In July's blog volunteer John went down a rabbit hole attempting to interpret a photo of the Maling football team. It seems that John has fallen quite deeply and for this month's contribution he has investigated the workings of the Maling Ford B factory and the frankly quirky terminology used in the pottery process.

October 2021

Do you know your jigger from your jolly or your slip from your saggar?
Try this quick quiz to find out.

What is a jolly shop?
a) A shopping trip with a famous humanitarian, UN Special Envoy and Oscar winning actor.
b) The room in a pottery where cups and bowls are made.
c) Where you would go to book the type of holiday enjoyed by Bert and Mary Poppins.

What is a saggar?
a) A particularly long story about Vikings.
b) A container used to protect pottery when it’s being fired inside the kiln.
c) A term used to refer to a client of a company specialising in holidays for the over 50s.

What is a jigger?
a) A person who enjoys jigsaws.
b) Part of machine used in the shaping of a ceramic plate.
c) Someone who participates in Irish folk dancing.

What is glost?
a) A term to describe a painted surface with a high degree of sheen.
b) A term used to describe the glaze firing of pottery.
c) A technical term used to describe the point at which a spaceship is no longer under the influence of the Earth’s gravity.

What is a slip house?
a) Another name for the “Crooked House” type of fairground attraction.
b) The building in a pottery where slip casting is done.
c) Where Sean Connery would go for a nap.

If your answers were all 'b', well done. These are all terms that are associated with the pottery industry and appear on a sketch of the layout of the Maling Ford “B” pottery, as it was in the late 1940s, published in 1971. [1]

The success of the Maling Potteries during the 19th century was in part down to their early adoption of automation. Christopher Thompson Maling took over the running of the family business in 1853 and, rather than compete directly with the Staffordshire potteries in the production of a wide range of decorated domestic ware, the company started to concentrate on the production of simple commercial ware, pill and ointment containers, jars for meat pastes, jam and, of course, marmalade. Orders soon outstripped the capacity of the two kilns at the original Ouseburn Bridge Pottery and Christopher, with financial help from his father-in-law John Ford, a wealthy Edinburgh glass manufacturer, built the first Ford Pottery in 1859. The new factory produced 750,000 items per month (more in a week than the old pottery could produce in a year), and by 1863 the factory was said to be producing over 90% of the jars for jam and marmalade makers in England and Scotland. [2]

Things didn’t stop there and in 1879 a second, larger, factory was built (even at three-quarters of a million items per month the old Ford factory was struggling to fill their contract to supply jars for Keiller marmalade!).[3] Covering an area equivalent to 8 football pitches, the new Maling Ford “B” pottery was the largest pottery in England. After the closure of this pottery in 1963, the site was used exclusively by the Hoults Removals Company until that side of their business was sold in 1983. Over the past years the Hoults have transformed the Ford “B” site from an industrial estate into Hoults Yard, a modern business village. [4]

While it is another Ford, Henry Ford, the American industrialist and founder of the Ford Motor Company, who is often credited with the introduction of the production line in 1910, [5] this type of progressive assembly was already a common feature of many Victorian factories. [6] The Maling Ford potteries were the first designed to use steam-powered production lines to both streamline and automate the production processes wherever possible and as a result, the Ford “B” pottery could produce 1,500,000 items per month.

A production line at the Maling’s Pottery [7]

The sketch of the factory layout gives us a fascinating insight into how the production line of the pottery worked, even if the terminology is a little strange to anyone other than potters, ceramics conservators, or perhaps fans of The Great Pottery Throw Down.

The Ford “B” pottery was designed to be self-sufficient with as many of the processes as possible being carried out on site. They even had a railway siding to bring in the raw materials (clays from Devon and Cornwall, flint from Kent, coal from the local Walbottle Colliery) and to export the finished product. Calcinated flint would be ground in the crushing mill to be blended with clay. The proportions of clays and flint were specific to the type of earthenware being produced and the addition of ground flint was critical to both the strength of the final product and the success of the firing process.

On the first floor of the factory (above the slip house) the clay mixes were filtered through a series of vibrating sieves and any traces of iron were removed using powerful magnets. The filtered mix was then pumped through another filter to squeeze out any excess water before being chopped up in a pug mill and extruded as a long cylinder ready to be cut to size. Over 7½ tons of clay were made daily; this was more than the pottery could use and the excess was sold to smaller potteries.

The Maling “B” filter room (above the Sliphouse); the worker on the right is dropping prepared clay down a chute to the pug mill. [8]

The next rooms in the production line were the Jolly Shop (where cups and other holloware were made) and the Jigger Shop where plates were made. These workshops were named after the machines that were used there.

Diagram of a jolleying machine

Using a Jolleying Machine [9]

Holloware, cups and bowls, was made on a Jolly. Clay was added to a spinning plaster mould and the operator would lower the jolly (a metal profiling tool) into the mould to press out the final shape. Each semi-automated jolleying machine could produce about 250 items per hour (a cup every 14 seconds!).

Jolleying wasn’t just for making cups and storage jars, larger items could also be produced. This picture shows two 60 gallon containers made in the Jolly Shop (photograph by F. T. Maling (1890s)) [10]

A jiggering machine worked in a similar way to produce plates and other “flatware”; clay was spread on a revolving mould and the jigger lowered to shape the underside. Each semi-automated jiggering machine could turn out nearly 200 items every hour.

Semi-automated jiggering machines in the Ford “B” Pottery (photograph by F. T. Maling (1898)) [11]

Diagram of a jigger machine

After the plates and cups were allowed to dry they were removed from the moulds and passed through to the next stage in the “topping shop”.

Cups being topped and polished on a lathe. [12]

In the topping shop, imperfections were removed using a lathe and the ware was given a final polish before being taken to the Green House.

“Green ware”, stored in the Green House, is the name given to the ceramics when they are dried to a leather hardness, before they are Biscuit fired.

The term Biscuit, or Bisque, firing is the very first firing where the pots are heated in a kiln where the temperature gradually rises to at least 1000 ˚C. [13] This process removes all traces of water and leaves the object in a porous state ready for glazing.

To protect the pieces when they were in the kiln, they would be stacked in saggars. These are large heavy earthenware pots designed to minimise the consequences of anything exploding in the kiln. Saggars were made by a team: the base of clay was pressed into a metal hoop by a “bottom knocker” before a skilled “saggar fitter” would add the sides. At the Maling factory, saggars were fired in one of the earliest Hoffman kilns to be used in the pottery industry; this kiln was demolished in the 1940s. [14]

After the biscuit firing, items are stored in the Biscuit Warehouse before the next processes: dipping and glost firing.

The Maling company was one of the first potteries to use a lead-free glaze for its domestic and commercial ware. This was applied to the biscuit-fired pottery in the dipping house.

Ford “B” Dipping House (photographed by F T Maling in 1898) [16]

After dipping came the final firing in the Glost Kilns. During this process the glaze melts and forms a hard, shiny, and waterproof surface.

Frederick Maling described biscuit firing and glazing in a pamphlet he wrote for the North East Coast Exhibition of 1929. The pamphlet suggests that there was also a “printing shop”, near the Green House, where labels or patterns were applied to the Biscuit Ware before glazing. For the majority of goods produced by the company very little extra decoration was required, and this would be the end of the process. Glazed ware would be stored in either the Finished Goods Warehouse or the Decorating Warehouse for transfer across the site to either the decorating or lithography departments.

The Ford B site was an exemplar of efficient pottery design. Even in 1916, when the pottery had been in operation for nearly 40 years, it was still the subject of much praise from the industry.

“Rarely have I seen in an English pottery evidence of work proceed more automatically or economically … the arrangements dovetail into one another in a manner remindful of the parts of a big machine.”

(The Pottery Gazette, 1916)

Of course, the Maling factories didn’t just mass produce simple cups and saucers for the railways, mugs for the army, and storage jars for the marmalade companies. They also produced many kinds of fancy ware such as jugs and tureens which were not amenable to a heavily mechanised process. These were usually cast in the slip house.

Slip casting is a common technique used for commercial mass-produced pottery this method, a liquid clay (slip) is poured into a plaster mould forming a layer on the inside surface. Excess slip is poured away and after drying, the mould is removed and the cast object passed on for finishing, firing, and decorating.

Slip casting is demonstrated in the Maling Memories film [17]

The sketch should, of course, be regarded as a simplified plan. It’s neither complete nor an accurate scale drawing; after all, it is a one dimensional interpretation of what went on across several 3 and 4 storey buildings. Lighter jobs, such as slip casting, plate pressing, cup making and decorating, would be located on the upper floors with the ground floor kept for the heavier tasks of throwing, turning and saggar making.

The layout must also be considered as a snapshot in time, just after the company had been taken over by Hoults. While Fred Hoult continued to support the pottery and the Maling brand, many parts of the factory were now being used as storage to support Hoult’s removal business. An aerial photograph of the site taken in 1951 (used in an advertisement in the Pottery Gazette) shows the factory contemporary with the layout sketch.

If you look closely, you can see several of Hoult’s removal vans with their distinctive diamond-shaped logo. [18]

Even today, many of these buildings can still be spotted in the Hoults Yard business village.

Hoults Yard 2019 showing the remaining pottery buildings and their original purpose (Google Maps)

Some of the buildings on Hoults Yard even retain names associated with the pottery.

Hoults Yard 28: The Old Forge is the site of the Blacksmith’s shop (Google Street View)

Hoults Yard 30: The Boiler House matches the location given on the layout. (Google Street View)

Sometimes building names just reflect the history of the site. The Kiln at Hoults Yard has been built over the old pond, that supplied water to the pottery steam engines, and the decorating studio; these were on the opposite side of the site to the glost and biscuit kilns.

Hoults Yard: The Kiln (Google Street View)

The Maling Studios building at Hoults Yard is on the site of the old Station Warehouse.

Hoults Yard: Maling Studios (Google Street View)

The layout sketch does raise some questions. The Joinery Shop seems to be positioned in the middle of the railway lines, the clock tower and fire station are missing, and The Boiler House, where you would have found the massive Victorian steam engine powering the country’s largest flint mill, seems to be in the wrong place.

The main Ford B steam engine: a 500 hp Corliss Valve engine (photographed by F T Maling in 1898) This was replaced with an electric generator in 1925. [19]

The building identified as the Boiler House is one that is more likely to be associated with the processing of crushed flint [20]; in earlier photographs of the site, there is a bridge, across the railway lines, that carried an open trough of liquid flint from this building to the drying pans.

Detail from the 1898 photographs of the site taken by F T Maling which shows the “Boiler House” with the bridge to carry liquid flint [21]. Some of the buildings are named in the book and the photographs have been annotated with these names below [22].

And of course, some of the names on the plan just remain perplexing.

What exactly is a Dolly Shop?

A typographical error, a Jolly shop specifically for making cups, or perhaps it really is just “Barbie’s favourite emporium” … unless you know differently.

Notes, references, and image credits

[1] Bell R C, 1971, Tyneside Pottery, Studio Vista
[2] Tyne and Wear Museum, 1981, Maling: a Tyneside pottery, Tyne and Wear Museum
[5] Production of the Ford Model T moved to the Highland Park Ford Plant in 1910, the first factory in history to assemble cars on a moving assembly line however, the principal of the production line can probably be traced back to the Venetian Shipyards of the 12th century.
[6] Before the Industrial Revolution, manufacturing of ceramics tended to be a cottage industry with highly skilled potters often working individually to produce the clay mixes, turn the pot on a wheel, and glaze and fire the finished article. In the 18th Century the process began to be automated with the introduction of jollying and jiggering machines; by the mid 19th Century, multiple machines were set up together as workstations sharing the same steam powered belt drive to create a production line.
[7] Daniels, J et al., 2015, The Real Northern Powerhouse: The Industrial Revolution in the North East, Tyne Bridge Publishing
[8] Tyne and Wear Museum, 1981, Maling: a Tyneside pottery, Newcastle
[9] Still image taken from Maling Memories
[10] Moore S and Ross C, 1989, Maling The Trade Mark of Excellence, Tyne and Wear Museum
[11] Moore S and Ross C, 1989, Maling The Trade Mark of Excellence, Tyne and Wear Museum
[12] Tyne and Wear Museum, 1981, Maling: a Tyneside pottery, Newcastle
[13] The chimneys of several “beehive” or “bottle-shaped” kilns can be seen in the aerial photograph from the 1950s.

Inside the building, these would look like the kilns that can be seen today at the remains of Walker’s Pottery near Corbridge,
Image of Walker’s Pottery: © Andrew Curtis
[14] Hoffman kilns were initially patented, in 1858, for brick making. The key feature was a fire waggon that moved through the kiln heating each area in turn. This process was very fuel efficient because the firing was continuous, and it wasn’t necessary to cool the whole kiln down to extract the fired saggars. The Ford “B” Hoffman kiln probably went out of use when electric kilns were introduced; it appears to have been demolished in the 1940s, before the date of the layout sketch, but the Hoffman kiln can be seen on the Maling letterheads and earlier photographs of the site [22].
[16] Moore S and Ross C, 1989, Maling The Trade Mark of Excellence, Tyne and Wear Museum
[17] Still image taken from Potty About Maling, 1997, Tyne Tees Television (
[18] Hoults marketing leaflet from 1928, courtesy of Charlie Hoult
[19] Moore S and Ross C, 1989, Maling The Trade Mark of Excellence, Tyne and Wear Museum
[20] Boulder flint was heated in a calcination kiln then crushed, rinsed, and ground to a paste (liquid flint).
[21] Moore S and Ross C, 1989, Maling The Trade Mark of Excellence, Tyne and Wear Museum
[22] Photographs adapted and annotated from Moore S and Ross C, 1989, Maling The Trade Mark of Excellence, Tyne and Wear Museum

“Photograph of the Ford B Pottery from the north taken in 1898 by F. T. Maling. Some of the buildings are named in the original print, others have been added where known.”