SPS do not hold the most up to date research for this pottery. Further reading is listed at the end of this page.
From early records, it would appear that the first ‘industry’ in West Pans, just East of Musselburgh, was salt panning. In a charter of 1452 from the Abbot of Dunfermline there is a mention of ‘saltpans on a rocky shore’ in that area. Salt panning continued through until the 19th century.
There is also evidence of glass-making in the same vicinity from the 17th century. The use of local clay dates from around 1740 and several pottery ‘names’ crop up in records of that time, for example Robert Pate who operated a pottery in Edinburgh, also Hillcote and Cubie who both figure in other ceramic enterprises.
Redware was manufactured initially by the earlier potters but with the arrival of William Littler in 1764, china was produced. Littler had run Longton Hall Pottery in Staffordshire and was made bankrupt in 1760 in England. In 1764 he leased land from a James Gray and Janet Forrest at West Pans.
In 1765 Sir James Dalrymple became his landlord when he purchased land from the Grays.
Littler was again sequestrated in 1764 but production carried on until 1777, after that he returned to England. Several advertisements appeared in The Caledonian Mercury between 1765 and 1777 and they give a glimpse of Littler’s production and latterly his search for a business partner to continue his business.
Several excavations have been carried out at the site of the various potteries and a large quantity of sherd material uncovered, much of it was china from the Littler period. This has formed the basis of our knowledge of the wares of this pottery site.
George Haggarty has been highly instrumental in publicising this material. Several of his treatises in collaboration with others, are referenced below.
After Littler’s ‘demise’ back to England, the pot works appears to have lain idle for some time. Robert Bagnall and an Anthony de la Chappelle appear to have resurrected the pottery from around 1784-1792. Also a West Pans Stoneware Company with Bagnall as manager was established in 1793.
William Reid, later of Newbigging Pottery, operated at the site from around 1793-1801. Other names such as John Watson and William Smith appear to have produced pottery here.
Watson sold the site to Sir James Suttie in 1832 and this ended ceramic production.
This overview regarding West Pans concentrates on the china production of the Littler period but further study of the many potters and others who worked here from the 15th to the 19th century will no doubt bear fruit and unravel the myriad of partnerships and family relationships.
There is substantial barriers to understanding the products made at the site, by whom, and their intended market.
Redware was almost certainly produced in the earliest potteries to have established in the area, but it was only with the arrival of William Littler in 1764 that china was produced in Scotland, perhaps for the first time.
Bagnall produced stoneware under the name West Pans Stoneware Company.
Given that much of the known wares of these industries come from sherd evidence, it is difficult if not impossible to confidently attribute the wares to their respective makers.
William Littler’s advertisement in the Caledonian Mercury provides the best gleanings of his wares, but the earlier works and much of the later owner’s wares remain a mystery for now.
Articles in SPHR
Articles in Bulletin (Members only)
Typical Backstamps & Marks
Other Publications & Links
The Society is very gratful to the excellent work of George Haggarty and the contributors who have provided almost all of what we know of the potteries at West Pans, and their importance to Scottish ceramic history.