Whitehaven Pottery

Sir John Lowthers steward, William Gilpin (1657-1724) became interested in the possibility of using local clays to make good quality pottery and tobacco pipes. In 1698 he sent for a Staffordshire expert to carry out trials which proved that Whitehaven clay was suitable for this craft.

In 1740 Sir James Lowther granted a lease on part of a building known as the Gin House to Thomas Atkinson. Because Mr Atkinson had not made a profit from his business, the lease was cancelled. The premises were then let out to John Hudson, he continued to hold the lease until 1781. The Gin House gave its name to the nearby neighbourhood, which became known as 'The Ginns'.

In 1813, John Goulding and John Tunstall obtained the lease of some land for the erection of a pottery. A third pottery began in 1819. It was known as the Whitehaven Pottery, and was run by Woodnorth, Harrison, Hall and Co.

It stood on Pottery Row, on the site of the old abattoir. They advertised themselves as manufacturers of 'blue printed, blue painted, enamelled blue and brown, lined upon and under the glaze, blue and green edged - fine and common cream colour, black purple, red and rose coloured, printed, and in a great variety of fancy coloured, printed and embossed ware', and declared that their products were 'equal, if not superior to the Generality of the Staffordshire Ware'.

In 1829, John Wilkinson took control of the Whitehaven Pottery; he is described as a manufacturer of 'white and coloured delf'. Following the death of John Wilkinson in 1868, his widow continued to run the business until her death in 1877, she was aged eighty. On her death the business passed to her son, George, who maintained it until 1881 when it closed.

Wilkinson’s was by far the most outstanding local pottery business of the time. Randle Wilkinson ran a wholesale pottery store on Roper Street for some years, then in 1923 he moved to Tangier Street. Randle retired from the business shortly after this move, he died in September 1925, aged eighty. The oldest surviving piece of pottery from Whitehaven is a jug with naval scenes on it. It was made for Daniel and Mary Macintosh in 1797.

Whitehaven Potters
Whitehaven Potters


Whitehaven had been small harbour and fishing village from 13th century or earlier. Expansion began in mid-17th century with building of piers by Lowthers 1632-4 and 1679-81 and granting of market charter 1660. By the 1680s it had grown rapidly, expanding from village of c.30 households in early 17th century to a town of over 1,000 inhabitants by 1685, which more than doubled to 2,281 by 1696. Sir John Lowther had laid out grid of streets by 1680s, making Whitehaven the earliest planned new town in post-medieval Britain.

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