1870s - 1910: Cole's Pottery, White Hart Lane, Tottenham

Very little has come down in the family about the origins of the Cole family's pottery in White Hart Lane, on the border of Tottenham and Wood Green. The information here on the 1870s-1910 is primarily based on contemporary documents, such as rating records, census returns, GRO certificates and newspaper cuttings.

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Documentary evidence

The earliest documentary evidence for the Cole Pottery in White Hart Lane comes from the rating records, from which it appears that sometime between 1870 and 1877, the Coles took over the occupation of the site. The period can be narrowed down further to between 1871 (probably 1872) and 1877 because the 1871 census showed John Cole still at Walthamstow at what was to become the Pettit Pottery.

The 1877 rating record does not say which Cole was at the White Hart Lane site, although the understanding that came down in the Cole family was that the pottery was started by John Cole. The 1881 rating record, however, puts the business in the name of John's son, Edward, known as E. G. Cole. The 1881 census documents both these Coles as potters living in Tottenham: John at 7 Prospect Place and E G at 1 Stanford Street. Three of John's four other sons were also in the neighbourhood, working at pottery-related trades, presumably at the White Hart Lane site:

The pottery was employing nine men.

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Difficult times

According to understandings left in the family, the pottery was first run by the older sons, but trade was bad and the business had to shut down for a year - which year is not known. Sankey of Nottingham had built a firm next door and was underselling Coles by 10%. The 1890 Tottenham Gazette may shed some insight on this, although the incident described may apply to a different period.

Apparently, during 1890, there was a strike among the pottery workers with strikers marching through Wood Green 'in a body'. Several meetings were held at 'The 7 Oaks' but by 27 July the strike was no nearer settlement. One consequence seems to have been a brawl between two pottery employees: Henry Cheale of Church Road, Tottenham was found guilty of the assault of William Allen of Ashford Road. Cheale was fined 20 shillings with 35 shillings cost - no small amount in those days. Alternatively he could have served 14 days in prison. There is no indication of what choice he made!

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Pottery ownership v security of a salary

Again according to understandings in the family, E G Cole and my great grandfather James Reedman Cole gave up their careers to rescue the business. However, these careers - E G as a policeman and James as a school teacher - must have fitted between the census returns as there is no record of them and therefore no associated dates. Presumably the careers were short-lived anyway, sometime between 1871 and 1877 because E G was documented as a potter on his 1877 marriage certificate. The story goes that when E G and James came to formalise their working relationship, James negotiated the security of a salary whereas E G agreed to take income only from the profits, which were presumably then modest at best, and to live elsewhere. E G accordingly acquired the formal ownership of a business which was at that time of questionable value.

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Better times

With the new family arrangement, the business went from strength to strength, but the arrangement was one that James would later have cause to regret.

Sankey withdrew to Nottingham - where it remains a leading manufacturer of horticultural products - and the South family moved into the vacated premises. At first Souths lived in half of the pottery house, Tentdale, but they later moved to another large house in the area and Coles took over the whole house, first with E G living on-site in one half and then with James and his family living there and various employees living in the other half. Later E G lived off-site to a large house in Pellat Grove.

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This website Potteries and brickyards worked by the Cole family is Pat Cryer. For applications to reproduce text or images, click here.