When the first white settles arrived in Australia in 1788, one of the first things they did was send clay samples to England for analysis. Josiah Wedgwood examined the samples and declared them excellent for making pottery. (He used the clay to make the “Sydney Cove Medallion”, a neoclassical relief depicting the figure of Hope addressing Peace, Labour and Art on the shows of Sydney Cove.)

The first potter in Australia was Samuel Skinner who arrived as a free settler (with a convict wife) in 1801. His work was extremely popular right up to death in 1807, reportedly from overwork.

Several potteries were established in the 1830s. Enoch Fowler established a pottery at Glebe in Sydney to produce pipes, tiles, chimney pots and items for industrial use. James King set up the Irrawong Pottery north of Newcastle to produce cheap earthenware and stoneware. He became a very successful businessman and was instrumental in establishing wine growing the Hunter Valley .Around the same time, James Sherwin established a pottery in Hobart and a number of potteries were set up in Brunswick, Melbourne. In particular, the Brunswick Pottery and Brickworks produced pipes, water filters, chimney pots and terra cotta. The Brunswick Pottery continued in production until the early 1950s.

The first South Australian potteries were established in the 1840s at Northwood, Kensington and Thebart. The Bendigo Pottery, which is still famous today, was set up in 1858 by George Guthrie. The Lithgow Valley Colliery Company established a pottery in 1876. The Lithgow Pottery pottery made a full range of Bristol, Rockingham and majolica wares including teapots, jars, bowls, bedpans and toby jugs. The Lithgow Pottery closed in 1896; an attempt to revive it in 1905 failed.

During the 1870s the Brunswick Pottery established a branch in Launceston which it sold to John Campbell in 1881. This became the first Australian pottery to use electric power and changed its name to Campbell’s Electric Pottery and in 1926 to J. Campbell Pty Limited. It produced pipes and a range of domestic pottery up until 1959.

In Sydney in 1885, James Sandison and the Mashman Brothers established Mashman Brothers Pottery at Chatswood which produced good quality salt-glazed wares until it was taken over by Royal Doulton in 1959. Also in Sydney, The Bakewell Brothers expanded their brick business into pottery making in the 1890s and continued to produce domestic pottery until 1955.

During the 1930s, the Hoffman Brick and Potteries Limited became one of the largest businesses in Melbourne. They produced a variety of decorative pieces known as “Melrose Australian Ware”. Hoffman’s work often had a distinctive blue and green glaze with applied Australian fauna, gum nuts and leaves. The Hoffman Pottery closed in the 1960s.

Premier Pottery began production in Preston, Melbourne, in 1929. At first the Preston Pottery produced hand painted wares but later they specialised in pottery with applied gum leaf or Australian fauna decoration and colourful drip glazes which they called “Remued” wares.

After the Second World War, the Darbyshire Pottery in Western Australia (often misspelt “Derbyshire” and thought to be English) produced a range of slip cast pottery with handmade moulded decoration. They mainly produced small items including animals, vases, jugs, salt and pepper shakers and a famous range of Aboriginal figures. Darbyshire closed in 1958.

There was a burgeoning of Australian pottery in the 1960s and 70s. The most important manufacturer from this period was Diana, which was actually a German company whose Australian operation was managed from New York. Diana produced bright “gumnut” pots with pale green and brown glaze.


Antique Australian ceramics available now

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