The brownware pottery at Bridgeness in the town, existed from 1766.
The South Pottery started in 1784 and the North Pottery (on the other side of the road) started in 1787. All three sites constitute what has come to be known as The Bo’ness Pottery.
Dr. John Roebuck, who took over the South Pottery in 1787 created The North Pottery in the same year. The original owner of the Brownware pottery is unknown but Thomas Cowan took over the lease in 1795.
Managers: Dr. John Roebuck, John Roebuck (son of Dr.), Thomas Cowan, James Cuming. James Jamieson and James Shaw plus other Jamieson and Shaw family members while other children achieved their majority culminating in the formation of James Jamieson & Co around 1827.
The firm appears to have prospered through the 1830’s but in the 1840’s several of the major players in the pottery died and young James Jamieson was unable to refinance the business and it was put up for sale in 1847. The sale did not go ahead and the business carried on somehow until young James died in 1854 aged just 27.
After the sale in the same year, John Marshall, a corn merchant and brother-in-law of James, became the owner of the pottery. At the 1861 census, 149 people were employed at the pottery up from 106 ten years previously. In 1867, John Marshall brought his brother-in-law William McNay into the business as a partner.
John Marshall died in 1879 and William in 1880. Charles W. McNay took charge of the pottery after this. This situation continued until 1887 when C.W.McNay left the pottery after a series of disputes with the Marshall Family Trustees. John Marshall Jnr ran the pottery bringing his brother James Marshall in as manager in 1891. The pottery was put up for sale the same year but the sale did not take place.
In 1895 the brothers decided to form a limited company John Marshall and Company Limited to raise capital but this failed and in 1898 the company opted for voluntary liquidation.
A sale of assets took place in 1899
In the very early years unmarked brownware or redware was made.
From the Jamieson period onwards transfer printed wares were produced in large quantities the most famous pattern being Bosphorus.
A series of transfer printed ware called ‘Modern Athens’ featuring views of Edinburgh was also produced in the Jamieson period. It is finely potted and is found on dinner ware.
During the Marshall period a vast range of earthenware was produced, almost 70 pattern names have been recorded against just over 20 for the Jamieson period. Examples of Marshall’s ware can be found all over the world. A series called ‘Canadian Sports’ was created from illustrations on Christmas cards sent home by ex-pats. Examples of this ware are highly prized in Canada.
Commemorative pieces displaying the great events and personalities of the Victorian Age featured largely as well as utilitarian ware for everyday use.
A great deal of spongeware was produced never marked and so-called chimney ornaments of dogs, cats and parrots.
Markets : It has been noted from Custom Accounts in the Roebuck period that European markets were found for his wares as well as more local trade. Some of the patterns produced in the Jamieson period such as Australia, California, Rajah as well as Bosphorus point to broader horizons but little is known of the market spread in that beyond Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom.
The railways came to the town in 1861 and with the expansion of steamship travel this boosted trade enormously. At one point it was reported that a floor of a stock room collapsed taking with it fighting cock ornaments for India. At the sale of plant and machinery in 1899 copper plates were sold, some cut for the American market. Coupled with the production for Canada, Marshall probably traded furthest from home of all the Bo’ness Potteries
Articles in SPHR
Articles in Bulletin (Members only)
Typical Backstamps & Marks
J Jamieson & Co, JJ&Co, Marshall
- Duke & Duchess of York
- Florentine Villas
- Free Trade
- Grecian Scenery
- H M Stanley
- Horse Shoe
- Indian Groups
- International Exhibition Edinburgh 1886
- I’se Biggest
- Loch Winnoch
- Modern Athens
- Oyster Catcher
- Peace Triumphant
- Prince of Wales
- Queen Victoria and Hawking
- Rose and Vine
- Royal Vase
- Swiss Scenery
- Triumphal Car
- The Turk
- Wild Rose
Other Publications & Links
It is no wonder that the town of Bo’ness sustained a pottery industry for almost two hundred years. The town had the advantages of abundant coal and clay. It also possessed a good harbour. The early owners grasped at any opportunity to test out new technology and make money.
Potteries in those days were unhealthy places and wages were no doubt low but from around 40 workers employed at the end of the 18 th century the town’s pot works boasted in excess of 350 at the end of the next century, before falling back to just over 100 by the time the last works closed in 1958.