I was looking through the beautifully presented book Dorset Barns by Jo Draper and David Bailey, published by Dovecote Press, when I came across a photograph (above) of the Crossroads Pottery at Verwood and I could see the pots lined up outside the barn. Some of the shapes looked very familiar indeed to me and so I went straight out into the garden to take another look at my granny’s breadcrock which has been used for plants for over forty years. It has withstood all manner of weather, unlike newer pots which have come and gone, and whenever I look at it I remember how it used to stand on a chair in the larder at granny’s house in Nether Compton where it had been in continual use for storing the bread over very many years. Just how many years I began, through the discovery of this photograph, to perhaps get more of an idea about. From reading through Pottery by Penny Copland-Griffiths, another Dovecote Press publication, and by checking the website I discovered that the Crossroads Pottery was the last working pottery in the East Dorset pottery industry known collectively as ‘Verwood Pottery’ whose major production was of domestic earthenware. Until the Crossroads pottery closed its doors in 1952 the methods of production had not varied from Roman times with all the processes being carried out with no mechanisation or electrification. The clay was always trodden by foot, the wheel was turned by an assistant with a pole or handle and the kilns were wood fired. So granny’s breadcrock is very likely to have been made originally in a pottery somewhere in the Verwood area maybe even at the Crossroads pottery itself. How can I be so sure you may ask? I will explain. The granny I knew was actually my grandfather’s second wife and she was a lovely lady who married when she was 50. His first wife and my father’s mother died when my dad was 13. My ‘real’ grandmother was the daughter of the wonderfully named Eliza Mathilda Lavender who arrived, as the first certified school teacher, at Verwood School in 1875. Eliza entered into a large extended family when she married local farmer’s son Arthur Blandford in August 1878. My grandmother Mabel was born in 1882 and it is Mabel who, I believe, may have been the original owner of the breadcrock as it might have been given to her by one of her many Blandford relatives when she married my grandfather in Christchurch priory in April 1908. So is my breadcrock originally a piece of ‘Verwood Pottery’ and could it just be that I still have one of my grandparents wedding presents?
This realisation got me wondering whether I still have any of my mother’s wedding presents and yes I have her treasured Cornish Ware storage jars in the distinctive blue and white stripe. My mother was a wartime bride marrying in June 1943 and I think some of the ingredients on the jars speak of the times and in particular ‘angelica’. Iced sponge cakes were often decorated with little yellow mimosa balls each with two little diamonds of angelica. I think you would be very hard put to find candied angelica on sale today.
I then considered our own wedding presents and what I could find in use around the house today and I must confess to finding very little as our gifts had been mostly of practical and useful everyday items which have now long gone. I did however locate in the back of a cupboard some lovely little coffee cups by Susie Cooper for Wedgewood that look very redolent of the 1960s (we were married in 1966) plus a distinctive red metal coffee pot given to us by some friends from London which they might have found in Heales or perhaps in Terence Conran’s fairly recently opened Habitat.
I leave you with a magnificent breadcrock made today at John Leach’s Muchelney Pottery. What a wonderful and potentially very long lasting wedding present this would make.
7 May 2016