In 1794 Instead Marshall published an account of Bideford in his Rural Economy of the West Country. The war with America had apparently taken its toll, for he suggests the town was “remarkably forbidding,” by virtue of its narrow streets and cheaply built houses. In the open spaces furze faggots were piled into house shaped ricks. Instead states – “The dangerous piles of fuel are for the use of the pottery for which only, I believe, this town is celebrated; chiefly or wholly, the coarser kinds of wear.” The traditional way to fire the pottery kilns was with culm, usually imported from South Wales, but furze or bramble faggots would then be used to ‘flash’ the kiln.
Marshall witnessed one unusual activity, with low tide seeing ‘many men employed in loading pack-horses with sand, left in the bed of the river.’ This sand may have been for use in the potteries, or for fertilizing the land, but its removal may also have served a secondary purpose. A map showing Bideford in the 1820s suggests that the depth of water beside the western quay might have been enhanced by a channel dug to divert the Potter’s Pill southward alongside it.
Marshall notes that there were several lime kilns operating on the East-the-Water shore, with much of the limestone and all of the coal coming by sea from South Wales. The output from these kilns was delivered by packhorse within a radius of fifteen miles, providing lime for fertilizing the land and building work.