Widecombe History Group Talk on the Candy Pottery, Bovey Tracey

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Candy Art Pottery 1922 - 1950. by Mike Jones.

At this months meeting we had the pleasure of being addressed by one of our own members Mike Jones. The subject was his hobby of collecting examples of Candy Ware.

In 1875 a man by the name of Frank Candy began mining clay at Heathfield where he found a considerable deposit of ‘white clay’ ideal for the production of pottery. He also produced tiles and ultimately the famous ‘Devon Fires’ that have graced many a house since. In 2003 Mike was walking in the old Bovey Tracey potteries site and found pieces of pot including 19th century blue & white pottery as well as couple of pieces of Candy pottery. He became interested in their products and acquired a few examples. From that encounter he started to research the local potteries and he is now an avid collector of Candy Art Pottery. He brought some fine examples from his collection for us all to see and examine.

This business started as ‘Wescontree Ware’, this was produced from moulds, from 1922 to 1935 the bases are stamped ‘Wescontree’. In 1930 the business expanded a great deal and from 1935 to 1950s handthrown pottery was being made under the Candy Ware trade name with a different mark on the base and one of the most striking thing about it, is the most unusual glazing and the variation of colour that were produced. Predominant were oranges, reds, greens and blues. Many of these blending with each other to produce fascinating designs. Items for export also carried a stamp which included the words ‘made in England’. When Mike began collecting items he could not find any books on the subject but there are now three books worth reading that give information about the ‘Candy Ware’ and some other local potteries.

  • “Candy Art Pottery” by Ian Turner
  • “Bovey Tracey Potteries” by Brian Adams, showing marks and dates
  • “Lets Collect Devon Pottery” issue No 2, by Virginia Briscoe

Within these books examples are shown of the type and shape of many of the pots, vases and bowls produced over the years and the base stamps that have been used over the years.

Mike began his talk with some slide illustrations relating to the site at Heathfield. A map of the area. An artists impression of the potteries in full detail with smoke coming out of the chimneys, the massive pottery buildings and the adjoining railway track which was important to the business as a means of distribution of the products. Some illustrations of pages from the very few catalogues that were produced showing the range of products available, some of which clearly showed the designs and colours. Illustrations of the type of advertisements from publications of the time and photographs of some of the men who worked there. Particular mention of Sid Dart a ‘master potter’ who made much of the handthrown pots and another man Vic Towillis who did much of the glazing, photographs of these men were shown to us. Another interesting picture showed the clay being cut by hand in huge blocks that were loaded onto wagons and taken to the surface where the kilns and workshops were situated. A picture of an advertisement -dated 5th January 1884 stated Terra Cotta Ornaments and Architecture Features for sale ‘much cheaper than that made of stone’, large vases on pedestals and features for buildings.

The afore mentioned Frank Candy borrowed a lot of money and in 1884 the business was valued at £39,000 which was a great deal at that time. By 1886 it was signed over to the Fox Family, owners of The Fox Fowler Bank of Exeter to whom the business had been morgaged. They kept the Candy name for the business and even now the Candy name can be seen on advertising boards.

One of the last items shown was a slender vase made by a lady who was employed by the firm for a very short time during 1955. She was Patricia Tomlinson and very little is known about her. Her employers were strict Quakers and the story has it that she attended the staff Christmas party and became a little the worse for Christmas Spirit and embarrassed the family by making advances to the Managing Director. She was never heard of again within the Candy business records.

The business finally closed in 1998. The following year British Ceramic Tiles acquired the site and with large investment re-established Candy Tiles which still flourishes today.

We thanked Mike for a very interesting talk about a subject that so very few of us knew anything about. Keeping us aware of our local heritage is what a local history group is all about and that is why talks like this are so very valuable.

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