In search of Wrenthorpe’s long lost pottery industry

Might it be possible to find evidence of the last gasps of Wrenthorpe’s long-established cottage industry in late 18th century newspapers? A bankruptcy perhaps? Or a court case against a potter for non payment of rent?

Sadly, no luck so far, other than the sale of a pottery at the far side of the Wakefield Outwood, at West Hall (just north of Moorhouse), Stanley.

Leeds Intelligencer
Tuesday 16 May 1780


Situate at Wakefield Out-Wood Side, near Wakefield,
AN exceedingly valuable POTTERY, for Making of Common BROWN-WARE, with a Dwelling-House, Warehouse, and all the other Appurtenances thereunto belonging; also a Croft thereto adjoining, now in the Occupation of John Errington.
The Premises are well situated for Trade, and may be entered upon immediately.
For other Particulars enquire of Mr John Hodgson, of West Hall, near Lofthouse.

While the odd spelling of ‘lett’, and the writing of some s’s as f’s, is terribly old-fashioned, the advert like many in these late 18th century newspapers – does come with a right-pointing backhand index emoji.


Only a few years later the pottery’s up for rent again.

Leeds Intelligencer
Tuesday 5 August 1788


…Also, A POTTERY, situate at Wakefield Outwood, very near the Navigation.
With the Pottery, a Tenant may be accommodated with a Dwelling house and Stable adjoining it, and a few Acres of Land, if required.

For Particulars apply to Mr Lee, Attorney at Law, in Wakefield.

After almost giving up hope, this 23-word death announcement gives us the link to pottery at Potovens.

Leeds Intelligencer
Tuesday 12 March 1782

On Sunday last died at Red Hall, near Wakefield, aged 100 years, Mrs Mary Willans, relict of the late Mr John Willans, potter.

The Willans were arguably the most successful of the Wrenthorpe potters – Jacob Willans built a house with his initials and the year ‘1663’ inscribed in stone over its front door.* The property survived for 300 years, regrettably the building conservation movement wasn’t up to much in 1960s Wrenthorpe.

Take Mrs Willans’ given age with a handful of salt, as further up the newspaper column, there’s a sentence on a Jane Wells a woman from Whitehaven, ‘who’ it boasts, ‘is in the 111th year her age’, and ‘is still at this time employed in carding wool.’

* Brears, Peter, ‘Excavations at Potovens, near Wakefield’, Post Medieval Archaeology, Vol 1, 1967.