Auld Kirk Pottery

Auld Kirk Prestonpans, Bowl, inscribed Caper Fet
Auld Kirk ? Prestonpans, Bowl


This pottery was established in 1750 near the old kirk at the east end of Prestonpans by a partnership of William Cadell, Samuel Garbett, and Cadell’s nephew of the same name who was also manager. Although not a partner the prominent chemist Dr John Roebuck provided significant technical input. William Cadell’s son, John, was employed as manager of the works from around 1762 and his nephew left in 1764 to start a pottery at nearby Bankfoot while retaining his quarter share of the partnership. By this time Cadell, Garbett and Roebuck’s attention and energies had been diverted to the establishment of the massive Carron Ironworks by Falkirk and John was left in sole charge of the pottery, an arrangement that continued after Cadell’s death in 1777 with brother William looking after affairs at Carron. Cadell’s nephew had taken legal action to recover his quarter share, although it wasn’t until 1785 that his widow received payment. 

By 1791 around forty men and thirty boys were employed and sales were healthy but the legal reverse and other factors resulted in John and William leasing the pottery in 1796 to William Anderson & Co, a partnership of John Fowler, a local brewer and David Thomson and William Anderson, both of whom brought wide experience gained working at the pottery under the Cadells. After Anderson retired in 1811 it became David Thomson & Co. Thomson died in 1817 and Fowler entered into a new partnership with Hamilton Watson, a former manager of Gordon’s Pottery, Bankfoot. 

In 1819 the business became known as Watson’s Pottery and thereafter continued in operation until after the bankruptcy of Hamilton Watson in 1838 consequent upon his inability to make payment of the 1837-38 rent to William Cadell’s Trustees, probably closing for good in 1839.

Main Products

The first few years of production seem to have been limited to tortoise-shell ware.

From 1755 the range was expanded to include white stoneware alongside tortoise-shell but by 1774 both had been replaced by creamware and whiteware. Later production by Cadell appears to have been predominantly creamware which was exported widely throughout Europe, Russia and the United States. Some transfer
ware had been made. 

During the Anderson period it is known that creamware was supplied widely all over the east of Scotland with a few deliveries elsewhere. The export trade to Europe was lost following the outbreak of war with France. The production of transferware was expanded. Brown, black and marble wares were made using local clays and this continued under Thomson. 

Slip and Mocha wares are recorded and also lustre. 

The final period under Watson was particularly noted for good quality transferware, often featuring topographical and literary themes.


1762, William Cadell and his son John, as manager, Before 1770, customs records show the export of stoneware and later, mentions cream coloured wares.

An advertisement in 1762’s Edinburgh Evening Courant by William Cadell, potter in Prestonpans, carries adverts for “all sorts of black and tortoise-shell ware, gilded and plain”.

An inventory and sale of copper plates from the works in 1796 list 10 copper plates as having been sold, which proves that transfer-printed wares were being produced in the Cadell period. 

Articles in SPHR

Articles in Bulletin (Members only)

Typical Backstamps & Marks

Most of the output from Auld Kirk was unmarked.
Small impressed marks (like a flower) are noted by G. Haggarty and sgraffito marks are known. A significant amount of ware from the final period under Watson carried impressed or transfer-printed Watson or Watson & Co. marks.

Pattern Names

Subsequent to the sequestration of Watson in 1838 an inventory of the goods at the pottery was made, included in which were no less than two hundred and forty-eight copper plates used for transfer-printing in approximately twenty named patterns although, possibly with the exception of ‘Gondola’, these may be descriptions rather than formal titles:

Filigree Pattern
Roslyn Castle
Dark Bird & Fly
Poisson Font
Juvenile Sports
Oriental Tablature

Edinburgh View
Jug Plates
Lace Border
New France
“Filling up patterns”
“Odd plates”

Other Publications & Links


Our enormous thanks to Denis Ayers, for his work in producing this overview.


One of a set of eight Scottish ‘Royal’ pattern creamware plates and a platter (HD 76.013) decorated with an underglaze dark brown transfer print of an urn in the center well; and an overglaze, hand-painted reddish-brown band of swags with ribbons and tassels around the scrolled-edged rim which is bordered with another reddish-brown band. According to George R. Haggarty, the City of Edinburgh Museum has three similar plates (two on view, HH 5764/1&2/96), which, according to an note written by Anne Mocket’s grandaughter, Evelyn M. Deas which came with the plates, are part of a service reputedly presented by William Cadell (who built the pottery in Prestonpans adjacent to Auld Kirk in 1750) to his ward, Anne Mocket, when she married James Cunningham on the 3rd August 1792 in Aberlady.

That note also describes the set descending through the widow of James Howden to Margaret Black of Oakbank in 1899; M Black was the cousin of Evelyn M. Seas(?). This plate has a small piece of tape on the back inscribed in pencil: “Server Bowl / ? Howden May / 1899 ? M Black / Oakbank ?”

According to the original data card, these plates and platter were bought from a Maine dealer in 1976. The three Edinburgh Museum plates are decorated in the same neo-classical style with borders of chocolate brown swags and small central bat-printed urns, which Haggarty describes as having poorly painted borders, one with a double band around the rim and the other a single, and both bat prints slightly off center. That same erratic quality of decoration is evident on these HD plates and platter; the potting is also uneven. One of the Edinburgh plates has a small impressed mark (like a flower) on the back; three of these HD plates have a similar impression on the back: HD 74.014, 74.014A, and 74.014B