On entering the WI Hall, members were met with a display of Gullies, Thirdells, Pinchguts, Tivvys, Penny’s and many other items of pottery with intriguing names. All of the items were products of the Lakes’ Pottery once located in Chapel Hill, Truro; the site is now occupied by a Baptist Chapel. Mike Edwards, a lifelong and well known potter and one time employee of Lakes, provided an intriguing history of the business and pottery process entitled “Back to the Yard”. The title originated from listening to male senior citizens known as the “Truro Parliament” who sat on the window ledges of what is now the HSBC Bank and talked about “up the yard” when referring to the pottery. The production of pots for domestic use in Truro can be traced back to the medieval priory that may have used a local seam of clay.
Bradshaw, in his railway guide, mentions the Venn pottery in the 1860s, which was sited near to what is now Halfords. Potting was one of several small manufacturing industries in Truro which included the production of rennet and vinegar. The Venn pottery specialised in making spills (vases) for flower shows, particularly for flowers from Scilly, the clay being brought by train and then horse and cart from Devon and some from St Agnes. The pottery closed in 1920. C.H. Lake, a St Austell builder’s merchant, bought the Chapel Hill site in 1872 and continued the existing pottery business. Prior to throwing the pot, the clay was milled using a horse whim. Mike served his apprenticeship with Lakes in the 1950s and progressed to being a wheelman (potter). Following throwing of the clay, pots were dried before being fired, heat being provided by the sun or by burning gorse prickles. The kiln of stone and brick was 40’ high and was fired with furze (gorse) that was collected from as far afield as Goonhavern by some of the employees. Firing took place once a month on a Friday and Saturday. In 1944 a new kiln was constructed by bricklayers from Stoke on Trent. This kiln was fired using 5 tons of Welsh coal. Once it got going, flames would come out of the chimney and a crowd would gather to watch.
A wide range of household products were produced including cream pans, grave ornaments, cloam ovens and chimney pots, as well as a range of jugs and pitchers. Glazing for domestic use was only on the inside. During the 1950s the demand for domestic prod- ucts began to reduce as plastic became more common and more houses had mains water so Lakes began to produce items for the gift trade. Horizons were also expanded beyond the local market as the pottery began to be produced for export. Products by now were glazed externally. The pottery was sold to the Dartington Trust and later another owner oversaw the demise of the pottery and sold the site in 1984. Mike Edwards left Lakes in the 1960s and then worked for many years at the Bolingey Pottery, Perranporth.
The Chairman, Geoff Roberts, thanked Mike for his interesting talk. The next meeting will be on Friday 16th October at 19.15 in the WI Hall when Chris Hosking will be talking about the Geevor Mine.