Farnham Pottery : a survivor from the Victorian age

Saved from Demolition

Photograph
The pottery in its heyday around the turn of the century

The craft pottery at Wrecclesham in Farnham, Surrey, established by Absalom Harris in 1872 and still being worked by members of the Harris family some 125 years and five generations later, has been bought by the Farnham (Building Preservation) Trust.

For a number of years the pottery has continued to work on shoestring finances ­ largely as a result of cheap foreign imports of terracotta garden ware, one of the Wrecclesham specialities. In the short-term, the financial problems were dealt with by selling off almost two thirds of the pottery site and the Harris family home for residential development. Unfortunately, however, this has not ensured a secure future and it became apparent that the surviving pottery buildings were threatened by demolition for a possible further housing development.

The buildings are what make this site so special for, when Absalom Harris took over the former farmyard, he produced a large proportion of the materials which were used to build the pottery. These included bricks, tiles, drainpipes and window frames, all in terracotta, as well as the more common architectural features of finials and the like. All in all, the Farnham Pottery represents one of the best preserved examples of a working Victorian country pottery left in England and marks the final flowering of the great pottery industry of the Hampshire/Surrey border which has supplied London since at least the 13th century.

Surprisingly, the pottery is only locally listed by the borough council, although in a conservation area, and seems to have no further statutory protection despite its importance being well known locally and, on a specialist scale, nationally.

Particularly important features include a surviving brick built, wood fired bottle kiln, some magnificent carved brick chimneys stacks and an arch built of faience in the image of an owl with outstretched wings. The bottle kiln, itself, is now a very rare survivor in this part of the country.

Unfortunately, due to the financial restrictions, the buildings have become rather dilapidated in recent years and the Farnham Trust is attempting a major programme of works to reinstate the pottery to its former glory for future generations to enjoy.
A potter at work.
Modern day craftsmen
can still be seen working
in this very position.
Photograph

The first phase of the work will be to restore a portion of the site for the Harris pottery firm to reoccupy and continue the living tradition of pottery making here. The resurgence of interest in fine architectural terracotta would seem to indicate a secure future for the company. Once this has been completed, refurbishment of the rest of the buildings will get under way to provide accommodation as craft workshops and exhibition areas. It is hoped that these will, in particular, attract potters who will carry on the tradition of the site.

Obviously this is not going to be an easy or cheap process, so any help, financial or practical, would be much appreciated. We would particularly like any suggestions of sources of funding for the project or occupants for the proposed workshops. Likewise any information or photographs from the history of the site would be much appreciated.

The Farnham Trust already has already purchased the site, so its continued existence is no longer in doubt. However, work to restore it to its former glory must start as soon as possible in order that the decay does not go any further.

Farnham Trust - email: farnham.trust@farnhamtrust.org.uk

Photograph
The Harris pottery team proudly display some of their wares.
Included are green glazed items for which Wrecclesham was famed.

Page last updated : 18 August 1999


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The Farnham (Building Preservation) Trust Ltd
Chairman: David Graham FSA Secretary: Mrs S. Farrow
Dippenhall Gate
Farnham
Surrey
GU10 5DP
01252 722975

Company registered in England No. 940781
Registered Office: 60 West Street, Farnham, Surrey, GU9 7EH.
Charity No. 257954