• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • Want to organize your cloud files? Sign up for a free webinar to see how Dokkio (a new product from PBworks) can help you find, organize, and collaborate on your Drive, Gmail, Dropbox, and Slack files: Weds, May 27 at 2PM Eastern / 11AM Pacific


Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 7 months ago



The term 'Borderware' developed as a description for the pottery produced in the border region of north-east Hampshire and west Surrey which became widely used from the 14th century onwards. Documentary evidence is known relating to potters working at the Farnborough Hill site which was a major centre of potting from at least the late 13 century until the early 20th century according to Jacqui Pearce. This pottery was utilitarian pottery produced for everyday domestic use and included cups, soup-bowls (porringers) and drinking jugs, cooking utensils, chamber-pots, candlesticks, money boxes and much else. The initial coarser Borderware briefly developed in the late 15th century into a tradition termed 'Tudor Green,' the name paying homage to England's then-enthroned noble lineage. Tudor Green, while distinct from other Borderware, was according to historic and archaeological evidence produced in the same kilns. Jeremy Haslam estimated that this area later came to supply more than half of London's pottery .


A considerable bibliography on this subject exists. One definitive work is entitled ‘Border Wares, Post-Medieval Pottery in London’, 1500-1700, by Jacqueline Pearce. This includes a sketch map showing some of the known sites in Ash and Farnborough where the remains of kilns or waste pottery have been found. [On the map illustrated here information about sites in Frimley / Mytchett, not shown on the original map, has been added.] See below.































The evidence for the history of this pottery, as distinct from the local references given in our sketch map and later paragraphs, is of archaeological origin. The bibliography given in the book by Jacqueline Pearce contains the names of 40 authors of archaeological reports; and yet if the subject of Borderware is checked on the indices of Surrey County Libraries, there is riot a single reference to it as a subject of artistic, historical or economic importance. It is not easy, from the archaeological reports so far made, to quantify the amount of Borderware, as distinct from other pottery, which has been preserved. Yet it is clear that that there are extensive collections in the Museum of London as well as in other museums and that there have been finds all over southern England and also across the Atlantic in Virginia and Jamaica. From the archaeological evidence we know the remarkable fact that during the second half of the l6th century, the Surrey-Hampshire pottery industry consolidated a hold on the London ceramics market with its fully developed Borderware characterized by distinctive yellow and green glazes. It quickly became the main source of domestic pottery for the inhabitants of London and remained as such until at least the end of the l7th century. It follows that borderware was a large industry in this area and it has been established that the industry was centred in the Farnborough / Frimley area. Some was also produced near Ash. Examples of the material so far discovered from a site on Farnborough Hill are on permanent exhibition in Surrey Heath Museum.


The archaeological evidence is not yet by any means complete. Apart from the collection of borderware already excavated in the grounds of Famborough Hill Convent, work is still underway as a joint venture between Guildford Museum and the Museum of London Specialist Services on uncovered dumps of production waste and the remains of a series of successive kiln structures dating to cI550-80, as well as one kiln dating to the late 15th century. All these results are still to be published. There has been no archaeological research so far in Frimley / Mytchett, although residents living on the sites of the old potteries have found Borderware waste in their gardens. Indeed residents in Frimley Green remember that John Smith lived where the house "Montrose" exists today, that he had a summer-house marked out with a border of his own tiles and that his name is inscribed on the ground in tiles; they also remember some of the pottery as it was before it was thrown away, including a chamber pot.


General evidence


Ordnance Maps, Tithe maps and Census Returns as well as names which are still in use today show that a substantial share of the industry can be attributed to the area of the old Frimley Parish, namely to sites in Frimley Green and Mytchett which have all been built over by residential houses. Holling recorded two sites in Mytchett (occupied by a house once called The Old Pottery) and Frimley Green. The first Ordnance Survey map by Mudge of 1813-16 shows the Pottery and Kiln in Mytchett as a major feature as well as Potters Pool, no other pottery being shown. The later Ordnance Maps of the 19th century show both the pottery in Frimley Green on a lane still called ‘Pottery Lane’ and the Kiln and Pottery in Mytchett at the end of a residential road still bearing the official title of Potteries Lane. In Mytchett, Potters Pool is considered to have been a source of pottery clay. Its ownership was conveyed by a deed of October 1808 (Woking 2113/27) from the Lord of the Manor to John Hollest, the first owner and builder of Mytchett Place, and it is believed that the sale was supported by indentures dating back several centuries. Tithe maps show potteries and kilns on the two sites already specified.


It is of interest that two Smiths are recorded in the census rolls as potters, namely John Smith and Stephen Smith. Robert Siggery is also recorded as a potter in the census of 1871. By 1891 only John Smith’s widow Mrs Dufoy Smith is recorded and on the Ordnance Map of 1896 the Mytchett Pottery is shown as disused.


Residents living by the Mytchett site have found pottery waste in their gardens. The present resident on the Frimley Green site records a place on his property where a summerhouse stood which if excavated would reveal a tile surround and an inscription in tiles of John Smith’s name. He says that he has himself seen a chamber pot made of borderware.


There is therefore much evidence of the borderware industry in Surrey Heath. In addition, two other most interesting items of written evidence exist.


Written evidence – Potters' Wills


The earliest written evidence of the existence of this industry in Frimley/Mytchett is found in a Will preserved in the Hampshire Record Office, Winchester (B20/1-2). The Will has an inventory and valuation of all the goods and chattels of Robert Gonner, potter, of Frimley, who died on May 15th 1637. It includes his clothes, furniture, kitchen pots and pans, bed-linen, half a flitch of bacon and much else, including 20 sheep and 9 lambs, one and a half acres of rye and a heap of dung.


Particularly relevant to our theme is an exact description of the contents of his "bakehouse and warehouse", that is of his pottery and kiln. Here there are listed tubs and troughs for "powderinge", a kiln, special buckets, pots already burnt and some coloured green, a potter's wheel, a dump of potter’s clay and a collection of wood.


One can conclude that here is evidence of a trade in borderware in Frimley in the 17th century and that the career of potter was often combined with that of farmer, as also illustrated in the biography below.


An index of Wills has been computerised by the Hampshire Record Office and reviewed by Elizabeth Lewis in “Custom and Ceramics”. This provides a wealth of detail about the lives and working of 17 potters. In brief, it demonstrates how much of the industry was centred in Cove where many potters were inter-connected by family ties. It confirms that the business of potter was often combined with that of farmer. We find also that at least one other potter in the 17th century worked in Frimley parish, John Russel who was buried in 1660. The evidence suggests that several potteries may have worked one single kiln which would support the idea that the kiln in Mytchett was a centre for several local potteries.


A potter's biography


A book, written in an anecdotal style but of special relevance locally, is "William Smith, Potter and Farmer 1790-1858". This was first published in 1919 under the pseudonym George Bourne but a facsimile was republished in 1978 giving the name of the author, George Sturt, who was a grandson of William Smith. In its Preface he states that William Smith had a son John Smith. This is interesting because a John Smith, as has been shown, was a practising potter in Frimley Green during the 19th century and is likely to be one and the same person.


Much of William Smith's life was spent in farming and the book contains graphic descriptions of domestic and commercial life in the 19th century in this area. It also records certain facts very relevant to our theme. William Smith was apprenticed to a potter in Frimley/Mycthett, but at the age of 19 bought a pottery in Farnborough. At that time in addition to potteries in Farnborough and Frimley, the district of Cove was "thick with potteries". Clay was obtained from Tongham and Farnham, the latter under licence from the Bishop of Winchester. The fuel for the kilns was got from Frimley Common, partly in the form of turfs. For those interested the book includes a vivid description of the whole process of making borderware in the 19th century.


Business was mostly with London and carriage was mostly by wagon, sometimes by the Canal. William Smith had to travel by coach to London to establish contacts and obtain contracts for the sale of his pottery. It was a thriving business, and included the supply of ware, including chamber-pots, under contract to London Hospitals and Prisons. From the facts that William Smith was apprenticed in Frimley parish and had, we think, a son who practised as a potter in Frimley Green, we may conclude that that section of Surrey Heath was an important part of the borderware industry.


The author of this book remarks upon the difficulty of transporting pottery to London. He seems to have had no realisation that the trade had been established since at least the 16th century. It is indeed a remarkable fact that quantities of pottery enough to dominate the London market were transported from this area to London by horse and carriage. For short periods, in the 19th century, some of the crockery will have gone by canal. Indeed when the plans were being drawn up in 1787 for the construction of the Basingstoke Canal, it was forecast that 1000 tons of pottery would be carried on the canal in a year.


As we have seen, the industrial revolution coupled with the major improvements in communications in the 19th century made the local production of domestic ware by manual means uneconomic and accounts for the closing of this type of business in the latter half of the 19th century. Moreover access to Potters Pool and to the fuel available on Frimley Common would have been made more difficult by the construction of the Basingstoke Canal and of the railways and enclosure would have increased costs.


Unanswered questions

For the Surrey Heath historian some questions remain despite the amount of research which has been accomplished, both in this country and in the New World. The book on Border Wares by Jacqueline Pearce covers only the period 1500-1700, the period in which Borderware dominated the London market before other more sophisticated pottery became prevalent. Undoubtedly its production continued through till the latter half of the 19th century although there has not been any comprehensive research of the later period. There has been little research so far concerning the continuance of the industry after 1700. There has also been considerable research carried through in Jamaica and the USA, based on the discoveries there of post-medieval Borderware and it is doubtful whether this has yet been related to the subject as a whole. Another question for the local historian is how large a part production in Surrey Heath played in the industry as a whole during the period when Borderware dominated the London market. As already mentioned, there has yet been little assessment of the artistic and economic importance of this industry. The sale in the USA of reproductions seems to point the attractiveness of its appearance to the modern consumer. A porringer sells for $15, a drinking jug for $18, and a drinking pot for $16. The items shown below are examples from Jacqui Pearce’s book.


Envoi: In the London phone book there are some 330 Potters; indeed in our local directory there as many as 123. Perhaps that shows the economic importance of the industry in days gone by. And perhaps a Potter might some day feel inspired to support the research and analysis still required.


Richard Shegog





One is grateful to Richard for putting this article together. It represents the present state of local knowledge of a subject which clearly still has much to be discovered. Surrey Heath Archaeological & Heritage Trust, supported by the Borough Council, have provided remarkable examples of borderware and shown the extent to which it was in use at the Rose & Crown Inn in Bagshot before it closed c 1785 and the way in which Wedgwood et al moved in. The North East Hants Archaeological & Historical Society have a keen interest in the research and Jacqui Pearce and Kevin Fryer are analysing a mass of Farnborough Hill pottery in Guildford. Watch this space for developments.

Comments (0)

You don't have permission to comment on this page.