My name is Jon Baldwin and I live on Kilbourne Road, Belper, some of my ancestors have lived and worked on the same road and in the same area for hundreds of years, just a stone’s throw from the site of the old Belper pottery.

I would just like to set the scene – The road that is now called Kilbourne Road, which is the main A609 through Belper, was previously called Kilburn Rd, presumably because it goes to Kilburn, the Kilbourne spelling had been found on some old maps and the local Council, after pressure from some residents subsequently changed the name and the signs. On this road, just up from my house is a hill, quite a steep hill, but not as steep as it used to be, having had several alterations done in the past, this hill leads to a crossroads called Openwoodgate, historically the steep part of the hill was known as Barton Knowle, possibly because of the Barley that used to be grown in the local fields. But this hill is known, colloquially as Bedlam Hill, for possibly several reasons:

On the 1835 Sanderson’s Map, my road (Kilbourne Rd) is marked as Pot House Lane, and on the same map, the “Gangway” is shown as far as the Coal Wharf at Openwoodgate. At the end of the 18th century and beginning of the 19th century there was also a toll house with a chain or gate, which stood a short distance down the same road; this was known as Potter’s Lane Gate, so clearly the Nether pottery, which had been taken over by the Bourne family, had been there for a very long time, and was probably in existence in the second half of the 18th Century.

This advert appeared in the Derby Mercury 3rd December 1801

“Belper, December 1st 1801”


“TAKES the liberty of informing the public, that he hath engaged the POT WORKS lately in the possession of Mr. Edward Mee, deceased, which will be carried on in making the same kind of ware, namely, Common Black Ware, Garden Pots, Sough Pipes, Chimney Pipes, Mouldy Ware, &c.–All who please to favour him with their custom my depend on being served on the very lowest terms, by their humble servant,


Unfortunately, just to confuse matters, another advert appeared in a Manchester newspaper, with John Blood in a different partnership:


“Blood, Jacskon, Evans and Co.”


“Beg leave to inform the town of Manchester, and the Public in general, that they are manufacturing Stone Bottles, from half a pint to any size upwards, required, which, for strength, compactness, lightness, and elegance, they flatter themselves, will recommend them to all those who are in the habit of using this article.

Samples may be seen, and prices known, by applying to John Watkinson, No21, Copperas–street, Manchester; orders received by whom will be executed with the strictest punctuality and despatch, and on the most reasonable terms.

J. Webster, one of the Proprietors, may be seen at the White Bear, on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday next. February 26th, 1808.”

When the Bourne family came to Belper they took over the existing Nether pottery and it was later recorded that in 1806, that William Bourne, the elder, with the help of his son, Edward, could afford to buy the Belper Pottery – Nether Pottery from Mr John Blood and his partners, although there is conflicting information regarding this, as it wasn’t until 1811 that the dissolving of the partnership between John Blood, Thomas Allsop and George Allsop was reported in the newspaper. Derby Mercury 19th September 1811:


“THAT the Copartnership between John Blood, Thomas Allsop, and George Allsop, earthenware manufacturers, at or near Belper, was some short time ago Dissolved by mutual consent.–And all Persons who have any Claims or Demands on such Copartnership, are desired to deliver the same to Mr. Adam Simpson, at the Swan Inn, near Openwoodgate;–and all–Debts owing to the said Concern are to be paid to him; Dated this 10th day of September, 1811.

John Blood. Thomas Allsop. George Allsop.

The Nether Pottery, as the name implies, was at the bottom of the hill on the low ground and was sited at the side of the Coppice Brook (formally thought to be Bradeley Brook), which still runs through Belper. The location was ideally suited as it had a ready supply of water from the brook, clay from the surrounding local fields and coal, which at the time, had to be carted by road from the pits owned by William Drury Lowe Esq. at Denby, but it wasn’t long before the Denby coal pits were connected via a branch line of the “Little Eaton Gangway”, as far the crossroads at the top of my road, where it terminated in a coal land sale wharf at Openwoodgate. The “Gangway” was predominantly a horse drawn tramway, but used steam winding engines on steep uphill inclines. The Sanderson’s Map of 1835 clearly shows the steam winding engine on the incline to Openwoodgate and the engine shed was still in existence in the 1970’s at the side of the old Hilltop Farm. The original plans for the tramway extension from the Openwoodgate coal wharf, that would descend “Bedlam Hill”, required a self acting inclined plane (full wagons descending, braked by pulling empties uphill). Although this cannot be proved to have been implemented because of lack of evidence remaining or photographs, but there must have been a reliable method of getting the loaded wagons down such a steep hill, as there is no record of any accidents occurring on this section of the “Gangway”. The original Tramway (Gangway) had been built by Benjamin Outram, on behalf of the Derby Canal Company and its shareholders, and ran between the Derby Canal Wharf at Little Eaton and the coal pits at Denby, some 5 miles away along the Bottlebrook Valley – it opened on 11th May 1795 and the first load of coals were transported to Little Eaton where the container tubs were lifted off the wheeled wagon chassis with a manual crane and loaded into Canal barges, which was one of the earliest forms of container transportation. This coal was then given free by the instruction of William Drury Lowe Esq, and was taken to be distributed amongst the poor folk of Derby with no charge. This was recorded in the Derby Mercury 14th May 1795:

“On Monday last, the Denby line of the Derby Canal and Railway was opened for the conveyance of coals &c. and about 2 o’clock the same day, the first boat laden with between 40 and 50 tons of that useful article arrived in this town from the pits at Denby, belonging to William Drury Lowe Esq of Locko, who generously ordered them to be given to the poor, and on Tuesday they were distributed accordingly.”

The later branch lines, from the main line, were financed and built by the local pit and landowner, William Drury Lowe Esq. of Locko Park, Spondon. The coal was brought to the top of my road at Openwoodgate crossroads, at the top of “Bedlam Hill” via a steam engine driven incline, this is just a stone’s throw from the Belper Pottery, but the coal still had to be conveyed from the top of the hill, where the tramway stopped at the Openwoodgate Coal Wharf, to the Pottery and the rest of Belper Town, this was done by teams of horse drawn carts along what is now known as Kilbourne road. It would take until 1843 for the tramway extension down Bedlam Hill and past my house to be completed, and a new Coal Wharf for land sales was built directly opposite the Nether Pottery. The reason for the slow progress in the construction of the Tramway was the reluctance of the main landowner along the proposed route (following Kilbourne Rd) Abraham Harrison, who was the local Nail Master, and he refused to sell his land, for the extension of the “Gangway”, to William Drury Lowe at any price, this was recorded in letters found in the Drury Lowe Papers. Unfortunately, the extension as far as the new land sale coal wharf, opposite the Nether Pottery, came too late for the Bourne family to benefit from it as they had already shifted production to their other pottery at Denby, which is still producing quality stoneware today.

Most published information, regarding the Belper Pottery will give a date of between 1834/36 as the time when the Bourne’s closed the pottery for good and there was no more pottery made in Belper, but this is in fact not the end of the Belper Pottery story or indeed the coal tramway. The pottery was re–opened by Mary Machin, Edward Bourne’s widow sometime in the late 1830’s and not long after, in 1843 the tramway was used for what it had been intended, to facilitate the supply of coal to the pottery and to the people of Belper. Although the plan to further extend the Tramway, into the heart of Belper Town, which had been encouraged by the Strutt’s, who were the local Mill owners and used a considerable amount of coal, was never implemented.

Mary Machin had been married to one of William Bourne, the elders son’s, Edward Bourne, who died unexpectedly in 1814. Edward was the main shareholder in the Belper Pottery, along with his father, William. The pottery had been held in trust for Edward and Mary’s two daughters, with an annual annuity being paid to Mary, from the profits of the pottery. The evidence for this, I found by studying the personal pocket accounts book of Joseph Bourne for the period 1829 – 1831– (son of William Bourne the elder, Joseph, took over the running of Belper and Denby potteries, after Edward Bourne had died). It clearly shows regular payments being made to Mary Machin, which I can only presume was her share of the profits from the pottery. There is only scant information about this time in the Pottery’s history but I have managed to piece together some. Edward Bourne’s widow, Mary, went on to marry a successful pottery manufacturer from Burslem, Stoke on Trent, Joseph Machin, in May 1823. Unfortunately, he too died unexpectedly in 1831 and his business in Burslem was passed on to his eldest son, from a previous marriage, with only an allowance for Mary. This left her in a financially unstable position. By this time her two daughters had married into prosperous, manufacturing families. This allowed Mary to return to Belper Pottery, not long after the Bourne family had ceased production, and reopen the works. By this time, slightly further up the road, adjacent to the entrance to Pottery Farm, but on the same area of land, the Bourne family had built a new, substantial house, stables and more cottages for the workers. This was a sensible move by the Bourne family to get further away from the pottery kilns that would produce large amounts of noxious fumes and smoke, especially when the salt was introduced into the kiln for the salt glazing process. These new buildings were, for all intents and purposes, an extension of the old Nether Pottery and even though the Bourne family had ceased production, the two areas were collectively known as “Pottery Houses”, and were still occupied by the families of the pottery workers, some of which now worked for the Bourne family at Denby. Looking through Joseph Bourne’s pocket, accounts book I found a personal connection to the history of the Belper/Denby Potteries through my Stone Family ancestors, who lived and worked cheek by jowl with both the Bourne family and later, Mary Machin and her son, Edward Bourne Machin and her stepson, Thomas Machin, who was a deaf and mute photographic artist and would later have photographic studios in Ilkeston and Belper. My Stone family ancestors are recorded in Joseph Bourne’s pocket accounts book as working at the Belper/Denby potteries, their wages are recorded as is the rent received by Joseph from them for living at the Belper Pottery and also many other interesting pieces of information, where they are mentioned.

The first hard evidence, I managed to find, for the reopening of the Belper Pottery and for a more precise date, appears in the cash book/ledger of another local business man, a descendant of the afore mentioned, Abraham Harrison, the Nail Master, John Harrison, who at the time, was the owner of the immediately adjacent Pottery Farm, which shows that water was supplied to the new pottery cottages from the farm well or possibly from the spring that rises on the farm land

Dated March 6th 1838 from John Harrison’s cash book:

“Received from William Bourne for two years acknowledgment for water at the farmyard for six houses (sixpence a year each) ending Lady Day 1838 (there is now seven houses?)”

Lady Day (feast of the annunciation) was the 25th March and historically occurred where no harvesting/ploughing work would be undertaken and other business between tenants and landowners would occur.

Whether the houses referred to in the cash book are the new houses or a combination of both areas, is difficult to establish and it is quite possible that the settlement around the Nether Pottery, further down the hill had its own water supply from the Coppice Brook or a well.

The next entry in the cash book for water payments is for:

March 30th 1840 and is recorded as:

“Received from Mrs Machin for two years acknowledgment (for water supply) to Lady Day 1840”

This implies that the water supply from the farm yard was paid by William Bourne, the younger up to 1838 but from 1838 – 1840 was paid by Mary Machin so a tentative date of 1838 is to be taken as the time when the Belper Pottery was reopened.

The entries in the cash book/ledger continue with Mary Machin paying for the water supply to the pottery every year from then on, until the end of that cash book.

After extensive searching through local newspaper archives, over a period of two years, and having very little success initially, eventually, I located some more information regarding the new house and cottages and also, the Nether Pottery. The ownership of the cottages and the converted buildings, that had previously been the workshops, drying sheds and warehouses of the Nether Pottery, that were later lived in, appear to have stayed or returned, through inheritance to the Bourne family. These cottages were subsequently disposed of as part of the estate of Sarah Elizabeth Bourne, and an advert for the auction appeared in the Belper News 13th Jan 1899 – the cottages and converted buildings still exist to this day.

The first advert that I have found for the reopening of the Belper Pottery appeared in the Derby Mercury Nov 18th 1840 and states:

“The proprietress (Mrs Machin) respectfully begs to announce to the nobility, gentry, gardeners and the public generally, that she is carrying on the above works in their several departments, and trusts by unvarying attention to business and furnishing ware of a superior quality, she will be enabled to merit and enjoy a continuance of their patronage. N.B. The following articles manufactured at reasonable prices viz; Garden pots, Sea Kale pots, sough pipes and chimney pipes upon an improved principle, and Black Ware of all descriptions. Belper Pottery, November 14th 1840”

The next advert I managed to find, hidden in the newspaper archives is for the Derby Mercury 31st Aug 1853

“Belper Pottery”

M.Machin is now manufacturing a very superior article in RED WARE; comprising a great variety of garden pots in every shape and size required; with chimney, draining, stove–pies etc etc; and respectfully solicits an inspection.
Reference may be made to Chatsworth, Elvaston and other gardens of the nobility and gentry in the neighbourhood using the same”

What is clear is that Mary Machin had reopened the pottery and it was in full production. I have also found many articles in the newspaper archives referring to general events that took place at the pottery, during the time of the Bourne family living there and also during Mary Machin’s time running the pottery, these range from pottery and earthenware being stolen, the property of William Bourne, to Mary Machin’s house, formally the Bourne family house, being broken into whilst she was attending a service on Christmas night at the local Weslyan, Pottery Methodist Chapel, that incidentally had been built and paid for by William Bourne the elder. (The date stone, on the original building is marked 1816, but the Historic England Grade 2 listing, records 1812 and there is also a reference in a publication of Chapels of Worship of 1815 – so there is considerable uncertainty around the actual date of construction.) The article appeared in the Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal 31st December 1847:

“Burglary at Belper”

“On Christmas night, whilst Mrs Machin, of Belper Pottery, was at the Weslyan Chapel, her house was entered by means of a pick–lock, and 13s in money, two silver tablespoons, a time–piece, and some valuable dresses were stolen. Great damage was done to several chests of drawers, and large quantities of linen, books, &c., thrown about in the utmost disorder. Money appeared to be the object of their search, but fortunately Mrs. Machin had well secured that, except the small change which was taken. We hope the thieves will be detected.”

From the Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal 17th April 1914 I found an advert for the sale of the new houses and cottages etc. at the Belper Pottery, and interestingly, it lists a building and garden adjoining in the occupation of Samuel Frogatt. I was lucky enough to contact a descendent of Samuel Frogatt, who supplied me with a picture of the Frogatt family, sitting outside, what is described as “The White house” Kilbourne Road, “Wakes Monday 1909” This house was the new, large family house, built by William Bourne the elder, adjacent to the entrance of Pottery Farm and was a substantial 8 roomed house, as recorded on the census records. This was the very same house, later occupied by Mary Machin and family when she returned to Belper to reopen the pottery. Interestingly, this house and everything else that originally existed in this area, apart from 3 stone built, workers cottages, no longer exist. Although, clearly they were in existence when they were all sold at auction in 1914. In fact there is actually more evidence, to this day, in the form of buildings, on the site of the Nether Pottery than the later development near Pottery Farm. In the area of the Nether Pottery, there still exist a large number of cottages, some of which were converted from the original drying sheds, workshops and warehouses and they stand directly at the side of the Coppice Brook.

The last mention, that I can find anywhere, regarding continued manufacture at Belper Pottery, is an advert from the Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal 6th Feb 1863, where Mrs Machin is looking to rent the pottery as a going concern, presumably to provide an income in her old age, but there is no evidence that it was ever leased and it is quite possible that Mary continued to run the pottery, in a small way, until she dies at the Pottery aged 88 years in 1870.

The advert states:

“To be let, with immediate possession, that old established MANUFACTURY, known as The Belper Pottery. Particulars, on application to Mrs Machin, at the works.
Mrs. Machin has in stock a large assortment of red flower pots which she is offering for a great discount for cash.”

An interesting article regarding the state of pottery production in Derbyshire, appeared some years later in the Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald 26th April 1884, the author of the article states:

“I passed the site of the old Belper Works the other day, no vestige of them remains but I saw a notice board by the margin of a clear flowing brook (Coppice Brook adjacent to Nether Pottery) the inscription of which I jotted down in my memory, for if its injunction were strictly carried out with regard to other Derbyshire streams, Mr John Ruskin’s strictures would be less deserved. It read; “Local Board Caution – Any person throwing any rubbish or cinders, waste or matter of any putrid character in the water will be prosecuted as the law directs. Sept 1877 by order”

No sooner had Mary died in 1870, than the Belper Pottery coal wharf closed for good and the “Gangway” (tramway) track was removed, the whole length of Kilbourne Rd, to the base of “Bedlam Hill” The land of the “Old Pottery Coal Wharf” was sold shortly after this, to the local crate maker, Sampson Beardmore, who supplied both the Bourne’s, at Belper and Denby Pottery and Mary Machin at Belper Pottery, with ossier (willow) wicker crates for transporting pottery on the “Gangway” and he then subsequently sold the land of the “Old Pottery Coal Wharf” to the local school board, who had approached several landowners, in the locality, with a view to purchasing land for a proposed new school which was completed and opened in 1878 and is still in existence, to this day, as Pottery Primary School. Sampson Beardmore’s land was obviously considered to be the most suitable location for the school because they paid his price, which was considerably more than the other land owners, but the wharf land was directly adjacent to the road and central to the settlement that had grown up around the pottery area, this area was and still is known as “The Pottery”. Initially, Sampson Beardmore had refused to sell any land but must have had a change of heart, as it was recorded on 9th September 1876 that “...The Clerk, having also asked the Education Department to sanction that the plot of land known as the Old Coal Wharf be the site for the combined school for the Openwoodgate and Pottery districts...”

When the Belper Pottery coal wharf was closed and the “Gangway” track removed, the coal sales reverted back to the land sale wharf at the top of “Bedlam Hill” at Openwoodgate crossroads for a few years more, before it too was closed and eventually in 1908 the whole of the “Little Eaton Gangway” closed for good. Well almost – it was very briefly opened again, later the same year, August 1908, to transport stone from the quarries of Little Eaton and Coxbench to the Derby Canal wharf at Little Eaton and from there, by barge to Sawley and Draycott for the construction of the “Derwent Valley Water Scheme”. After this brief reprieve, it was then abandoned for good, falling into disrepair and eventually being sold off to adjacent landowners. Even the Derby Canal stopped being used and eventually became un–navigable, with most of it being lost under modern road construction. Only the Little Eaton canal wharf Master’s house remains, which locally is called “The Clock House” because of a large clock that was fitted into the front face of the building when it was constructed, but even this is hidden from view by a modern industrial estate.

A very interesting article appeared in the Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald of 6th July 1889. The author of the article had walked and followed the route of the “Little Eaton Gangway” and also the old branch line towards Belper, past the steam winding engine at Hilltop Farm on the steep incline towards Over Lane (previously Upper Lane) and Openwoodgate and he had this to say:

“The tramway from Little Eaton to Ripley consist of a single line with frequent passing places. It rises gradually, and misses entirely the heavier grades of the highway. It is thus arranged that but little horsepower is required to bring the coal down – hill the law of gravitation practically providing the motive power. A traverse section of the rails is represented by the figure “L” the horizontal portion, upon which the flat–wheel corves run, being spiked down to sleepers made of the stone of the district. The length from Denby to Belper when still in use, was worked by a stationery engine on the hill brow midway between the two points at Over Lane. The unused portions, judging by the growth of vegetation, have been idle for the best part of half a century, and why the iron rails have not been pulled up and made use of long ago, it would be difficult to divine.”

Clearly this was an exaggeration by the author and the “Gangway” branch line hadn’t been idle for the “best part of half a century”, but it had become, quickly overgrown with vegetation through lack of use and both the branch line and the Openwoodgate coal wharf must have been abandoned a number of years earlier. The land that the Openwoodgate coal wharf occupied was later purchased by the Rev F. A. Friend, on behalf of the Belper Church of St. Peters, for the purpose of building a new church in this outlying area of Belper Town. The new church of St Marks, Openwoodgate, was completed in 1891 and by that time the “Old Established Belper Pottery” and the “Old Gangway”, that supplied it with coal, in its latter years, were long gone and had already been consigned to history.

Copyright Jon Baldwin