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Henshall & Co. (Maker)

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HenshallThe Henshall & Co. pottery was a family affair.  It began as early as 1773 when William Clowes and Robert Williamson built a pottery adjacent to the canal in Longport, near Burslem, Staffordshire.  The company traded as Henshall & Co., the “& Co.” likely included members of both of the Henshall & Williamson families. In 1792 Hugh Henshall, Robert Williamson, and William Clowes insured their Longport pottery with stock and utensils for £1500 and they continued as Henshall, Williamson, & Clowes, until at least 1796. However, in 1799 Robert Henshall died leaving his share of the business to his wife Anne Henshall Brindley Williamson and in  1800 the old partnership was dissolved by mutual consent, William Clowes leaving the business which was to be continued as Henshall and Williamson

A Map of the Potteries published by J. Albut & Son in 1802 shows that by that date there were five potteries at Longport, of which two were operated by companies that included members of the Williamson & Henshall families, the pottery at site 20 was listed as Henshall, Williamson & Co. and site 21 was listed as Williamson & Henshall.  The families were all related by marriage; Hugh Henshall’s sister Jane was married to William Clowes, and his sister Anne Henshall first married James Brindley, and after his death in 1772, married Robert Williamson, with whom she had eight children.  The oldest son of Robert and Anne Williamson was named Hugh Henshall Williamson and he married Anne Clowes.  Not surprisingly this tangle of names has resulted in some confusion in understanding this company.  The families were major landowners, wealthy from their canal engineering exploits, transport and haulage businesses, and investments in coal mines and other local industries.   Pottery making was but one of their many interests. From 1805 into the 1820s various members of the Henshall and Williamson families joined and left the pottery company, one of their two factories was transferred to Davenport & Co. The second factory was retained and traded under the name of Henshall & Williamson.

As Clowes & Co. the firm was noted for its black basalt wares and a number of examples survive in museum and private collections. In 1828, the local newspaper reported that a workman at the factory had been charged with theft of pottery made “solely for Havannah” and noted that Hugh Henshall Williamson employed between 500-700 workers with 60-80 of them being painters.  But perhaps the most prominent survivors of their manufacture are the blue printed patterns, which had a universal appeal. Marked examples usually carry a blue printed pattern name and occasionally are impressed Henshall & Co.

The final reference to the firm is a notice of expiration of partnership.  It was reported in August 1831 that on December 30, 1830, the earthenware manufacturing partnership between the two brothers, Hugh Henshall Williamson and Robert Williamson, had ended and that Robert Williamson would carry on alone and trade as Henshall & Williamson. However by the publication of the next local directory in 1834 the company was no longer listed.