Dicker Ware

Two separate potteries, both located in this Sussex village, have contributed to the body of wares known as Dicker Ware.

The first on stream was the Boship Green pottery (1821 – 1912) which was acquired by Benjamin William Bridges in 1890. Given that records show that pottery production in the area dates back to the thirteenth century, his output of art pottery with a country flavour fitted well into the contemporary arts and crafts ethos being expounded by many other enthusiasts around the country. Local red clay, a traditional material, was used in the hand-production of local shapes, to which were added revivals of medieval and c16th & c17th shapes, the designs of some from pots in the British Museum. Many were decorated with white slip trailed motifs over a brown glaze, (again a local tradition), and some carried mottoes.

Whilst this self-conscious artistic endeavour was being energetically pursued at the Boship Green Pottery, across the road at the Dicker Pottery (1843 – 1957), Uriah Clark (who had taken over a pottery established in 1774!), was producing more conventional and prosaic domestic wares with equal success.

Bridges outgrew his premises and in 1912 joined forces with Abel Clark (Uriah’s nephew and successor in 1904), at the Dicker Pottery. The firm thus established was known as Uriah Clark and Nephew Ltd.

The fortunes of the new company prospered until the negative impact on production of the First World War and the death of Bridges in 1916. Art Ware production resumed after the war, directed by manager Sydney Harte, who continued traditional shapes whilst introducing many new ones and experimenting widely in glaze effects. The arts and crafts link was maintained proudly with an advertising emphasis on the wares being “Hand-Made Sussex Pottery.” The slip trailed, scraffito and sprigged decorations of the early period (1890 – 1916) pretty much disappeared however and surface decoration was limited to the usually monochrome, often experimental glaze finishes.

One of the most successful glazes of this period was the black iron lustre. It formed the bulk of the production of the pottery in the 1920’s. It required manganese and sulphate of copper to produce a thick and fairly robust glaze, which was used on the traditional Sussex shapes, the medieval styles which continued in production, as well tankards, tea sets, jugs, bowls and quantities of miniatures.

We have seen a small lustre glazed pot (more pale bronze than black lustre) with the early impressed DICKER WARE SUSSEX mark (1890 – 1912) suggesting earlier experimentation. But equally, it could be a later piece on which an early backstamp was used. Another attractive glaze from this period is brown streaked with aventurine and speckled with black. Less successful were Harte’s cold glaze finishes. In various colours, mottled orange or blue or turquoise, the finish is usually matt and often flaking. Apparently this was due to the difference in rates of expansion of the clay body and the surface glaze. This probably took some time to show itself and no doubt these pieces were as popular, particularly amongst the tourists for whom the pottery became a focus in the 20’s and 30’s, as the other more enduring glazes. The most common mark of this period is the three line impressed DICKER WARE SUSSEX 1918 – 1940.

During the second world war the premises were requisitioned for the armed services. Despite the pottery being rebuilt by the Ministry of Defence before being handed back, the new owners, who took over in 1948, found it hard to re-establish the pottery in the very changed post-war market. Some new glazes on old establishes shapes and miniatures sold, but not well enough to secure the pottery’s future and it closed in 1956. A circular impressed mark DICKER WARE MADE IN ENGLAND distinguishes these later pieces. 1