Wetheriggs was a great example of a country pottery and was preserved as a museum. Our visit took place in 2011, but you are advised to check the status of the museum before visiting.
This excerpt is from the magazine Industrial History in Spring 1977 . The full article can be found here, though no author is credited.
“(Wetheriggs) was scheduled in 1973 as an Ancient Monument. Many tile-works were built in the Lake District in the 19th century, to make pipes for land drainage, and Wetheriggs was one of these. It was developed in the middle of the century on part of Lord Brougham’s estate, where there was a seam of red clay and the Eden Valley railway could bring coal and take away the pottery’s products.
Wetheriggs made kneading bowls for dough, bread crocks, barm pots for yeast for baking and brewing, barley wine flagons, syrup jars, vinegar bottles, milk and cream bowls, butter churns and pots, baking dishes, starch pans, tea-bottles for railwaymen, chamber pots, hen-feeders, beetle-traps, flower pots, animals feed troughs, and bricks, tiles and drainpipes.
The decline of earthenware potteries began in the last (19th) century. With urbanisation, fewer people made their own bread and brewed their own beer. Moreover craftsmen found it hard to compete with factories; mass production brought the price of china down. At the beginning of the present (20th) century there were still over 100 earthenware potteries left in England. However by 1945 there were under a dozen left. Each of these served a rural area. But even farms gave up using earthenware when centralised dairies collected the milk, and farmers gave up making butter and cheese and curing meat.
In order to survive, Wetheriggs made an increasing amount of horticultural and decorated ware. Flower pots, crocus bowls, strawberry pots and decorated vases were popular, and wholesale orders were taken for these. Visitors were encouraged to look around the pottery, and the post-war growth in tourism kept the pottery going, through the sale of decorated mugs, jugs, vases, candlesticks and salt-pots.”
Wetheriggs did fall into disrepair only to be taken up again later (dates are somewhat sketchy). This is a fascinating video from the 1990’s showing Wetheriggs being run by Peter Strong as a very industrious working pottery and visitor centre.
The future of Wetheriggs as a heritage site is currently under threat from developers. There has been a petition to save it and further offers are afoot.
In the meantime, enjoy this picture gallery and comments on what was understood about Wetheriggs operations.