Bridgeness Pottery

Bridgeness, Dogs
Bridgeness, Dogs

Overview

Charles Wason McNay who had been managing partner in The Bo’ness Pottery decided to construct a new pottery in the Bridgeness district of the town. He had arrived in Bo’ness from Glasgow around1856 and had been a traveller with The Bo’ness Pottery during the Marshall period.

His brother William had been Managing Partner of Marshalls also. After William’s death in 1880 and JohnMarshall Snr’s death the previous year, tensions obviously developed between the Trustees of the Estate of John Marshall and the McNay family.

C.W.McNay decided to leave The Bo’ness Pottery in 1886 to establish his own business. He employed his nephew John McNay, (son of his brother George) to design and oversee the construction of the works. John was made manager on completion. In 1898, John moved to the newly formed West Lothian Pottery as Managing Director, he remained there until the pottery’s closure in 1929.

The Bridgeness works was called the Jubilee Works after Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee of 1887.

McNay was able to construct his pottery using the latest production techniques. Production probably started in that year. The official opening was in February of 1888. The McNay family continued their association with the works throughout its life until it finally closed in 1959.

Charles Wason McNay continued to run the works until his sons Josiah Cox McNay and Charles David McNay took over. C.W. died in 1913. Josiah, a bachelor, died in 1941. He was described as Senior Partner at that time. Charles continued to be involved as did his son Harry until the works closed

Main Products

The Bridgeness Pottery produced mostly transfer printed earthenware for ordinary domestic use. Spongeware also formed an important part of their output.

As with most potteries of the time, Commemorative pieces were created to mark, for example the Centenary of Robert Burn’s death in 1896 and the opening of the Forth Bridge in 1891.

During the 1939-45 war and immediately afterwards, only white ware was produced, to meet Government orders. In the 1950’s, vases, jugs and plates in modern shapes and bright colours were introduced. These were the brainchild of Horace Elsmore, a Staffordshire mould maker who had been enticed to Bo’ness in 1947.

Gradually the pottery declined and finally closed in 1959.

Typical Backstamps & Marks

“C W McNay”

Pattern Names

  • Aberdeen   
  • Aintree   
  • Asiatic Pheasant 
  • Autumn 
  • Bosphorus   
  • Broseley   
  • Burns   
  • Caledonia   
  • Carron 
  • Celtic 
  • Circus 
  • Commerce 
  • Dado   
  • Delph 
  • Drill   
  • Erin   
  • Fan 
  • Fearns 
  • Fiji
  • Forth Bridge 
  • Gem   
  • Glasgow International Exhibition 1888   
  • Grange   
  • Grecian   
  • Mavis   
  • May  
  • Paragon 
  • Royal   
  • Rustic   
  • Santa Claus  
  • Spray   
  • Star   
  • Summer   
  • Teck   
  • Troy   
  • York

A series of jugs were produced towards the end of the pottery’s existence, c1953, by a Staffordshire born mould maker named Horace Elsmore, who subsequently worked for Barbara Davidson in Larbert pottery. 

Known pattern names include:
Celtic (illustrated), Aintree, Scotia, Elite, Royal, Regent and Ascot.
The jugs were slip cast and spray painted, rather than glazed and bear no factory  mark, only the pattern name.  Some also have “MADE IN SCOTLAND” impressed.

Other Publications & Links

Other information

The McNay family were synonymous with pottery in Bo’ness for nearly 100 years and Harry McNay who latterly ran the works up to its closure continued to create his own pieces at Tantallon Ceramics in North Berwick. Horace Elsmore who was chief mould maker at the end designed vases, jugs and plates. They were decorated in bright colours and given names, on the base, such as Royal, Celtic and Aintree. Stoneware was also made but only a few marked hot water bottles seem to have survived.

During the 1890’s there were three working potteries in Bo’ness and according to the 1891 census some 355 workers were employed in the pottery industry in the town. At the end of the 1890’s The Bo’ness or Marshall’s Pottery closed and was sold off in 1899. McNay’s no doubt benefited from this and filled many of the orders previously completed by Marshall.