Buttering the American Expansion Timelines: All, Stuart (1603 - 1714)


As the colonies expanded, Bideford’s potteries found a ready market for their pots. In the 17th C. this pottery was produced rapidly and in large volumes, so as to keep the cost down. In particularly great demand were vessels used to ship butter, it having been salted to preserve it.

Most of the early potteries were west of the water, on the southern side of Potter’s Pill, but in 1672 two of Bideford’s seven master potters were based in East-the-Water. By 1681, the Bideford potteries peak year, there were 337,000 parcels of pottery shipped from the town, with perhaps another 60,000 or so used locally.

One of East-the-Water’s potteries, flanked by buildings and running to the shore, stood on Barnstaple Street, near the later site of the Ship-on-Launch Inn, and was probably operated by the potter Hugh Yeo (1611-). In 1671 he employed his two sons and another hand. At a later date he was presented at quarter sessions for having ‘inmates,’ lodgers from outside the town who could become chargeable to the parish. These were possibly jobbing potters.

In 1672 a 1½d rate was paid on a property described as “Wilbraham’s house, Courtilage and potters’ kill,” which lay at the opposite end of East-the-Water to Yeo’s establishment. It is not clear who operated this.