First of all, huge thanks to Jennifer Morrison, Tyne and Wear Archaeology Officer, for pointing me to a copy of Andrew D Fletcher's booklet, 'The Newbottle Potteries', which is crammed full of census information, details from deeds, and press cuttings, set out in date order.
Two entries in particular caught my eye. Firstly, an extract from the Sunderland Herald, January 2nd, 1836, titled 'Fire at Newbottle'.
On Monday last a fire broke out in Newbottle Pottery, belonging to Messrs Robert Fairbairn & Co. The flames were first discovered at 11 in the evening. Fortunately the water barrels of the establishment were well replenished at the time, and by the prompt exertion of those about the premises, (amongst whom the women were particularly diligent) the fire was speedily extinguished. The painting shop, however and the store belonging to the dish making department, were, in spite of their exertions, entirely consumed, and a quantity of unfinished earthenware was destroyed. By the commendable activity of two men of the names of Holmes and Beckwith, upwards of £100 worth of copper plates was got out previous to the destruction of the printing shop. The amount of damage is not yet ascertained.
This story gives a feel for the various buildings at Newbottle, but surely the most striking aspect is the value of the copper plates. Two men perhaps risked their lives to save them. I got varying answers when trying to look up what £100 in 1836 would be worth today, but the next extract puts the figure into perspective.
Fletcher includes a transfer deed from 1850 including a description of the pottery as follows.
On the gateway or road leading into the pottery on the west and also all that pottery consisting of two kilns with several pan-houses, packing houses, warehouse, workmen's houses and other erections and buildings with the open yard and vacant ground premises formerly belonging to the owners of the Newbottle Pottery and now to the Earl of Durham [... ] subject to a provision of redemption in such indenture contained on payment by the said John Broderick & James Beckwith (who have purchased the said premises for the sum of £350.00).
I've omitted a rambling list of names in the middle, but the interesting detail is the sum of £350 in 1850 for premises relative to the sum of £100 in 1836 for copper plates. Copper plates were precious - worth risking your neck for - and made up a hefty chunk of the overall value of a pottery. So little wonder if when the Broderick and Beckwith partnership ended, they decided to sell the transfer plates as a separate item, and looked outside Newbottle to get the best price for them. This, I think, gives a credible explanation for why they ended up at Moore's.
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Stephen Smith lives in London, and is always happy to hear from other collectors. If you have an interesting collection of plaques, and are based in the UK, he will photograph them for you. Free advice given regarding selling and dispersal of a collection, or to those wishing to start one. Just get in touch...
This website is indebted to collectors, dealers and enthusiasts who have shared their knowledge or photos. In particular: Ian Holmes, Stephen Duckworth, Dick Henrywood, Norman Lowe, Keith Lovell, Donald H Ryan, Harold Crowder, Jack and Joyce Cockerill, Myrna Schkolne, Elinor Penna, Ian Sharp, Shauna Gregg at the Sunderland Museum, Keith Bell, Martyn Edgell, and Liz Denton.