Barrowfield pottery was founded in 1866 by Henry Kennedy, an Irish native, in the Camlachie district of the east of Glasgow, close to Campbellfield and Mount Blue potteries – attractive to potters due to the Camlachie clay beds. Arnold Fleming claims that Kennedy was trained at Caledonian pottery, Garngadhill, and the census records that Kennedy and his wife were living in nearby Glebe Street in 1861. Fortunately, an extensive article in the Mercantile Age in May 1880 provides a detailed account of the pottery’s development.
It seems that Kennedy started out with just the one kiln but by 1871 was employing forty men and six boys and such was the success of the enterprise that by the time of the visit by Mercantile Age in 1880, no less than eight kilns were in operation and a year later one hundred and eighteen were recorded as employed.
Stoneware bottle production was a mainstay of the pottery and “1,539 dozen” were being turned out daily with other wares, including 30-gallon containers, being produced elsewhere on the premises. With so many kilns in operation, six hundred saggars were required every week but, unlike some potteries, these were made on the premises from Garnkirk and Glenboig fireclays.
At the time of the 1880 visit 4,000 gross of bottles were ready for dispatch. A large store of willow was also maintained to meet requests for basketed ware. Pottery production on this scale always presented a high risk of fire and Barrowfield was no exception. In April 1884 heat from a kiln set fire to the roof resulting in significant structural damage, the loss of unfinished ware alone amounting to £10,000 – a very substantial sum in 1884.
The pottery recovered from this reverse but then Henry Kennedy died in July 1890.
The terms of his will indicated that he and his sons John and Joseph were partners and this was reflected in a change of title in the 1891-92 Post Office Directory to Henry Kennedy & Sons.
Despite the growth of the business there was still space enough, however, to allow china, earthenware and glass retailers Daniel and John McDougall to commence production of their Nautilus ware there in 1894, the success of which allowed them to soon move to permanent quarters at the empty Saracen Pottery, Possil.
In around 1900 John Kennedy left to resurrect the liquidated Cleland Pottery and although Barrowfield remained listed as Henry Kennedy & Sons, brother Joseph was in control.
In 1911 Henry Kennedy & Sons Ltd was formed, two of the four directors being the Kennedy brothers. The pottery’s growth to this point was reflected in the eighteen kilns shown on the 1898 Glasgow insurance map, the largest pot bank in Scotland.
However, the disruption of the First World War and the combined effects of subsequent economic depression, US prohibition, hygiene regulations and competition from alternative materials posed severe challenges for stoneware potteries in the post-war years as they competed with each other for diminishing markets. Competitors such as Eagle and Caledonian Potteries fell by the wayside and finally Barrowfield closed in 1929.
Utilitarian stoneware, including whisky flasks and flagons, jam jars, ink wells, bottles etc.
Later, they experimented with agate ware in blue, white, brown and grey. Yellow kitchen ware and brown teapots titled ‘Delaware’. Tobacco and snuff jars.
Wares were produced for the domestic and export markets, with South American being a large market.
Barrowfield stoneware can be found throughout the world, such was their longevity and abundant production.
Articles in SPHR
Typical Backstamps & Marks
Delaware (Rare, Teapot), Henry Kennedy, Henry Kennedy & Sons (with or without “Ltd”)
- “Delaware” is the only known pattern mark
Other Publications & Links
The Society is grateful to Denis Ayers for his contributions to the information and sources provided here.