Rare photographs of one of Sunderland's famous pottery families - and a look back on a huge industry

A historian has shared rare pictures of Sunderland’s pottery industry.

Wednesday, 18th November 2020, 5:28 pm
Updated Wednesday, 18th November 2020, 5:28 pm
Sunderland Forge. Photo courtesy of Kate Bissett, Jennifer M Pasquill (née Ball) and H Pasquill.
Sunderland Forge. Photo courtesy of Kate Bissett, Jennifer M Pasquill (née Ball) and H Pasquill.

Sunderland once had 16 potteries including the famous Maling brand.

Historian Beverley Ruffell has researched them right back to the days when the first of them opened around 1750.

And her studies brought them into contact with the descendents of William Ball who kindly shared memories and photographs of an industry which once flourished on Wearside.

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Taken at Lambton Park, this photo shows William Richard Ball (back left) Robert Ball, Albert Cawkwell and his wife Katie (William’s daughter), Ruth (Robert’s wife), William’s youngest daughter, Hannah, and his wife, Dorothy. Photo courtesy of Kate Bissett, Jennifer M Pasquill (née Ball) and H Pasquill.

Beverley said: By the turn of the century there were reputed to be no less than 16 potteries in Sunderland, including the Maling Pottery at North Hylton and the Sunderland ‘Garrison’ Pottery in the town’s East End.

“One of the smaller potteries on Wearside was founded by William Ball.”

William was a skilled potter who first learned his trade at North Hylton Pottery, then went to Egersund, Norway, and settled back in Sunderland in 1857 where opened a small pottery at Diamond Hall, Deptford.

“The business went from strength to strength and, in 1866, William Ball moved the business to larger premises next to the Sunderland-Penshaw-Durham railway,” said Beverley.

The principal and staff of the firm in 1896 with William Richard Ball surrounded by his sons William Edmundson, Robert Norman Charles and Thomas Lees, as well as Robert’s wife Ruth. Photo courtesy of Kate Bissett, Jennifer M Pasquill (née Ball) and H Pasquill.

He was a shrewd businessman who was known to buy copper plates cheaply from bankrupt competitors, ‘using them to decorate his own ware, despite the fact they still bore the name of his ill-fated competitor.”

He died in November 1884 aged 67, but the business continued trading as ‘Ball Brothers’ under the management of his sons, William Richard Ball and Thomas Lees Ball.

Beverley is putting the finishing touches to a book about the Maling Pottery.

But she said: “As part of my research I made contact with some descendents of William Ball – Kate Bissett, Jennifer M Pasquill (née Ball) and husband John H Pasquill – who have very generously shared some wonderful photographs of the Ball family.”

Beverley's book on the potteries of Sunderland is out soon.

One shows the principal and staff of the firm in 1896 with William Richard Ball surrounded by his sons William Edmundson, Robert Norman Charles and Thomas Lees, as well as Robert’s wife Ruth.

Another was taken at Lambton Park and it shows William Richard Ball (back left) Robert Ball, Albert Cawkwell and his wife Katie (William’s daughter), Ruth (Robert’s wife), William’s youngest daughter, Hannah, and his wife, Dorothy.

Beverley added: “The Ball Brothers’ Deptford Pottery finally closed its doors in 1918 after trading for 61 years. The premises were sold to the Sunderland Forge and Engineering Company, who were based right next door to the pottery.”

Beverley Ruffell has previously published articles in the Sunderland Echo under her maiden name, Taylor.

William Ball. Photo courtesy of Kate Bissett, Jennifer M Pasquill (née Ball) and H Pasquill.

She told us in the summer how the original Wearmouth Bridge had a lottery linked to it.

The draw took place on December 1, 1816 and each of the 6,000 ticket holders was presented with a commemorative medal. The prize winners were also given a 5% payment from the bridge tolls, which operated for pedestrians up until 1846 and for vehicles until 1885.”

Beverley’s latest book The Malings and North Hylton Pottery is to be published later this year.

Anyone wanting more information should contact [email protected]

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