This ceramic bowl is signed and dated ‘R. Fishley. Fremington Pottery. June 22nd, 1844. The inscription identifies it as a piece from a significant North Devon country pottery that flourished in the nineteenth century and produced four generations of potters.
The style of this bowl looks back to the tradition that was used by the first potter at Fremington, George Fishley. George would apply white ball clay over a red terracotta ground and scrape away or scratch through the slip, to show the red ground beneath. However his son Robert, who made this piece, chose to mould his decorative features from white clay and then apply them to the red clay bowl. The pots would be finished in one firing, after being dipped in a lead glaze to produce the shiny surface.
Robert’s applied decorations include apples, acorns, fig clusters, swans and numerous leaves. He even made small fruit and leaf motifs which encircle the stand. These look naturalistic, as if they had just dropped off their parent tree.
The crop of fruit depicted here may remind us of the rural community that the Fremington Pottery served: an agricultural population which might have appreciated the rich harvest it shows. However Fremington Pottery was also traded far away from the county of Devon. It was 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’.
The bowl consists of a circular body, incurved at the base, and a stepped foot. A domed cover rests on top. There are two lug-type handles on either side of the bowl.