maker, William Fox. Although the waters are muddied slightly by a land purchased from Thomas Fox and Wilson Ward as stated in Peter Harwood’s will made out on the 26th of May 1841 in which he states. The “Piece of ground lately purchased by me of Thomas Fox & Wilson Ward and the Messuage or Dwelling house lately erected and built thereon …..” (Thomas Fox was a Spirit Merchant and father of John Henry Fox of the Fox Almshouses in Norton, Wilson Ward was an Innkeeper and father-in-law to be of one of Peter’s grandsons, John).

In about 1849 the Clarence Pottery expanded to another site further up Norton Bank to the rear of Norton Grove just south east of Prospect Place, the original site became known as the Old Clarence Pottery.  Peter Harwood left his wife, Mary, a life time interest in the properties in addition to a life time interest “in my share and interest in the stock in trade good utensils used in the business of pottery manufacture now carried on in the joint name of me and my son Thomas Harwood.” After Mary’s demise in the back end of 1847 Thomas inherited almost the entire estate valued for probate purposes as £450.00. It’s often quite complicated to calculate the worth of an estate in today’s terms however if one scaled it up in terms of economic power it would come in at about £1417, 000.

thomas-family-graveThomas’s family grave stone found in St Mary’s Churchyard in Norton makes some interesting reading in that both his wives were buried with him and although not unique it’s fairly rare. His first wife died in 1846, she was born as Ursula Gray and was christened and married in Nunnington, Yorkshire. Her parents were John & Ursula Gray. His second wife was Sarah Gray christened in Nunnington, again her parents were called John & Ursula Gray. After Ursula died in 1846 Sarah turns up in the 1851 census in Thomas’s household described as his sister and housekeeper but a few months later they married in St Pancras, London. In other words Thomas married his sister-in-law, now you may say so what?  Well at that time it was illegal to do so. In the 1560 it was included in the list of the Church of England forbidden marriages, bearing in mind at that time Henry VIII had previously married his late brother’s wife and then changed his mind when he wanted to marry Anne Boleyn . So this could have been a sop to Henry rather that a rational judgement. One could still, to a certain extent, marry a sister-in-law, however the 1835 Marriage Act completely prohibited the act of marriage between brother & sister-in-law in the British Isles and colonies and it continued inforce till 1907. This suggests that Thomas certainly did not mind taking risks in life.

In 1853 a donation to the Stockton Mechanics Bazaar gives us a clue of the type of products they manufactured at that time which included ornamental flower pots and scent jars as well as a very useful quantity of brown ware

Entrees in an 1861 trade directory recorded Thomas Hardwood manufacturer of Brown Earthenware, Clarence Pottery Norton, & Peter and John Harwood Manufacturers of Brown Earthenware, South Stockton & Norton.

In the 1860’s several acres of land on the opposite site of Norton Road stretching down between Salisbury Road and Lustrum Beck, owned by the now, widowed, Ann Brantingham (who had inherited the farm from her late husband, Joshua)  came up for sale and were purchased by the Potteries for clay extraction. They dug two clay pits- one for each pottery, after the clay was dug out of the pits it was loaded into four wheel tubs and pushed across Norton Road to the works.

On the 7th Sep 1869 Indenture/partnership deeds spanning twenty-one year between three of the Harwood brothers, Peter, John & James, were drawn up with the opportunity to drop out in seven, fourteen or twenty one years were signed.

In the 1871 census the remaining brother Thomas William was described as a nearly blind organist, with later Censuses stating he was blind living off an annuitant. The same 1871 Census tells us that Thomas Harwood senior employed 97 men 59 women and 30 boys.  One authority stated that the Harwoods leased the land from a local brick maker and commented that Peter and James Harwood were able to buy the land in 1869, although we have been unable to verify this information elsewhere. It is probable the Harwood brothers were now running the operation; however a notice in the London Gazette of July 1871 reveals a bit more on the relationship between them. It states that the partnership between Peter, John and James carrying on the business of Earthenware manufactures under the style or firm of Harwood brothers at the old Clarence Pottery and the South Stockton Brown Potteries was dissolved by mutual consent, John leaving the partnership.

Things didn’t always go as planned at the potteries. In the February of 1874, a Mathew Leithland was summoned by Messieurs Harwood Brothers for neglect to fulfil an agreement to that firm, in other words breach of contract. It seems that Mathew had worked for them for quite a long time as an Earthenware Drawer, (or a person who controls the temperature of a kiln which was quite a skilled job in those days) handed in his notice to leave their employment. He was persuaded to sign a year’s written contract but he only stayed in their employment for a month or so before taking up work for a Sunderland company. He stated in a letter to them that he had signed an earlier contract with the Sunderland employer so was unable to continue his contract with them. The Harwoods then claimed ten pounds compensation and wanted to make Mathew fulfil his contract with them. The Bench directed the defendant to fulfil the contract and pay forty pounds compensation. He was unable to do this and was threatened with imprisonment. The Harwoods stated they did not want the man to go to prison as he had always been very respectable, however the bench stated the decision must stand.


July of 1876 saw the death of their Father, Thomas; the will was proven in Durham on the 9th of September by George Metcalfe Watson, Solicitor, and George Pearson Walton, Commercial Traveller, both of Stockton. On Probate the estate was valued at under £18,000. On the 12th October 1876 the Yorkshire Post carried an advertisement stating that in Pursuance of the trust of the will of Thomas Harwood the Clarence Pottery would be put up for auction on the 14th of September of that year unless sold by earlier private treaty, any further particulars were to be provided by George Pearson Walton.  A large proportion of Thomas’s real estate holdings of just less than a dozen different properties were left to his eldest son, Peter, along with Grove Villa, a house and gardens near the Clarence potteries in Norton to be given to his blind son, Thomas William. Most of the residue of his estate was to be shared equally between sons, Peter, James, and John and had to be sold within seven years. In addition an annuity of one hundred pounds per annum and a lump sum of five hundred pounds were to be left to his wife, Sarah, and to be passed on to Peter’s daughter following her demise.

On the 11th day of September, (three days before the planned auction was to start) a notice was published in the London Gazette. It was issued to ‘all creditors and other persons having any claims or demands upon or against the estate of Thomas Harwood, late of Grove Villa, in the parish of Norton, in the County of Durham, Earthenware Manufacturer, deceased are required to send the particulars of such claims and demands  before the 30th day of November next, after which time all assets of the said Thomas Harwood shall be distributed amongst the parties entitled thereto, having regard to the claims of which notice shall then have been given’.

Then on the second of February 1877 another notice appeared in the London Gazette which said… ‘Pursuant to an order of the High Court of Justice Chancellery Division in the matter of the estate of Thomas Harwood in a cause of Frederick Edward Harwood and others, all respectively infants, by William Noakes Barton, their next friend against George Metcalfe Watson and George Pearson Walton dated the twenty second of January 1877’ and that all claims had to be presented to the Vice-Chancellor Sir James Bacon at his Chamber at Lincoln’s Inn by the thirteenth of July 1877.

This meant that James’s father-in-law, William Noakes Barton, an accountant specialising to some extent in bankruptcies, decided to put a claim in on behalf of his grandchildren, Frederick Edward Harwood and at least two others, due (we suspect) to help provide for them after their sickly father’s demise. However James out lived him, as Barton died on the 10th of July 1877 just before the case was about to be heard. James did not last much longer, as he followed his father-in-law to the grave a few months later on the 19th of October 1877 aged thirty-four. Barton’s probate came out as just below £1000 so there was enough money to keep the case going. James left about £200 to provide for his family although there would have been more money to come on the settlement of his father’s will.

On the 15th of March 1877 there followed a legal notice in the Standard Newspaper of the Chancellery Division Rolls-Court:-Harwood’s Estate in Harwood V Watson” which led to an enforced sale notice in the London Gazette of July 1877. It stated that in the matter of the estate of Thomas Harwood in a cause of Harwood V Watson where the Vice Chancellor, Sir Charles Hall, orders the sale of certain premises known as the Clarence Potteries with the land and seams of clay, situated at Norton in four lots together with the several kilns, warehouses, workshops, and storehouses, pug mill, flint mill, offices, and stabling, engine, boiler, plant, machinery, and fixtures, in and upon and used for the purposes of the pottery works, also the goodwill of the business as a going concern. The stock-in-trade and tools were to be taken by the purchaser at a price to be fixed by two valuers; also several closes of grass or meadow land in the parish of Norton, estimated at eleven and a half acres, on the west side of and having a frontage to the road leading from-Stockton to Norton. The whole of the hereditaments are of the property of Thomas Harwood, the testator at the Queens Hotel on the 11th of July 1877.

The sale took place on the 19th of October 1877 with the property knocked down to James Eddy and John McKinley (at one time part of the firm Eddy, McKinley and Gilchrist, Public Accountants of 96 High St Stockton on Tees, although in the years before the sale James Eddy seemed to have turned into an estate agent) it was then sold on. Peter Harwood was very disappointed with the sale price and especially due to the intervention of the court he was not allowed to put a reserve price on the auction. So he served a notice on the Agents for the sale stating that he objected to the sale on the grounds of fraud and further objected to the valuation of the plant on the grounds that the accessors were not acquainted with the business. He did not get very far with this- possibly because the accessors were Ainsworth & Walker who were local pottery manufacturers.

It’s interesting to note the pottery based in South Stockton (that James ran with his brother Peter under the name of Harwood Brothers until James retirement in the August of 1871) was purchased by Ambrose Walker in the September of 1878 who by that time owned the rest of the Stafford Pottery. It was not listed in the auction sale notice so presumably had been owned by Peter outright. Peter bought an annuity and went into retirement as a widower living with his step-mother/ Aunt Sarah until 1882 when he passed away. Sarah followed two years later in 1884.

The Standard Newspaper tells us there were at least three more appearances in front of a judge after James’s demise until on the 25th of January 1896 when the Banister’s settlement Petition went in front of Justice Keswick in Harwood V Watson. We are not sure who Banister was, and what was in the settlement but sufficient to say after three meetings in that same year with Mr Rome, the Clerk of the Court, there were no more notices of the case in the newspapers. In the end it had taken nineteen years to settle the case. Thomas William Harwood (the blind brother who did not enter the Pottery business) died on the 22nd of July 1896 a month after the settlement leaving £142 12s 6d. It’s not known whether this had any significance to the case.

In the February of 1878 following the sale of the Potteries they were incorporated as Clarence Potteries Company Limited with a capital of £25,000 in £100 shares which were used to fund the purchase of the Clarence Potteries in Norton and the right to use the name Harwood for all manufactured goods. The initial directors were listed as: – James Eddy, Stockton on Tees, earthenware manufacturer: John McKinley, South Stockton, Merchant; J J Smith, Middlesboro’; John Barker, Stockton on Tees, Jas Mackinlay accountant: Peter Graham, Stockton on Tees, commercial traveller, Henry Crawford Watson, Stockton on Tees, accountant, one share each. The number of directors had to be between three and seven. Each director had to own at least ten shares each and they were entitled to receive not less than £200 per annum and no more than ten percent of the profits. An Evening Gazette article published in 1968 tells us the main shareholders had been the Foster family from Darlington and Peter Graham became the managing director until 1927 when he was succeeded by H Clark. It seems the last Harwood associated with the pottery was John Harwood who describes himself as an Earthenware Manufacturer on the 1881 Census

1881 seems to have been an interesting year for John whose daughter, Hannah Ursula married Robert James Lithgo, an architect, almost twenty years her senior by special license.  John who had been a widower for just over a year married a widow, Marie Jane Milburn in the same year, also by special license. One can only speculate over the reasoning of these actions bearing in mind the acquisition of special licenses were mentioned in the two separate newspaper marriage announcements. Marie outlasted John by a good number of years and remarried another widower George William Barker in 1905

In the August of 1883 The Northern Echo published a commentary quoting a Pottery Gazette article explaining that the Cleveland and South Durham district did not have as much militancy as the Stafford manufacturers. They were able to charge lower prices due to the lower wages they gave to their employees and that the brown-ware makers such as Mr John Harwood and Mr J W Watson are well supplied with orders. The latter having recently entered the trade on the occupation of the Brown-ware site in South Stockton.

In the September of 1884 four of John’s employees were charged with stealing half-a-dozen jugs valued at 9 shillings. They admitted that they had taken them and had then gone on a drinking spree with the money. They were fined 40s or threatened with a month’s imprisonment. That is the last Newspaper reference to John as an employer at the Old Clarence Pottery.

On the 26th of June 1885, an advert in the Northern Echo stated a large stock of Garden Pots were always on hand at C. H. Maxwell’s, late John Harwood, Old Clarence Pottery. This indicated that a Charles Henry Maxwell had purchased the Old Clarence Pottery site as this is the earliest reference to him regarding the Pottery we can find. The advertisement was last placed in the December of that same year.

Maxwell had an interesting and variable career, as a commercial clerk in 1871, a Pawnbroker in 1881, and the landlord of the Grey Horse Hotel, Stockton High Street in 1891. He died in 1894 leaving £1912 11s 6s. Whether any earthenware products were produced under his ownership is difficult to determine however he auctioned off a number of lots in the June of 1888. These consisted of a valuable lot of Saggers and rings, various sizes for two kilns, six dozen moulds, various sizes of mixing tubs, sieves, about 3000 feet of shelving, potter’s tools, two very useful rollers, sack barrow, ladders, and grind stones and remainder of stock consisting of 30 dozen garden pots, three dozen forcing pots, 30 dozen garden pot stands, 5 dozen sixteen inch garden plant pot, 5 dozen twelve inch plant pot, 50 dozen eight inch plant pots, 20 dozen fire bricks, four dozen drain pipes, 3 light chandeliers, two gas brackets, two long gas rails, with five pendants each  and a lot of sundries

The 1891 census describes John Harwood as a retired pottery manager living with his wife Maria at Cambridge Terrace in Norton where in 1895 he passed away leaving £72 13s 7d to Maria.


The Clarence Pottery Ltd then seems to have gone up market, in so much that they appeared to have concentrated on producing domestic pottery and most, but not all, of the Clarence pottery on display in various museums looks like it came from that era. They kept going till the early 1930s when the same fate hit them as a lot of other firms which was the products could be manufactured more cheaply abroad.

We have deliberately not drawn conclusions on some issues in this tale as there is not enough evidence to do so; however it is certain Thomas Harwood was of a most determined character as is illustrated by the nature of his second marriage, so presumably when he made his will out he must have made his mind up how he wished to distribute his wealth and “let the devil take the hindmost,” which led in turn to a lot of his wealth benefitting others rather than his own. The Harwood family business provided local employment for well over one hundred years, initially for a male population although employing more women and young people as the male employees drifted to the heaver industries which developed over the years.

References:, family search, electronic additions of historic newspaper, Teesside Archives, Tees Archaeology, Stockton Reference Library local Pottery files, Preston Park Museum, Coxhoe local history Group, Durham University Archives, and Cleveland family History Society.

Image Source: 

Welsh Tray manufacture by the Clarence Pottery 1849-1877 sold mainly to butchery trade. (Ref Preston Park Museum collection)

Hand inscribe Pot produced late 19th century (Ref Preston Park Museum collection)

The Harwood family and the Clarence Potteries was kindly submitted by Bryan & Vicky Cooper.

Years of Interest