A "Sailors Jug" manufactured around 1800.
A “Sailors Jug” manufactured around 1800.

After Shipbuilding, the next major industry to develop in the village was the Pottery industry.

The industry began in Hylton in 1798 and soon began to expand when it was bought by Messrs Dawson & Company in 1799. Initially the industry had a distinct advantage over the Staffordshire Potteries because it was situated near the mouth of the river.

Originally only brown clay was used in the making of pottery but there was an increasing demand for ware made from the finer white clay. There was a clear stream running through the brown pottery works which Dawson had tested and found it to be pure for making white clay. He bought this area and began to build the pottery.

Up to 1800 there had also existed on this site, an oil works which sailing vessels had brought blubber. However, closure of the oil works did not mean less trade for shipping. They now imported Devonshire clay and Cornish stone and exported crockery and coal. The shipping greatly helped to stimulate the potteries.

At first flint was carried at a great cost and inconvenience because it had to be carried by keel to Hylton and it took a full day for the wagon to take the empty casks up and bring the full ones down. So, four years after the new pottery had been built in 1836, a flint mill was erected and equipped with up to date machinery having two cylinder boilers and a beam engine. It was capable of grinding twenty tons of flint a week. When the flint mill chimney was pulled down in 1896, the following inscription was found: “This building was erected AD 1840 by John Dawson for the express purpose of grinding flint colour”.

Low Ford Pottery was reputed to be the finest building and pottery on Wearside. In the 1830’s it produced the best earthenware and the largest output on the Wear.

One reason for Dawson’s success was the encouragement given to the work people to bring their minds the bear on their work. They were encouraged to make new designs and these were passed through the oven for them without question or delay.

Some of their products were rose coloured tea sets, gold coffee sets, iron lustre ware and a rich, dark blue willow pattern. Transfer designs were the west view of the bridge over the Wear at Sunderland, the Battle of the Nile, a wild rose design, verses and country scenes.

The works provided employment for two hundred men and women.

When John Dawson died in 1848, the pottery continued in the hands of the trustees. As in so many other industries, the firm was badly handled from this point, the skill not being passed on from father to son.

The plant was finally sold by auction in 1864, the moulds and copper plates commanding a ready sale which saw the end of an industry that had made a most promising beginning in Hylton.

Dawson’s death probably brought the closure of the plant forward only a few years as the industry would most probably have hit a slump in the 1850’s with a tariff, imposed on the continent, which restricted the importing of earthenware except in prohibitive prices.