Home » Art Life » Frederick Garrard and the Millwall Pottery

Frederick Garrard and the Millwall Pottery

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Ceramic Wall Tiles designed by Frederick Garrard.. 1873 Rome, Photograph (2004)  by George P. Landow

In the 19th century the Isle of Dogs was home to a number of large manufacturers and quite a few smaller concerns.

One of these smaller concerns were Thomas Wilcox, Edward Price Smith and Orlando Webb, earthenware manufacturers who began their business in 1852, over the next twenty years the business continued but under a series of name changes.  In the 1870s a new firm Thomas James Allen took over the site and created Millwall Pottery Ltd.

At that time the firm occupied premises  near the Ferry House, which comprised a yard with a range of single-storey buildings. These buildings incorporated a couple of old warehouses near to  three cottages.

The quick change of ownership indicated that Millwall Pottery Ltd was not a great success and closed in the 1880s.

The three cottages were leased in the 1870s to another firm dealing in Pottery but this business gained  a considerable reputation for making wall tiles.

The person behind this business was Frederick Garrard , a former architect who became a master potter, Garrard lived in Greenwich and built up a successful business making wall tiles for the burgeoning Art and Crafts movement.

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Cuenca tile Frederick Garrard c. 1875 Photograph and text by Chris Blanchett

Garrard probably though his contacts realised that the demand for Art and Crafts type tiles was considerable and began to manufacture copies of Spanish Cuenca style tiles  which were popular in churches and  copies of Dutch Delftware type tiles for many of the houses that were adopting the Arts and Crafts style.

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“Dutch” design tiles Photograph and text by Chris Blanchett

One of his earliest commissions was for restoration of Charlton House not far from Gerrard’s home in Greenwich. So good were Gerrard’s tiles that they were often mistaken for the originals.

Garrard  also developed a line of floor tiles which was highly sought after and was used in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin .

Garrard’s tiles can be seen in a number of public buildings, country houses and churches  all over the UK including Royal Courts of Justice, Bletchley Park, Tatton Park, St Swithuns Church, Bournemouth and  Cragside, the Northumberland home of Lord Armstrong.

Unfortunately, at the height of his success Garrard developed diabetes and in 1893 he died aged 55. Tile production on the site continued till at least 1911 with one of his workers John Lewis James taking control of the works and developing a few lines of his own.

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Tile depicting a cricket batsman – John Lewis James – Photograph and text by Chris Blanchett

Because his tiles are so difficult to distinguish from the originals and the fact that they were not clearly marked has meant that Frederick Garrard has perhaps not received the credit for his wonderfully made wall tiles, however recently Tile experts such as Chris Blanchett have undertaken a great deal of research into Garrard’s work and even discovered that some tiles in St Pauls with in the Walls in Rome originated from Garrard’s  Millwall workshop.

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Cuenca Tile – Photograph and text by Chris Blanchett

The Isle of Dogs and Millwall is seldom seen as a part of the Arts and Crafts movement, however the work of Frederick Garrard deserves greater recognition as great examples of home made decorative art .

 


5 Comments

  1. Jan Hill says:

    Thanks for posting this. I was particularly interested as my father’s grandparents worked at a pottery on the Island. On the 1881 census, William James (living in Stebondale Street) is shown as “potter out of employ” and his wife is shown as “potter transferer”. The James family had come to the Island from Staffordshire (Burslem?) around 1865 so had presumably worked in the pottery industry before moving to London. I always imagined them working at a more “downmarket” pottery than the one you describe, so maybe there were other potteries on the Island.

    • Hi Jan

      It is a little bit confusing but just behind the Ferry house were what was called Millwall Pottery but it was a different number of firms from around 1850,The Garrard firm sometimes was called Millwall pottery but really wasn’t but worked in cottages in the same area.
      Your family is interesting because Garrard died in 1893, and a John Lewis James took over the firm, he had previously been a worker for Garrard. Was he part of your family ? it was a bit of a coincidence if not related.
      It might be worth looking into John Lewis James he started to produce his own tile ie cricketers.

  2. Jan Hill says:

    Thanks for your reply. I don’t think John Lewis James is anything to do with my great-grandparents as they only had daughters. I think that my lot were very working class and wouldn’t have owned a factory (unfortunately!). Interestingly though, my great grandmother’s maiden name was Watson and I think it was her brother, Elijah, who, also having started life in the Burslem area, migrated to work in (or maybe run) a pottery near Torquay. It seems that having skills as a potter made you employable wherever else potteries were setting up around the country. Thanks again for your comments. Jan

  3. Chris Blanchett says:

    I have only just discovered that this website has put up my photos and text about Frederick Garrard. I would be pleased to make contact with anyone who has any further info on him and/or his tiles as my research into his life and work is on-going. The original research is detailed in the Journal of the Tiles and Architectural Ceramics Society, Vol 19, 2013, and copies are available from myself. My email is buckland.books@tiscali.co.uk.
    Chris Blanchett
    Tile Historian

    • Hi Chris,

      Your research on Frederick Gerrard is fascinating and shines a light on a little known aspect of the Island.
      I hope that anyone with further information, get in touch.

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