1910-1930: the Cole Pottery site in White Hart Lane, Tottenham

These recollections are by my mother, born Florence Cole, and are of the time, 1910 to the beginnings of the 1930s, when James Reedman Cole was managing the family pottery in White Hart Lane, Tottenham, and his family was living in the pottery house, Tentdale.

I have many lovely memories of my childhood at our Pottery in White Hart Lane, Tottenham. It was owned by my grandfatherís brother, E G Cole, but my grandfather, James Reedman Cole looked after it. He and my grandmother lived with their large family in the pottery house which was called Tentdale. My younger brother, Ted, and I used to stay at there most weekends and in school holidays doing odd jobs.

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The pottery site

The pottery stood in a large open space which was in stark contrast to the small terraced house where I lived as a child with my parents and brothers.

Tottenham, the Pottery House Tentdale in its large open space

The location of the pottery site in its large open space

By the pottery house were rows and rows of flower pots and sheds that housed the pots ready for baking. Also there was a notice saying "Simon not to be shot here". I used to wonder who Simon was and why anyone should want to shoot him. I found out later that 'simon' was some sort of clay or other material and that 'shot' meant 'dumped'.

The back garden or yard at the Cole Potteries in Tottenham showing the piles of pots in the background

The back garden or yard of the pottery house, Tentdale, with the stacks of pots behind the family group (Back, L to R: Rosa Ellis (then Luetchford); Elizabeth Caroline Ellis (then Cole); unknown; unknown; Florence Maria Bartlett (then Cole). Middle row: Herbert James Claud Cole; unknown; Elizabeth Blunden (then Ellis); James Reedman Cole. Front row, Jim Cole; Ted Cole; Frederick Cyril Luetchford and Florence Edith Cole.

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The clay pit

The clay was taken from an enormous pit near the stables, and trucks on lines brought it up. I never saw the engine but I heard the noise. When some of my cousins came and we went out to play my grandfather would say, "Donít go near the clay run". Apparently a boy was once drowned there in the stagnant water at the bottom of the pit.

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The pottery sheds

Inside the pottery sheds were benches which had pottery wheels on for the men to throw the clay onto for making the pots. These wheels were worked by treadles like the sewing machines of the time.

The pots were put onto shelves to dry before being put into the kilns to be baked.

(There are photos showing working practices on one of the 1950s page, and little would have changed in the intervening years.)

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The kilns

The kilns were not unlike Eskimo igloos to look at. All around them were apertures for coal fires.

The dried pots were put on shelves inside the kilns and there were openings for the men to get in an out. Then, when a kiln was full, this opening was clayed up and the fires were lit.

There were no thermostats in those days to tell you when the pots were ready. You had to know from experience.

When my grandfather first got up in the morning, he would go over to the pottery with a large spade and take live coals from the kiln to bring back for the kitchen fire.

My grandfather did the stoking of the kilns. Work was his life. I donít know what time he got up in the morning. I think about 4 am. The hooter went at 8.00 oíclock to signal the break for breakfast. He broke off around mid-day for dinner, had a lie down on the sofa in the large kitchen for ten minutes, then went back to work until about 3 when he broke again for a cup of tea. He came in for a meal at about 6 and after washing went straight to bed.

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The pottery office

Can you help?

I am eager to contact descendants of anyone who was associated with the Cole Pottery during this time. Arthur Wyeth is a strong possibility. He, a 'Traffic Manager, Farm Cottage White Hart Lane', was the witness to the signature of Elizabeth Cole on a 1922 conveyance of land to Tottenham Council. As, according to my mother there was a large map of England on the pottery office wall for the deliveries, Arthur Wyeth was probably a Cole employee.

In a little lane outside was the pottery office. The only time I went inside was to take E G a cup of coffee, which I didnít enjoy at all.

I had been told by one of my grandparent's daughters, my Aunt Em, not to spill the coffee. However, this was quite a feat because the road was not made up. Also E G was rather forbidding.

There was a large map of England on the office wall for the deliveries, and E G asked me where a particular place was and, sorry to say, I did not know. That was the end of me. He had a good opinion of my older brother, Jim, though. Jim had brains and when he got his school report he would show it to E G who would give him half a crown (two shillings and sixpence) Ė a princely sum in those days. E G admired Jim because he was clever and the sore point was that his own grandchildren had their education paid for, whereas my brother was at a state school. There was never a half crown for me.

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The pottery stable

Beyond the claypit was the stable with its hayloft of hay from the fields on the pottery site. The stable was for the horses that pulled the delivery carts.

The car-men, i.e. the men who delivered the pots, brought their food with them. It was usually bread and cheese, not as sandwiches but as a lump of bread and a lump of cheese, with some cold tea. There were no thermos flasks. The food was carried in a basket not unlike the baskets that cats were carried in and the tea was not in a bottle but in what was known as a Blue Billy can.

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The fields

Tottenham: Tentdale showing the field in front of the house

The entrance to the Pottery showing the field in front and the house.

There were two fields: one at the side of the house and one in front across the lane.

I was fortunate to be over there when they were hay making. It was lovely to watch the men putting the hay onto the carts. When dinner [lunch] time came, they would sit under the hedge in the shade and have their bread and cheese while the horses had their nosebags.

There was a haystack nearby which caught fire one day. That did not come as a surprise as a brown patch had been noticed for a long time. I understood that the hay had not been dried off properly.

In the field across the lane was a pavilion used by a cricket club on Saturday afternoons. Aunt Em would take over a large pot of tea during the interval.

To me it was a lovely picture with it the open country and the wild roses in the hedge that you seldom see these days.

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Later use of the front pottery field

Many years later, the field in front of the house became Wood Green Town Football Club. Haringey Football Club played there and put up placards to acknowledge the field's origin.

Tottenham: Coles Park aerial photograph

The site of the pottery in 2002, showing Coles Park (formerly Coles Field) on the opposite side of White Hart Lane.

Tottenham: Coles Park placard

The two placards read:: "Hackney Borough Football Club COLES PARK ..." (left) and "Haringey Borough Football Club, Welcome to Coles Park" (right).

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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.