Caledonian Pottery

Headland Archaeology and Pre-Construct Archaeology (HAPCA) started work in September 2007 on the Caledonian Pottery site, which can be found off Farmeloan Road, Rutherglen.

The Caledonian Pottery was the third of Glasgow’s great industrial potteries to be founded. It was established at Garngadhill, in the north of Glasgow, in about 1800. It is thought that pollution from a neighbouring ironworks in Garngadhill may have prompted the move, between 1872 and 1874, to the site currently being excavated in Rutherglen. At the time of the move the Caledonian Pottery was under the joint ownership of William F Murray and John Macintyre, and continued to trade under its established company name of Murray & Co. 

From the evidence of their published catalogues and advertisements, at the time of the move to Rutherglen, the Caledonian Pottery was producing a variety of goods, from tableware to drainpipes, including various stoneware items, a range of embossed leaf-patterned tableware in ‘translucent green glaze’, similar to that produced by Wedgewood and other Staffordshire firms, and ‘Rockingham’ teapots.

Kiln Bases
Kiln bases
(click on above image for larger version) 

The typical types of pottery being produced at the Rutherglen site were all types of stonewares, such as spirit jars, ginger beer bottles, hot-water bottles and teapots.  These were produced for export all over the world.  In 1898, WP Hartley, the Liverpool jam makers, acquired the pottery to make jam jars, but continued the production of other stoneware goods. The company was prosperous until 1928, when it was adversely affected by the depression and closed.

Ginger beer bottle
Ginger beer bottle
(click on above image for larger version)
   Hot water bottle
Hot water bottle
(click on above image for larger version) 
  Unglazed tea pot
Unglazed tea pot
(click on above image for larger version) 

The Caledonian Pottery appears on the second edition (1892-94) and third edition (1913) Ordnance Survey maps. These maps show the main pottery buildings as being concentrated in the western half of the site, with a yard to the west. A railway siding, reservoir, weighing machine and crane also existed on the site in the late 19th century. 

2nd Ed Ordnance Survey
Caledonian Pottery on second edition Ordnance Survey map (1892-94)
3rd Ed OS Pottery
Caledonian Pottery on third edition Ordnance Survey map (1913)
(click on above image for larger version) 

The second edition Ordnance Survey (1892-94) map shows the main pottery building as a large rectangular building with a number of features within it breaking the roofline. Most notably, there is a group of eight large circular kilns and a chimney at the western end of the building. 

The Kilns
The Caledonian Pottery’s gas-fired kilns were built in the early 1890s, and were the only ones of their kind anywhere in the world.
They were invented by the pottery’s owner, William Fullerton Murray, who wanted to increase efficiency.  Instead of firing separate kilns by burning coal in furnaces, which was wasteful, Murray devised a system of four connected kilns heated by coal gas. This was scientifically designed to reduce the amount of fuel used. Murray hoped to save money and increase profits.  After the first kiln had finished firing pottery, the hot air in it was transferred to the second kiln. It was then further heated to get the kiln to the right temperature for firing. This process was then repeated in turn for the third and fourth kilns.

Pottery waste
Pottery works produce vast quantities of waste material including wasters (mis-fired or broken pottery), saggers (clay vessels which hold the unfired pottery in the kiln) and kiln furniture (the props used within the kiln to separate the wares). This waste is often dumped away from the pottery works and waster dumps can be found all over the city of Glasgow, filling the gaps under buildings, roads and bridges.

At the Caledonian Pottery site, waste pottery was dumped the eastern side of the site, taken there on a narrow-gauge railway creating three long, radiating spurs.  By the time the third edition Ordnance Survey map (1913) was produced, the waster dump had extended to the eastern boundary of the site. Archaeologists have excavated the dump to a depth of 6.5 metres.  Much of the waster dump is made up of items of pottery damaged during firing. Many had only small imperfections such as bubbles in the glaze or small chips. The deep dump of waste pottery confirms the business’s enormous output.

Waster dump
Waster dump
(click on above image for larger version)

Distribution of goods
The Caledonian Pottery’s products were sold widely both throughout the United Kingdom and all over the world. To help sell its wares, the firm had agencies and showrooms in Glasgow, London and Dublin. The pottery was well placed to transport its goods – it was linked to the Caledonian Railway, to a main road into Glasgow and to quays on the River Clyde. The river enabled pottery shipments to be exported easily. There are records of sales to many faraway destinations. Rockingham earthenware teapots, finished with a brown glaze, were made in huge numbers and were especially popular in the United States and New Zealand.

Finds from the Rutherglen site also reflect the wide distribution network for the pottery. Labels on bottles and jars show pottery orders came from firms in Scotland, England, Ireland, Brazil and Chile, and markings on acid jar lids state that the they were destined for India.

Click on each image for a larger version:

Burnley bottle
Burnley ginger beer bottle
Lisnaskea bottle
Lisnaskea ginger beer bottle
Londonderry bottle
Londonderry ginger beer bottle

Cork bottle
Cork ginger beer bottle
Stranraer jar
Stranraer cream jar
Uddingston bottle
Uddingston ginger beer bottle

It would appear that over time, the production of finer wares decreased and that of stoneware bottles, jam jars, spirit jars and hot water bottles increased.  Despite attempts at innovative production techniques, the firm went into liquidation in 1897 and by the following year had been taken over by the Liverpool jam manufacturer W P Hartley which, while ensuring its own supply of jam jars in various sizes, largely continued the same production.   The pottery ceased production in 1929 and the site was taken over by the Caledonian Steelworks of A.G. MacFadden & Co. in 1930.  The pottery buildings were demolished and a complex of buildings, travelling cranes and circulation roads were built, some of which can still be seen on site today.  The steel works was closed and the site abandoned in the early 1960s, and has remained undeveloped since.

Meet the Team

Read about those doing the dig work at the Caledonian Pottery site -

Ali Candy

Craig Magda

Richard Simon