During the same trip to the North East – clay hunting (see below), I stopped just north of Halifax at Soil Hill. I parked on the eastern slopes and walked over the hill, following tracks and bridleways until I came across Isaac Button’s old pottery. It was instantly recognisable from the film clips and blog posts I have seen on other sites. The first evidence I saw was the curving leat, carrying water from the south, carefully terraced into the hillside to the pottery. The chimney at the eastern end of the brick structures is still standing (rebuilt in fact!), but the kiln is in a very precarious condition and I was informed will be taken down to 1m in height as part of the building works now transforming the old brick workshops into apartments. This will be sacrilege to many – and yet the young lads I met who showed me around (on a brief break from their construction work), were incredibly helpful and fascinated by the history of the place themselves. I suppose if money had been raised to secure the site and make a museum of this iconic location – perhaps there could be a different story. But as it is – the place is changing it’s function and character – as is typical of so many old / vernacular buildings in our landscape. The site is littered with shards of broken pots – pancheon rims, lead glazed pieces….. The visit really made me stop and think – this wild, windswept spot was where Isaac Button dug and processed, by hand, his own clay, throwing up to a thousand pots a day, mostly for sale on a local market (for pennies – the stuff had to be affordable).
Between Halifax and Newcastle I stopped briefly at Littlethorpe – and peered into the Littlethorpe pottery buildings. It was late and the place was closed. I’ll have to return some day soon – famed as it is for it’s production of planters and garden pots produced from a local seem of clay.