In 1835 William Murray expanded the Caledonian Pottery, Garngadhill, by erecting the Caledonian Pipe Works next door producing tobacco pipes. The venture was successful and built up a wide export market. Thomas Davidson Jr. became a managing partner.
When Murray retired in 1862 Davidson took control and traded as Thomas Davidson Jr & Co, Caledonian Tobacco Pipe Works. In 1872 he broadened production to include pottery by leasing two of the old Caledonian Pottery kilns, W F Murray having recently moved that company to Rutherglen.
It might be thought that it would not be difficult to recruit skilled workers in that part of Glasgow yet Davidson advertised in Bristol for “Stoneware Throwers. Wanted for pint and quart porter bottles. Fare paid and constant work “. Glasgow was the most important centre for stoneware in the UK at that time which might explain both his decision to move into the industry and the shortage of skilled workers.
Davidson operated the pottery under the St Rollox name until 1895, the year in which he moved his pipe operation to Dalmarnock. By that date the export stoneware boom was largely over and Davidson’s new factory concentrated solely on clay pipes until his death in 1909 led to the company’s closure.
The Glasgow Post Office Directory throws just a little light on the range of pottery products. In 1872-1873 stoneware and Rockingham ware is listed, with just earthenware recorded in 1873-1874 and stone bottles, jars etc in 1874-1875. Thereafter no products are listed.
Tobacco pipe manufacturing seems to have been consistent throughout, as “Caledonian Tobacco Pipe Works” at 33-41 Garngadhill, before moving to the Rutherglen works.
A somewhat puzzling advertisement appears in the Glasgow Herald in August 1874 advertising “an extensive sale of earthenware manufacturer’s stock” by the Trust Estate of the St Rollox Pottery Company including spirit jars, salt cans, mugs, beef pots, picklers, tea infusers, feet warmers, dog troughs, fowl fountains, spittoons, water filters, snuff cans, jam jars, jelly cans, Dutch butters, desk and dwarf inks, paint pots, varnish bottles, piggins and acid jars.
Perhaps it had been concluded that this diverse range was less profitable than just concentrating mainly on the booming export ale bottle market. Few marked Davidson items are known. Apart from the bottle illustrated above, typically of the thickness and weight required for export shipping, three other examples are known: one in the United States, one in New Zealand and one in Australia – which tends to support the bottled ale export theory. There are also a couple of flagons in Scottish museums stamped “Davidson St Rollox Pottery” in the usual oval shape.
Articles in SPHR
Impresssed mark: “Davidson Glasgow”
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The Society wishes to thank Denis Ayers for his substantial contributions to both the overview and gallery for this pottery.