This harvest jug was created by William Fishley Holland in 1921. William was born in 1889, the great great grandson of George Fishley.
George Fishley established a long lasting dynasty of potters, opening a pottery at Fremington, North Devon in 1811. Over the decades members of the Fishley family were renowned for their ceramic work. Born at Instow, just west of Fremington, in 1770, George brought up his three sons to become potters themselves. In 1839 Edmund took over the pottery and was eventually succeeded by George’s grandson Edwin Beer Fishley in 1860. Edwin continued the business until his death in 1912, when his grandson William Fishley Holland moved the pottery from Fremington to Braunton. From 1921, William worked from Clevedon in Somerset, continuing the family tradition well into the middle of the 20th century.
During the early period, the family produced everyday ware and ornamental goods, selling most of its wares locally. The natural imagery we see depicted here reflects the rural community that the Fremington Pottery served: an agricultural population who would have appreciated a rich harvest and abundance of nature. However Fremington pots were also traded outside of Devon; many of the items travelled across the sea to Cornwall and other to South Wales by way of returning coal boats. Ceramic wares were loaded onto boats at the nearby quayside on the River Taw, a place so frequently used for pottery business that it became known as ‘Fishley’s Quay’.
Fremington offered a rich supply of red clay to form the bodies of pots. Local river gravel was mixed into the clay to strengthen it and improve the durability of utilitarian ware. Imported from Wales, galena or lead sulphide was used as a glaze over the pot’s surface to give a golden yellow colour.
This harvest jug was the last pot made by William at his Braunton pottery in North Devon before me moved to Clevedon in 1921. The jug consists of an earthen ware body, a cream fabric and brown slip. The body is ovoid in form and features a flared neck. A loop handle with a thumbpiece was attached from the neck to the waist of the pot. The maker’s mark was incised under the base of the jug: W.F. Holland 1921.
North Devon pottery is classified as earthenware – a form of pottery made throughout pre-industrial England. From the 17th century, harvest jugs like this were an important part of the North Devon tradition. These jugs had a variety of uses, from purely decorative purposes to transporting beer to thirsty workers in the fields. They also functioned as commemorative objects, celebrating events such as births, marriages or successful harvests.
The motifs on these jugs often relate to nature, hunting and agriculture. On this pot we see a musician seated on a tree branch playing a wind instrument, surrounded by leaves and branches. Drawings were sometimes accompanied by inscriptions; these might be lines from a poem or a sentimental message for a loved one. These designs were incised onto the surface of the pot, using a technique known as sgraffito. Meaning ‘to scratch’ in Italian, this process involved carving into an outer layer of coloured slip to reveal the contrasting colour of the clay body beneath. In this way, a design could be incised onto the surface of the ceramic.