Buchan Stoneware, Portobello Scotland
Buchan Stoneware, Portobello Scotland
The quality of Buchan stoneware pottery is superb, and it has a French country or provincial feel to it, like something you would find in the south of France, but of much higher quality, being fine high-fired stoneware.
It was produced in Portobello – which is now a suburb of Edinburgh, but which was once an important industrial centre and at the same time – holiday resort – side by side. Wikipedia has an interesting history of Portobello HERE
Buchan Pottery, Portobello Scotland has a long history….and here is a short extract from the very informative and fascinating Portobello Heritage Trust website located HERE.
Portobello was one of the main centres of industrial ceramic production in Scotland, dating back to the 1770s or thereby.
The range of wares made at Portobello, spanning two centuries, covered much of the ceramic spectrum.
Activity occurred at several sites, clustered around the mouth of the Figgate Burn where it enters the Firth of Forth. A number of well- known names emerged, of which two stand out – Thomas Rathbone, celebrated for his fine painted and printed earthenware, and Alexander Buchan, famed far and wide for his utilitarian stoneware.
From the 1830s this latter class of ware had been produced by a succession of firms: Cornwall Brothers, Milne & Cornwall, Milne & Smith, Thomas & Robert Tough, Thomas Tough, Murray & Buchan, starting in 1867, and finally A. W. Buchan & Co (1878-1972).
The rise of Alexander Buchan to the fore heralded a sixty-year period during which vast quantities of stoneware goods of all descriptions were manufactured. The firm was inventive too, securing a number of patents and registering several novel designs, and time was even found to dabble in the world of art pottery with their exotic but misnamed Portobello Faience. Having been one of the few Scottish potteries to have survived the Depression, A.W Buchan & Co was not about to slide into closure. Instead, the manufacture of utilitarian stoneware was all but given up and replaced with a product of a quite different character – decorative stoneware.
Between 1956 and 1968 a number of decorative stoneware designs were produced by Buchan Portobello including: BRITTANY, RIVIERA, COSTA BRAVA, HEBRIDES, FESTIVAL, ROUEN, SUMMERTIME, EDINBURGH, TUSCANY, SUTHERLAND, ALPINE – and Centenary design IONA. These can all be seen on the heritage website linked above, along with galleries showing these designs.
My favourite pieces of Buchan that I have come across in person are the large Coffee Pot (really better as a water jug though I think), and baking dish ramekin, from “Costa Brava” designed in 1956.
.Although I love the fish motif of the “Riviera” design, also from 1956. Riviera came in 3 versions – Fish, Vegetable and Abstract.
….And then there is the gorgeous “Brittany” design (again 1956) which is hard to go past. The hand painted designs on pieces of this series capture the style of an era. The small ramekins in this design are lovely as well.
Another design is the Thistle Pattern which apparently is the most popular of all, especially among Scotts around the world:
Favourite above all of the later designs proved to be the Thistle pattern (never officially named) comprising a semi-stylised grouping featuring a thistle, heather, and bluebells, all on a sky blue background. This was hugely popular both at home and overseas, and was in great demand from countries with large populations of expatriate Scots, which contributed to Buchan’s prosperity in the post-War period.
The goods were known as Thistle ware from 1946, the cleverly designed thistle trade mark was registered in 1949, and the works were known as the Thistle Pottery from 1955 until its closure in 1972.
This was not the end of A.W. Buchan & Co, for it relocated to Crieff, manufacture starting there even before it had ended at Portobello.
It prospered, rather against the odds, still producing the Thistle and some other patterns until its sudden closure in 1999.
Even then it was not totally finished, as a lone potter, Joe Hunter, and a single decorator, Karen Cramb, continue to keep the Buchan name alive. The famous Thistle mark has been re-registered, and Thistle ware, and some other lines, continue to be made.