Here at the Ouseburn Trust we are always excited to see old photographs of the Ouseburn and add them to our archive. The area has changed considerably over the years however and sometimes it takes a bit of detective work to piece together where the photograph was taken. Our photo archive volunteers are incredibly skilled in this regard, but on this occasion heritage researcher John has taken up the challenge. Read John’s July blog to see how trying to identify the location for one photograph has taken him on an unexpected voyage into the history of Maling Pottery.

July 2021

Early in June a photograph of “Cetem Athletic” made its way into the Trust offices.

Photo of Malings Pottery football team

This was a picture of the Maling Pottery football team of 1911, appropriately named after the “CETEM” pottery mark used by the factory from 1908 into the 1930s (a phonetic tribute to the initials of Christopher Thompson Maling who ran the firm from 1853 until his death in 1901). 

It is always fascinating to speculate on who these people were, especially with the realisation of what horrors many of them may have faced when Europe erupted into war just a few years after this photograph was taken. Unfortunately, hardly any of the names of these young men are known. 

Ford A Pottery Malings 1859

And of course, we want to know where this picture was taken, and what it can tell us about Ouseburn and the Maling factories in 1911.  The background offers tantalising clues, the chimney and building are instantly evocative of a Maling factory and the Ouseburn assumption is that this must be part of the factory that was on Ford Street.

We struggle to try and match the ghostly image of a building and chimney to our familiar sketch of the Ford A site.

Perhaps the photograph has actually been reversed when printed? Maybe that chimney is really to the left of the building and we’re looking at the building depicted on the left of our sketch, approximately where the Ince building now stands on Ford Street?  The photograph might then have been taken from Cross Street with the main factory just out of shot to the right?

The mirror image of the photograph

But then of course, the eagle eyed now point out that “CETEM ATHLETIC AFC” is actually written on the football that is being held by the captain, James Gardner, so the factory and chimney must be to the top and left and we’re still struggling to orientate the picture with the Ford A site, especially with an actual photograph of the site.

Now we discover that the photograph features in an early edition of the Maling Collectors Society newsletter from 1999. 


And there are more clues here, “in the background is the decorating department and the chimney of the enamel kilns”. Instantly we’re thinking about Ford B where most of the decorated Maling pottery was made.

The mention of a reservoir and a lithography studio clinches it.  We’re looking for somewhere that is now part of Hoults Yard and we need to identify that chimney.  From the company letterhead of 1900 there are clearly several chimneys to choose from.

Maling's letterhead (1900), annotation based a 1947 factory layout sketch (RC Bell, Tyneside Pottery, Studio Vista (1971))

The chimney of the enamel kilns, as suggested in the newsletter, certainly looks too tall.

But then we’re suddenly distracted by that seemingly throwaway remark in the newsletter “where Theo Maling had her studio”.  Not being a scholar of the history of the Maling’s Potteries, or the Maling family, the appearance of a Maling involved in the design department in the 1920s is intriguing. A quick look into the pattern catalogue reveals several eponymous patterns, the only Maling patterns where the designer is named.

[i] 1933/34 | 

6100 - 6105 Beach girls (Miss Theo's)

6106 Sailing boats (Miss Theo's)

1935 | 

6298 Miss Theo's squiggle pattern

"Miss Theo" in her studio (1931), from Moore & Ross, Maling – The Trade Mark of Excellence

Violet Theodora Maling was born in Corbridge in 1908 and was the eldest child of Frederick Theodore and Violet (née Ismay) Maling.  Frederick, born in 1866 (the youngest son of Christopher Thompson Maling) managed the Maling business with his two brothers (John Ford (1858-1924) and Christopher Thompson (1863-1934)), until his death in 1937. [ii]

Theo was born into a wealthy family and it seems unusual that, in the 1920s and 30s, she would be destined to work in the factory (even as a designer).  Moore & Ross [iii] suggest that Theo was to be “packed off” to a Swiss finishing school, and it was the General Strike of 1926 that forced these plans to change, and instead, she studied Art and Design at Armstrong College while “learning to paint” in the Maling’s studios at weekends and during her vacations. [iv]

The General Strike of 1926 did hit the firm hard (they were still dependent on coal from the Walbottle collieries) and the Ford A factory was forced to close.  Around this time there were other financial pressures on the business; following the death, in 1924, of the elder brother, John Ford Maling (who ran the Ford A site), the remaining brothers needed to buy back his shares in the business.  Furthermore, the Wall Street Crash meant that Staffordshire potteries flooded the market with goods that had been destined for the American market. 

 In 1930, to put the firm on a more stable financial position, C T and F T Maling bought out the rest of the family and turned the business into a limited company.  At this point, directors from outside the family appeared on the board for the first time and, following the death of C T Maling (the Managing Director) in 1934, Theo’s father was the only member of the Maling family still on the board of directors.

But the description of how all this impacted on Theo still, even considering the idioms of 40 years ago, does not sound right.  Maybe we are seeing a rebellious teenager, or perhaps, and more likely, a determined young woman of the 1920s, striving to make her presence felt and show that she wants to be more involved in the family business?  Somehow, I just don’t see Theo as a shrinking Violet!

After graduation in 1930, Theo set up a studio in the former lithograph shop and started designing.  Many of her designs (such as Storm (1931) and Anemone (1937)) are among the most sought after pieces amongst collectors.  Theo also ran an evening class on pottery decoration from her studio, between 1930 and 1936, using Maling “seconds” and some strangely decorated, unique, “signed” pieces of “Maling” pottery, presumably from this class, occasionally turn up today.

Theo also worked painting trials and samples for Lucien Boullemier, the designer who had taken charge of the decoration department in 1926.   Boullemier was considered to be responsible for a resurgence in the popularity of Maling ware in the late 1920s and early 1930s however, by 1936 things were clearly not working out the way that Lucien had hoped.  Demand and production had now started to decline, and not only was he asked to take a cut in wages, but this was also a time when other pottery designers (such as Clarice Cliffe) were making a name for themselves, yet Lucien Boullemier’s name never appeared on Maling ware or patterns.  It is perhaps interesting to speculate whether there may have been some animosity between Theo and Lucien.  Not only did they work in different buildings, but some of Theo’s early patterns carried her name and then, in 1935 (having been responsible for several unattributed patterns), her name appears again on number 6298, “Miss Theo's squiggle pattern”.  Were the Maling Directors trying to put Boullemier in his place?

Lucien Boullemier left the Maling Pottery in 1936.  He was enticed back to Staffordshire to create a range of “Boullemier Ware” where every piece was to carry his printed signature.  Miss Theo also left at about the same time; the last new pattern attributed to her was her Anemone pattern which is dated as 1937.

We do not know why Theo left the business.  Perhaps she was disillusioned because the management of the company was slipping away from the family, perhaps her aspirations to be part of that management had finally been shattered, perhaps it was for other reasons. 

Theo Maling married, in Hampstead, London, in 1936 and gave birth to a daughter (Jill) in 1939.  During the war, her husband (Raymond Clive-Griffin) enlisted in the RAF Reserves in 1942 and was commissioned in 1944.  Following the disbanding of his squadron in 1945 he took an extended service commission.  Theo and Raymond divorced in 1957. [v]

There is no evidence Theo ever returned to work at the Malings.  She did move back to North East and lived in Acomb, close to her daughter, until her death in May 2005. 

A fascinating story, but with a degree of (personal) conjecture and a great many gaps that still need to be filled.  However, this is also something that is now very far removed from a photograph of a football team, although, curiously, Lucien Boullemier had himself been a professional footballer and had played in the First Division for Stoke (the "Potters") during the 1896–97 season. 

A photograph of the Ford B site taken by F T Maling can be found in the book by Moore & Ross.

Ford B, east side, looking from the north (1898); from Moore and Ross (1989)

The designer/decorating studios (1) and the flint drying pans (2) have been demolished and the area is now the site of the “Kiln” building at Hoults Yard.  The bridge (3) and the stables (4) have also gone, but the lithography shop where Theo had here studio can still be seen at Hoults Yard today.  If you removed the modern extension, it looks very like the building behind our football team!  Could this have been the location of the photograph? 

The old Lithography Studio, Hoults Yard, 2021

If this was the building in the photograph, the chimney in the background is most likely to be the main kiln chimney (on the other side of the Ford B site) and the building we can just make out in the centre would be the stables (an old cottage already on the site when Ford B was built). 

We think things are starting to come together, and we can finally identify the position from which the photograph was taken – perhaps the position I’ve marked with a red ‘x’ on an old advertising leaflet produced by the firm.

And then, when trying to find more about Miss Theo, I find grainy aerial view of the site from “Maling Memories”, a film available through the Trust website, which hints at a shorter chimney beside the Decorating Department.  The 1900 letterhead clearly indicated a tall chimney!

Another image from the film, likely to be an aerial photograph from the 1950s, provide a better view of this shorter chimney. [vi]

This is a much clearer photograph of what could be in the background, with the picture being taken in the direction of the red arrow shown above.


Putting all this together finally gives us the location and orientation of the picture. Probably.

When admiring our detective work, we notice something odd.  Usually when you see an old picture of a football team there are eleven people wearing football kit, one of them will be holding a football or a trophy and often there will be a trainer or a manager making an appearance. 

For example, this photograph shows the 1898/9 Port Vale line-up with Lucien Boullemier, the talented designer and professional footballer who joined the Maling Pottery in 1926, seated on the left of the three players in the middle row.


Sure enough in our photograph of Cetem Athletic, we do see eleven people in football kit, we’ve got the captain holding a football, and we can spot two with that classic adornment of all trainers (the towel over the shoulder).  Perhaps the person in a slightly darker strip (in the centre wearing a cap) is the goalkeeper – so twelve wearing football kit which just means that we’ve just got a substitute.

But who are the other four lads at the back?  Perhaps they too are players, but they have just come off their shift and haven’t had time to change into their strip?  We’ve now got a football squad! 

Then, who are the final five? 

All in suit and tie. 

Two standing and three sitting in the font. 

In any football team photograph, these would be the chairman, directors, or maybe even the owners.  So perhaps we might be able to put some more names to the picture. 

Could the three, suited, seated men possible be the “& Sons” currently running the pottery?

While I can find portrait photographs of John Ford Maling (the oldest brother) and Frederick Theodore Maling, the exact dates of these photograph are not recorded.

This is a photograph of Christopher Thompson and Frederick Theodore Maling taken in 1927 when Arthur Lambert, Mayor of Newcastle, visited the Pottery.

Annotated photograph taken from “Maling – The Trade Mark of Excellence”

What do you think? Are the family resemblances convincing? Could the Maling brothers be the people proudly sitting in front of Cetem Athletic in 1911?

[i] Dates for these patterns vary and some sources date patterns 6100-6106 to 1931

[ii] Please note that C T Maling may have had a fourth son according to some sources (Benjamin A Maling, born in 1871 (?)); many of the ancestry sources used when researching this piece have been found to be incomplete and often contradictory.

[iii] Moore, Steven & Ross, Catherine. Maling – The Trade Mark of Excellence. Tyne & Wear Museums. 1989


[v] Raymond Clive-Griffin was an Australian; following his commission he was stationed in Lincolnshire (150 squadron (part of Bomber Command)) and was decorated in 1944 (DFM).  The squadron was decommissioned in 1945 and he took an extended service commission, before being fully commissioned in 1952, serving in the RAF Secretariat (the RAF legal section).  He divorced Theo in 1957 and remarried later that year to a WRAF officer; they retired in 1964 and probably moved to Cornwall.