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The Buckley Society Magazine Issue Six: Industrial Pottery from Greenfield Mills, Holywell by Diana Morgan: illues Pottery found at Greenfield "

Greenfield Mills, Holywell

January 1981

From Buckley Society Magazine Issue Six, Janaury 1981

Industrial Pottery from Greenfield Mills, Holywell by Diana Morgan

This is page 24. The article is reproduced below. Note that the article contains a table on p.22, "Distribution of industrial pottery at Greenfield Mills" which is not reproduced here.


The Greenfield Mills site has been known through documentary sources to have been an important manufacturing centre for copper and brass artifacts from the second half of the eighteenth century when it was managed by Thomas Williams, a lawyer and land agent from Llanidan in Anglesey.1 He was so successful with his companies in this field that he was dubbed 'The Copper King'.2 By the last quarter of the eighteenth century he virtually held the monopoly for copper production in Britain. One of the companies with which Thomas Williams was associated mined the Parys Mountain in Anglesey, where the ore was produced for smelting at another company works in St. Helens, Lancashire.


The processed ore was then brought to Greenfield for manufacture, mainly by water-powered battery hammering, into copper pots and pans and other articles. These products were then shipped to Liverpool for world trading, particularly in the first leg of the notorious 'slave triangle'.


Towards the end of the eighteenth century, the supply of copper ore from Anglesey declined, so that the Greenfield Mills site was working well below former production levels. Thomas Williams died in 1802 and without his expertise the company floundered and eventually closed. The site remained unoccupied until the 1830's when the Newton Lyon Company purchased it, later becoming Newton Keates. These companies continued manufacturing various copper wares, largely using rolling mills, until their closure in 1898. Again the site was left unoccupied for several years, although a seaweed processing company occupied one of the buildings for a short time. In 1912 the Gwalia Hosiery Company bought the site and used several of the buildings for making clothing. This business continued until a serious fire finally halted production in the mid 1960s.


Subsequently the site again remained neglected until Holywell Urban District Council began making plans early in the l970's for the reclamation of the area, with the ultimate aim of opening it for public use, incorporating display and interpretations of the industries involved in the valley during the past two hundred years. Following local government reorganisation in 1974, a modified version of the scheme was continued by Delyn Borough Council with support from the Welsh Development Agency and the Manpower Services Commission. The archaeological investigations began on the site in 1977 and the structural remains recovered in this, and subsequent years, can be divided into four main phases of industrial activity:


1765Copper and brass battery works of the Warrington Company (Thomas Patten).

1786Larger copper and brass battery works of the Greenfield Copper and Brass Company (Thomas Williams).

1830-98 Newton Lyon, later Newton Keates Company.

1912-60 Clothing factory of the Gwalia Hosiery Company.


As might be expected by such a continued industrial usage, the structural remains found are very complicated. The industrial pottery from the site appears to belong to the nineteenth-century processes of the Newton Lyons/Newton Keates activities.


Three main types of industrial pottery are found and are described in detail on page 24 of this note. All of the types of pottery appear to have been used as crucibles for molten metals and all exhibit a characteristic fracture, as if struck by a metal object, probably a hammer, to remove their contents.


The relatively close distance, 10 miles, to the pottery production centres in Buckley, coupled with the close similarity of the matrix of the body make this a likely source for the pottery.


Excavation work carried out by the Buckley Clay Industries Research Committee on the Hancocks site in Brunswick Road, in 1974-5, produced good parallels for the material from Greenfield. The production dates from Hancocks have also been useful in confirming the dating of deposits at Greenfield Mills in which the pottery was found. A detailed study of the industrial material from Hancocks has been made as an undergraduate thesis, but unfortunately this is not yet available in print. The wares from Hancocks site are known to have been used for containing various forms of molten lead at the lead works in Chester. These pots would have been equally suitable for copper or brass ingots used at Greenfield or, in lead processing known to have been carried out on the site in the latter part of the nineteenth century; that is, by Newton Lyons/Newton Keates.


The Pottery

The specific colour references given below are from the Council for British Archaeology/Rescue Pottery Colour Chart and the Munsell Color Charts respectively.


Type 1 177 sherds (fig. 2.1).

Coarse gritty reddish/orange body (yellow/brown B6 - 2.5 YR 6/8), with small black and cream gritty inclusions, also occasional streaking of cream clay. The rim is relatively straight with a flat top and small lip on the exterior. The vessels are internally glazed to between 10 mm. and 13 mm. below the top of the rim. The interior has a clear glaze, presumably lead, which has fired to a blackish/brown, with small pin holes and grits protruding from the surface.


Type 2 121 sherds (fig. 2.2).

Shape and body fabric as Type 1. Body fired to reddish/brown (B4 - 10 YR 5/8). The whole of the vessel unglazed, with the interior having a whitish powdery deposit.


Type 3 59 sherds (fig. 2.4).

Small angular vessel with a flat octagonal rim. The body is coarse and gritty with cream streaky inclusions and has fired to a purplish/brown (blue/brown C3 - 5Y 5/8). The interior is glazed as Type 1, although in Type 3, the glaze goes right up to the rim with occasional splashes on the top, flat surface of the rim.


Slipware GR/79. 34 (30), (fig. 2.3)

Small body sherd of slipware dish, body fabric is coarse and gritty and has fired to red/brown B4 - 10R 5/8, with creamy, streaky inclusions.


The decoration has been made by sliptrailing cream slip, a liquid clay, over the red body and then 'joggling' the vessel so that the colours almost merge. The whole of the interior surface is covered with a clear glaze.


The sherd is probably from Buckley and very similar to material recovered from Brookhill site 1.3 This parallel would date the sherd to the second half of the eighteenth century, and was probably residual within the black ashy fill when this part of the Greenfield Mills site was levelled.


Datable finds generally from the site are very few, with the few sherds of non-industrial pottery belonging to wide date ranges and therefore of little help in dating the industrial remains.




The industrial vessels from Greenfield Mills are unlike the eighteenth century wares from Rainford/St. Helens and so very similar in the hand to pottery produced at Hancocks in Buckley that this seems to be the most likely source. The deposits from which it is excavated at Greenfield are quite independently datable to the mid-to-late nineteenth century, and the date-range of the industrial wares from Hancocks adds further confirmation to the site-sequential dating at Greenfield Mills, where it was probably used for any on-site smelting.


1.K. Davies and C.J. Williams, The Greenfield Val1ey (Holywell Town Council, 1977).

2.J.R. Harris, The Copper King (1964).

3.J. Bentley and H.M. Harrison, 'Investigation of a possible pottery site, Buckley' (unpublished MS. in Clwyd Record Office, Hawarden, 1975).


Further Reading

Buckley Clay Industries Research Committee, Buckley Pottery, (1975).

P.J. Davey, 'Recent Fieldwork in the Buckley Potteries', Buckley No. 4, pp. 16-29.

J.E. Messham, 'The Buckley Potteries', Flintshire Historical Society Journal, XVI, pp. 31-61.



Author: Morgan, Diana


Year = 1981

Month = January

Object = Containers

Work = Light Industry

Extra = Pre 1900

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