Longton Hall: The story of a decorator's works

Narrated by Peter Ferneyhough, June 2007

This is our first donor to the Made in England project -- Peter Ferneyhough – standing  in the entrance to the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Stoke on Trent. He is holding a plate decorated at Longton Hall Works, founded in 1873 by his great-grandfather James Ferneyhough.

James Ferneyhoughhad two sons, Leonard and Thomas. Leonard went into the his father's business, but Thomas refused to do so. Leonard eventually ran the works and handed it on to his son Wilfred. Nothing was made at the site -- the factory bought in ready-made tableware (plates, cups, saucers and so on) painted designs onto them, and fired them in a bottle oven.

Wilfred’s notes on gilding with burnished gold, recorded in a notebook, calculate the cost and the likely profit of this production.

Wilfred had two sisters, Marion and Lorna. Marion worked as a secretary for a number of potteries in Stoke. She died in 2000 at the age of 90. Her sister Lorna, worked as a free hand paintress, first at Longton Works, and later at Wedgwood.

Most of the tableware produced at Longton Hall Works was sold in markets in Lancashire -- Haslingden, Rawtenstall and Rossendale for example. The material was delivered to stall holders in the works’ van.

Wilfred’s notebook gives us a list of things he never need buy -- presumably as he was able to acquire all he needed from market traders.The list includes his 'dearies' -- does anyone know what this refers to? Our guess is that he is talking about underwear! Wilfred’s advice on setting out a stall with goods (to Mrs Hickson, a vendor in Bacup, Lancs.) is recorded in his diary.

In 1960  the site in California Street, Longton, where the Works stood, was taken over by Stoke City Council. A letter from the Estate Valuer’s Department states the purchase price was £1,100.Wilfred’s son Peter -- shown here, believes the factory’s compulsory purchase may have been a relief to his father.

In school holidays Peter would work loading the bottle oven with ware for firing, but holiday jobs aside, Wilfred actively discouraged his son from going into the industry. When the business was sold, Wilfred joined the Creda Works of the Simplex Electric Company in Blythe Bridge, a village just outside Stoke. Peter went on to work in the chemical industry at James Brown Ltd, manufacturers of zinc oxide. (There is a connection with the family history of paint though -- zinc oxide is a principal element in the colour battleship grey -- used by the navy for their warships.)

Peter Ferneyhough has donated an example of two backstamps produced at Longton Hall. One was for the domestic market:

the other was an export backstamp.

The domestic stamp does not have the mark ‘Made in England’ -- instead it states ‘England Bone China’. The export stamp depicts a Fir tree, the domestic one bears a branch. The fir presumably refers to the first part of the family name.

Peter’s father Wilfred was a practising member of the Baptist Church. An article about him in the Sentinel, published in 1961 under the heading ‘They Serve the Church’ records the family history of nonconformism, and lists the Church Offices he held. His duties extended to playing a dame in the church pantomime.

Peter and his wife didn’t have a son. The Ferneyhough name, and its connection with the ceramic industry, has come to an end. This donation is Peter, Lorna and Carol Ferneyhough’s way of remembering it.


Leonard, Wilfred and Peter Ferneyhough

This picture shows Leonard (top left), Wilfred (top right) and Peter (bottom left)

Leonard’s brother -- the boy who refused to go into the factory, didn’t escape the ceramic industry altogether. He worked in the Sales Department of Barratt’s of Burslem. (Barratt’s of Staffordshire). A great deal of their output was sold in the United States.

James Ferneyhough, the founder of the factory, expressed his feelings about his son’s desertion of the business in his will. He left everything to Leonard. Thomas was left only a long case clock.

The photograph below was taken in 1946. It shows Peter Ferneyhough and his mother Florence on a day out at Cannock Chase.

Wilfred had just left the services. A day out like this would not have been a frequent occurrence -- perhaps hence the celebratory bathing costume!

The works’ van, shown in the background -- a Morris Commercial -- was the family’s means of transport. It was started with a strartiing handle and its maximum speed was about 30 mph.

Peter remembers a story concerning the van. Off on a mission to deliver goods to the Lancashire markets, the driver was somewhere outside Wilmslow when he careered through a hedge and turned the van over. All the ware on board was smashed, excluding four cups and saucers, which were given to a policeman who helped at the scene of the accident.