Bovey Bricks

Local Geology, Brick-Making and Civic Development in Victorian Bovey Tracey

Malcolm Billinge 2018


Was it Brick Making which brought Captain Thomas Wentworth Buller and John Divett to Bovey Tracey?

Since writing this article further information as to Capt. Thomas Wentworth Buller’s interest in purchasing the Bovey Pottery and adjoining clay and lignite pit has come to light. Capt. Buller was an innovative agriculturalist and at the Devon Agricultural Society’s fourth exhibition held at Exeter in 1833 it was said that, ‘Capt. T. W. Buller’s draining tiles attracted much notice, and will, no doubt, prove of great utility to the agriculturalists in swampy ground.’ (Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 14 December 1833, p. 4). ‘Tiles’ were a range of ceramic pieces, some shaped like roofing tiles and hence the name, that could be used to form underground drainage channels in fields.

In 1843, the year of the acquisition of the Bovey Pottery, the Newton Agricultural Society heard that, ‘The subject of tile draining was likely to be brought more prominently under the notice of the agriculturalists of this neighbourhood, from the fact of a very spirited gentleman, Capt. Buller, having taken the tile works at Bovey Tracey, and being now manufacturing tiles, adapted for this purpose, to some extent (Exeter and Plymouth Gazette4 March 1843, p. 2). Three years later at a further meeting of the Devon Agricultural Society it was said of that, ‘He claimed to himself, they must know, the honour of being the first to introduce the tile draining into this part of the country – (great cheering).’ (The Western Times 23 May 1846, p.7).

Land within the Stover estate, formerly owned by George Templer but now owned by the Duke of Somerset was drained and, ‘The tiles for the draining have been supplied from the Bovey works, which have proved of great benefit to the district.’ (The Western Times 29 May 1847, p. 6). Mr E.S. Bearne of Teigngrace, writing to the press concerning the Autumn 1845 Stover drainage work congratulated,  ‘those enterprising gentlemen Messrs. Buller and Divett, who established the Bovey Tile Works’ (The Western Times 10 April 1847, p. 8).

Pre-Victorian Bovey Tracey – an Agricultural Town

At the beginning of the nineteenth century Bovey Tracey was a small agricultural town and by the time of the 1841 census there were fewer than two thousand residents in the borough and surrounding parish. There were forty-eight farmers and two hundred and sixty-eight agricultural labourers working the land whereas in the town there was a smattering of necessary tradespeople. Only one builder was specifically identified but there were twenty-six carpenters and twenty-two stone-masons as well as blacksmiths, wheelwrights and men and women manufacturing everyday requirements such as clothes, shoes and baskets. There were six bakers, two butchers but only four shopkeepers. 1

Sixty-six people were described as being of independent means and the two notable, large houses on the outskirts of Bovey Tracey were Colehayes Park, bought in 1825 by William Adair for his son Alexander but leased out for much of the time, and Parke built in 1826 by William Hole and occupied by the family for three generations.2

Ninety-one female and eighteen male servants are recorded in the census and communal life had marked gender and social class dimensions.

Commercial Opportunities Afforded by the Local Geology

The local geology is also one of marked contrasts. The Bovey Basin is a geologically young but extensive and deep formation of Tertiary clays and lignite fringed to the north and west by a sector of the metamorphic aureole that encircles the much older, Palaeozoic Dartmoor granite mass.3

George Templer opened the Haytor granite quarries in 1820 and his granite tramway passed through Bovey Tracey on its way to the Stover canal at Ventiford, near to the Templer residence at Stover House. The Stover canal had been built in the 1790s by James Templer to assist in the exportation of local ball clay but the 1841 census for Bovey Tracey does not record either granite quarrymen nor clay cutters as living in Bovey Tracey. However Robert Pascoe, publican, was living at the King of Prussia on Fore Street and from his evidence as a witness in a court case in 1842 concerning the building of the Stover estate we learn that he also ran a granite quarry on the Duke of Somerset’s Haytor land.4

The metamorphic aureole had also been exploited for metallic minerals and by the middle of the nineteenth century there were mines operating in the Haytor/Ilsington, Hennock and Teign Valley areas producing iron ores, tin, lead, zinc, copper, barytes and a little silver. Some of these mines began life in the late eighteenth/early nineteenth centuries but the 1841 census only recorded four lead and one iron miner living in Bovey Tracey which does not suggest a strong developmental impact on the town. Nineteenth century mines within the parish of Bovey Tracey were Plumley, Hatherleigh, Hawkmoor and Shaptor micaceous haematite mines and Yarrow or Yarner copper mine that functioned briefly in the late 1850s /early 1860s.5

Clay and lignite had been extracted from the Bovey Coal Pit from the eighteenth century, if not before. More recently known as Bluewaters, the land on which this was dug was owned by William Courtenay, the Lord of the Manor of Bovey Tracey whose family seat was Powderham Castle.6

Early potteries were established at Indio and at the current House of Marbles site during the second half of the eighteenth century and the readily available clay and more especially lignite from the Coal Pit helped determine the sighting of these two ventures, both of which were to fail in the fourth decade of the nineteenth century.Before the coming of the railways to Devon the importation of coal was restricted by the limitations of road transport. Coal was back-freighted on the Stover canal but from what date is not yet determined and the abundance of locally available lignite, albeit of lower quality as a fuel, was put to good use in the Bovey Tracey potteries and also the nearby lime-kilns.

The clay from the Coal Pit was also readily available and indeed had to be excavated in order for lower lignite seams to be accessed. However the clay in the Coal Pit is not high quality ball clay and the latter had to be transported in from further east in the Bovey Basin. Today the stratigraphy of the deep, easterly-dipping deposits is understood and whereas the commercially valuable clays in the Kingsteignton area are from the Middle Bovey Formation, the Bovey Tracey Coal Pit exploited the younger Upper Bovey Formation which is composed of a different suite of clays, sands and lignites.8

Early venturers lacked our modern understanding of the local geology but the inferior quality of the clay from Bovey Tracey as a raw material for the production of domestic ceramics was well appreciated as was, conversely its suitability for the manufacturing of bricks, pipes and tiles. Three newspaper articles between 1850 and 1875 illustrated this practical and commercial awareness:

‘The clay on Bovey Heathfield, although white when dug, turns red in burning, and is only fit, therefore for bricks, tiles and such purposes. The darker coloured clay, found two or three miles off, at Knighton, is not only of finer quality, but is white when burned …  Some less ornamental but more useful articles are, however, manufactured on a large scale. The Bovey clay has been found well adapted for fire bricks, and bricks of that description are made and sold and answer the purpose for which they are required. There is also a tile draining machine, at which tiles of every size are made for draining purposes … common brick is also made, and a sort of brick well adopted for open gutters in stable yards … chimney tops are also manufactured, they are cast in moulds thus giving an opportunity for combining the beautiful with the useful, and are burnt exceedingly hard.’9

‘It seems from the almost entire absence of lime in the Bovey Tracey clay, bricks are so much the less liable to fuse.’10

‘The Bovey clay is used merely for such coarse work as the making of bricks and drain pipes; and the Bovey lignite for heating the kilns in which they are burnt.’11

Some indication of the considerable quantity of clay and lignite already excavated from the Bovey coal pit by the mid-nineteenth century was given by William Pengelley’s measurements taken when he studied its geological stratification in 1861. The pit at that time was nearly 1000 feet long, 340 feet wide and 100 feet deep.12

Capt. Thomas Wentworth Buller’s Interest in Brick-Making

In 1835 John and Thomas Honeychurch were bankrupt and they offered the Folly Pottery for sale at the Union Inn, Bovey Tracey. The sale was of, ‘Stock of unfinished wares, water wheels, whims, mills, materials and implements.’ The premises included a five-bedroomed house, five cottages, throwers room, handlers shop, printers shop, painters’ shop, printers’ drying room, presser’s drying room,bisket ware room, blue and common ware rooms, packing room etc. The kiln house had glass [glost?] and bisket kilns capable of containing 1600 cigars [saggars] of wares, and other machinery and resources were also included. There was also ‘an immense quantity of ware in a clay state, and a quantity of unburnt brick (my italics).13

The Tithe map of 1841 showed details of the Folly Pottery and the nearby extensive clay and lignite Coal Pit / Bluewaters.14

The demise of the Folly Pottery is illustrated by the census also conducted in 1841 only recorded twelve potters living in Bovey Tracey. This number included Thomas Honeychurch who lived with his family at the Folly Pottery residence but, tellingly, the five nearby cottages referred to in the sale advert were inhabited by agricultural labourers and not potters.15

In 1843 Capt. Thomas Wentworth Buller and John Divett acquired the Folly Pottery and relaunched it as the Bovey Tracey Pottery Company. We will now explore the centrality of brick-making to the decision of these two men to embark upon this commercial undertaking, and we have already seen that the clay from the Coal Pit was more suitable for bricks than fine ceramics, and that bricks were already in production at the Folly Pottery.

Capt. Thomas Wentworth Buller lived at Strete Raleigh, Whimple where he was Lord of the Manor, and the Divett family seat was Bystock, Colaton Raleigh, Exmouth. In 1827 Thomas had married John Divett’s sister Ann and in 1833 John had married Thomas’ sister Henrietta Buller. The two brothers-in-law then chose to become partners in their new pottery and lignite enterprise. The history of these two families’ connections with Bovey Tracey are given in two companion articles.16

However, Capt. Thomas Buller was more a peer of John’s older brother Edward, the long-standing MP for Exeter and in 1841 Thomas was staying with Edward at the latter’s London home at Hanover Square. They were aged forty-nine and forty-three respectively.17

In 1834 Capt. Buller and Edward Divett visited a number of industrial sites including Bridgwater in Somerset. In a letter to his wife Ann, Capt. Buller wrote ‘We stopped at Bridgwater, where I employed all the daylight we had in visiting the different brickyards and potteries, and I flatter myself I picked up many useful hints, which I hope to turn to advantage at some further day’.18

The ailing Folly Pottery and nearby Coal Pit at Bovey Tracey provided an ideal opportunity for realising this ambition, but Capt. Buller already owned his own brick and tile works on his manorial estate at Strete Raleigh, Whimple.

When Capt. Buller married Ann Divett in 1827 he is believed to have commissioned the building of his Strete Raleigh residence.19

He most probably established the Whimple Brick and Tile Yard on his land in order to provide bricks for the building of this fine house and other estate buildings, and the local geology consisting of Triassic clays and sandstones was most suitable for this purpose.20

When the Strete Raleigh estate was for sale in 1884 following Wentworth William Buller’s death (the son of Capt. Buller) the estate details included, ‘There is a brick yard and clay pits, gravel pits and twenty-one labourers’ and other cottages. ‘There are extensive reservoirs used for driving the water wheel, machinery, supply of water to gardens, tramway connected with the clay-pits, two brick kilns, five drying sheds, office and four-roomed cottage for manager, affording every facility for carrying on a large trade.’21

The census returns allow us to locate the brickyard workers of whom there were five living in Whimple in 1841, four of whom had been born in Withycombe/Exmouth, near to the Divett family residence of Bystock.22

Exmouth was already an important centre for the production of bricks utilising the same geology as at Whimple and no doubt the four brick-makers from Withycombe were experienced at their trade. It is not known if the Divett family had a formal interest in the local brick-making and ironically it was Capt. Buller who, as well as owning the brick works at Whimple, was the magistrate at the Woodbury Petty Sessions in 1831 when John Daw of Exmouth was charged with failing to pay excise duty on 45,000 bricks.23

Two of the Withycombe brick-makers were a father and son pair, William and Thomas Webber, and Thomas was still employed at Whimple in 1881 now aged sixty-five.24

The two other young men from Withycombe were John Hayward and John Marchant but they were only working at the Whimple brickyard for that one census point for the reason given below.25

There remained in Whimple a small workforce of between four and seven brick-makers from 1841 to 1881. The Whimple Brick and Tile Yard was offered for letting in April 1879 and by October it was ‘now in different hands. Superior stock of goods – bricks, tiles, drains, pipes – and a very handsome roof tile.’26 Later, in 1881 the company was selling ‘Grooved bricks for stables, coach-houses’.27

There were no brick-makers living in Whimple at the time of the 1891 census or thereafter.28

When the A30 Honiton to Exeter road was to be re-routed in the 1990s a drying-shed from the Strete Raleigh brick works, visible on the 1905 OS map, was dismantled, moved and re-erected nearby.29

The Establishment of the Bovey Tracey Pottery Company

In 1843 Capt. Buller and John Divett acquired the Bovey pottery and their ownership is confirmed by a report of four ponies having been either stolen or having strayed from a field adjoining the pottery ‘belonging to T. W. Buller and John Divett of Bovey Tracey.’30

As noted above the 1841 census only recorded twelve potters living in Bovey Tracey but despite there being ‘a quantity of unburnt brick’ itemised in the 1835 Folly Pottery sales particulars there were no brick-makers specifically identified by the census which indicates an as yet under-developed aspect of the pottery.31

Matters soon changed following the establishment of the Bovey Tracey Pottery Company in 1843. By 1850 there were four huge circular kilns and a workforce of nearly 100 men and more than 100 women, boys and girls. The pottery manager was William Robinson who in 1841 was the baliff at Capt. Buller’s Strete Raleigh estate.32

In 1851 a newspaper article about Bovey Tracey included, ‘Trade is looking up here: twenty-five houses are to be erected near the Pottery. The Pottery itself is to be greatly enlarged, and a new kiln built.’33 The first terrace built on Pottery Road, and the closest to the pottery site is now known as Bridge Cottages. These are stone rather than brick-built and presumably brick production was as yet insufficient to fulfil this early building contract.

The 1851 census recorded at least 129 men, women and children working at the pottery and twenty-six of these lived in seventeen Folly Pottery dwellings (Bridge Cottages) on what is now Pottery Road.34

Several Staffordshire potters and their families had moved into Bovey Tracey and they would have formed the more experienced core of the new workforce. However, Capt. Buller had also arranged for workers to transfer from his home town Whimple, as we have already seen with respect to his ex-baliff William Robinson who manged the newly expanded pottery. Three fourteen/fifteen year old lads were living and working as potters at Folly Pottery in 1851 and two were born in Whimple and the other in nearby Aylesbeare. However it is two other families now also living at Folly Pottery in 1851 that stand out, as the husbands were both born in Withycombe, Exmouth, near John Divett’s family home at Bystock.

In 1841 John Marchant was a brick-maker living at Whimple and John Hayward was a tile-maker living at Strete Raleigh, Whimple, Capt. Buller’s family estate, but by 1851 they were both in Bovey Tracey. These two families remained living close by the Bovey Pottery throughout the nineteenth century and their sons also worked as brick and tile makers. It seems beyond reasonable doubt that Capt. Buller and John Divett brought these two families with them in the 1840s to oversee the brick-making, just as baliff William Robinson had been brought across from Strete Raleigh to manage the pottery as a whole, and also the three young lads as apprentices in the new venture.

Capt. Buller’s interest in brick, tile and pipe making chimed with his interest, as a considerable landowner, in farming and agricultural improvement. He championed new methods of draining and manuring the heavy clay soils in East Devon and in 1846 when he addressed the Devon Agricultural Society, ‘He (Capt. Buller) claimed to himself, they must know, the honour of being the first to introduce the tile draining into this part of the country – (great cheering).’35 Capt. Buller was in a position to make the drainage pipes that he was experimenting with on his Whimple estate farms and later that year he applied to the Inclosure Commissioners for a loan of £230 for draining his land at Whimple.36

Brick-Making at the Bovey Tracey Pottery Company

Nationally there was a growing demand for bricks and tiles as well as for household ceramics and an 1851 newspaper article about the Bovey Pottery stated, ‘now that bricks are to be procured so near the town, the opportunity is afforded of renovating or rebuilding many of the old dilapidated houses, which disfigure the streets and endanger the public’ (Fig. 1).37

Figure 1. Bovey Bricks. With kind permission of Dave Walker. 2017

Bricks were in production and in 1851 John Divett was seeking payment of £17 from a Mr Chudleigh for 2,500 bricks.38 1852 Wilsery [sic- Wilsworthy?] Farm was for sale, ‘near the South Bovey Pottery and Coal Works … within half a mile of the brick and tile yard.’39

That the Bovey Pottery was known for its brick-making is indicated by a lecture on, ‘Art in the Locality of Plymouth’ in which the presenter informed that, ‘excellent bricks were manufactured at the Lee Moor and Bovey Tracey Clay Works, though the colour was not so clear for street work as might be desirable.’40

Capt. Thomas Wentworth Buller died in 1852 and his place as co-owner of the pottery was taken by his son Wentworth William Buller. Wentworth, at least more latterly, lived at Chapple, a farm quite near to the Pottery and Bluewaters whereas John Divett and his family continued to live at Bridge House, Fore Street, now a small Co-op supermarket.41

Wentworth Buller was an entrepreneur and we would like to learn more about him. We do know that he gave a talk on the ‘Geographical Distribution of Plants’ and had his paper ‘On Predictive Meterology’ published in the Devonshire Association Transactions.42

He exhibited a rich specimen of Guipure lace made by himself in one local show and ‘a model of the Plymouth Breakwater (made?) by W. W. Buller Esq.’ at another.43

Wentworth went into partnership with a young Bovey Tracey entrepreneur, Jabez Mugford who ran the Spur Works at the pottery and introduced gas lighting (from lignite?) as early as 1857. The Spur Works made ’spurs and stilts’ – the small spikey ceramic pieces used to separate the vessels during firing.44 The ceramic trade was progressing well but the manufacture of bricks was also in the ascendancy around this time

There was a second innovative development in the 1860s when Mr John Phillips became manager of ‘The Fire and Architectural Brick Works’ at the pottery. Between 1864 and 1868 John promoted the products from this department at regular Bath and West of England Meetings held across the South-West at venues including Bristol (1864), Salisbury (1867) and Falmouth (1868). At each Show John  would display ‘Fire and architectural bricks, terra cotta vases, chimney pots, cottage bread-making ovens – Address Mr John Phillips Fire and Architectural Brick Works, Bovey Tracey, Devon.’45 It may not be a coincidence that John Divett was elected a member of the Bath and West of England Agricultural Society in 1857.46

John Phillips also placed repeated advertisements locally in 1866 offering, ‘Fire bricks, tiles, quarries, lumps, economical cottage bread-baking ovens, architectural bricks moulded to any design – white or red, pressed, facing bricks, terra-cotta vases, chimney pots, balusters … red ware vases, baskets …  flower pots, all sizes.’47

Soon afterwards John Phillips left Bovey Tracey and bought the Aller Pottery which became his base for promoting the Arts and Crafts Movement in Devon for the next twenty years. At its height there were seventeen local art classes serving the needs of children and adults and the Bovey art class was run by one of the several Buller relatives who lived in town, Miss Fox-Strangways of East Street.48

Bovey bricks were being offered for sale at 16s 4d per 1000 at the Whitecross Brickyard on the Sidmouth Road outside Exeter in 1866.49

Advertisements for other makes of ‘common bricks’ around the country during the 1860s indicate an average price of 20s per 1000 which suggests that the Bovey bricks being sold at Whitecross were not of the highest quality. There was probably a difference between ‘common bricks’ and ‘architectural bricks’ and the new Temperance Hall in Brixham which opened in 1869 had, ‘dressings of red and buff architectural bricks from the Bovey Pottery’.50

However in 1868, before the hall could be completed, ‘the walls were up, but the work was now stopped owing to the want of promptitude in fulfilling their orders by the Bovey brick-making people.51

Despite this negative press the Temperance Hall opened in 1869, ‘with dressings of red and buff architectural bricks from Bovey Pottery’.52

The 1867 Horticultural and Industrial Show at Bovey Tracey was reported in detail in the local press and this will be referred to again below on account of the article’s description of the conditions within the town at the time. One reporter felt that, ‘the most novel feature of the exhibition was the Industrial and Art Loan Department under the management of Mr Wentworth Buller.’ Bovey bricks were featured and, ‘on the screen were several drawings. One was an architectural elevation of buildings erected at Torquay of Bovey Tracey bricks.’ With regards to the fuel used in the Bovey Pottery the article continued, ‘Pottery has been made there for the last hundred years, with the aid of Bovey Coal’ and there were ‘fine specimens of Bovey Coal’ on display.53

Bovey coal was the lignite, a low grade, brown coal that existed in seams within the clay beds that had been dug at the Bovey Coal Pit / Bluewaters from at least the eighteenth century.54

Bovey Tracey Around the Time of the 1866 Railway Inauguration

At the 1859 Mayor’s Monday dinner in Bovey Tracey Jabez Mugford praised Captain Buller (now deceased) and John Divett, co-founders of the Bovey Tracey Pottery Company, for the prosperity of the town, ‘Within the last sixteen or seventeen years Bovey had greatly increased in prosperity, and who had they to bless for it? The town would not have so progressed had it not been for Mr Bullerand Mr Divett. He (Mr Mugford) had been connected with the pottery for sixteen years, and the longer he had known Capt. Buller the more was he able to appreciate his worth; and as to Mr Divett he (Mr Mugford) could honestly say that he had the prosperity of Bovey at heart.’55

55 Jabez Mugford was twenty-nine years old and must have begun his association with the newly reinvigorated pottery as a young teenager. He had obviously developed a close bond with Capt. Buller’s son Wentworth and at the 1861 census the thirty-one year-old Jabez was staying with the twenty-six year old Wentworth at the widowed Ann Buller’s residence, Strete Raleigh, Whimple.56

Jabez Mugford had been nominated Portreeve and was addressed as Lord Mayor of Bovey Tracey, an unofficial title, at the Mock Lord Mayor’s Day 1858 when the press described an attractive rural scene, ‘The town was verdant and gay with evergreens, flowers and flags. Large numbers of people from all the country around flocked into the town, on thoroughbreds, Jerusalem ponies, and in every variety of vehicular convenience. At twelve o’clock a procession was formed, which was headed by the Teignmouth band; the two constables and the Lord Mayor came next; and they were followed by 100 horsemen in couples …’. The dignitaries at the dinner included John Divett and Wentworth William Buller, co-owners of the Bovey Pottery.57

The Horticultural and Industrial Show held at Bovey Tracey in 1867 was described in detail in the local press but this time the reporter prefaced his article with a critical account of the town beginning, ‘Bovey Tracey is not one of those sweet, pastoral, happy-looking towns of which poets write’. The reporter was not against, ‘manufacture, trade and commerce’ as ‘we must not permit ourselves to regret that, side by side with the cultivation of fields, nature has in some cases rendered it possible for processes to be carried on which afford a greater remuneration for labour.’ However, ‘Bovey Tracey has some of the characteristics of the East-end district of a large town’ and he itemised, ‘semi-dilapidated buildings and some indications of squalor and poverty … the women thronging to their doors looked more like the denizens of a Belgian bye-way than English peasants’ wives’, the church had been partially, ‘handsomely restored; but the steeple is a ragged, time-stricken pile’ and one year after the Newton Abbot to Moretonhampstead railway line had opened, ‘the provision for holiday-makers was of the scantiest’. There was praise for the, albeit incongruous, new town hall and, ‘the schoolroom bears a cheerful and respectable aspect’.58

The following January the monthly ‘Pleasant Evening for the People’ was held at the town hall and the press reporter who covered this included a more positive view of Bovey Tracey, ‘We don’t know whether it is to be ascribed solely to the opening of the railway, but the resources of Bovey appears to be developing considerably of late’.59

The coming of the railway obviously gave Bovey Tracey a much-needed boost and Jabez Mugford, now owner of the Union Family Hotel was quick to offer, ‘four-in-hand, breaks, wagonettes and carriages for pleasure parties visiting the scenery of Dartmoor Hills.’60

John Divett was a director of the railway company and he ensured that a separate siding into the pottery was built to allow the import of materials and the export of finished goods.61

A handsome brick-built, double-arch, oblique-set bridge took the road over the new railway line immediately adjacent to the pottery premises and it would be nice to think that this was built using Bovey bricks (Fig. 2).

Figure 2. Bovey Tracey Railway Bridge – Bovey Pottery Bricks? By Kind Permission of Bovey Tracey heritage Trust.


Brick-Making in Bovey Tracey during the Later Nineteenth Century and into the Twentieth Century?

In 1878 John Divett & Co were described as ‘Earthenware and brick manufacturers.’ which indicates some continuing brick production on the Bovey pottery site but otherwise details of brick-making here after the 1875 reference to local clay being only suitable for brick-making (see above, reference 11) are scarce.62

Around this time there was to be strong local competition to the Bovey Pottery brickworks in the form of Candy & Co. Ltd, and consequently exact details of the continuing Bovey Pottery brick-making facility remain elusive.

In the 1870s the Western Potteries Brick, Tile and Clay Works was established by Frank Candy, becoming Candy and Co Ltd in 1882 at Heathfield, in the parish of Bovey Tracey. This was shortly before Wentworth William Buller died in 1883 and John Divett in 1885. George Ross Divett, John’s nephew assumed control of the Bovey Tracey Pottery Company and the Coal Pit until his death in 1894 but the new Candy & Co Ltd enterprise near the Heathfield railway station had by then become the main source of local bricks and other industrial and utilitarian products, employing a workforce of 200-250.

Census records, however, provide us with some indication of continuing brick production on the Bovey Pottery site.

We noted above that in 1841 two Exmouth brick makers were working for Capt. Buller at his Whimple Brick and Tile Yard and by 1851 they had been brought across to Bovey Tracey to man the brick works within the revamped Bovey Tracey Pottery Company.

John Hayward worked as a Bovey brick maker from 1851 to 1881 and he died in 1888 aged seventy-one. His six sons all went into the same trade at Bovey Tracey and they are recorded as follows:

1861       John jnr and Alfred

1871       Walter

1881       John, Ebenezer and Harry

1891       Walter, Albion and Harry

1901       Walter and Harry

1911       Albion and Harry. John jnr by now a brick factory manager in Cornwall.

John Marchant worked as a Bovey brick-maker from 1851 to 1871 but he died that year aged sixty-one. His son John jnr was a brick-maker in Bovey in 1861 but was working in the same trade back in East Devon by 1871.

The number of identified brick-makers in Bovey Tracey increased from two in 1851 (John Hayward and John Marchant) to fourteen in 1881 after which there was a major expansion following the development of Candy & Co Ltd. This company built a terrace near its Heathfield works and there were at least twenty-four dwellings for their workers in 1991 rising to thirty-two from 1901.

More brick-makers / brickyard labourers lived in Bovey Tracey during the latter part of the nineteenth century but whether they worked at Candy & Co Ltd or at the Bovey Pottery is difficult to determine. Candy & Co Ltd’s Brick and Tile Works was near the Heathfield station in the area we now know as Heathfield but in the nineteenth century, before Heathfield as we know it had been developed, all the common land south of Bovey, including the Bovey Pottery site, was referred to as ‘Heathfield’.

A third local family can, however, be linked directly to the Bovey Pottery brick works – the Courtiers:

In 1841 Joseph Courtier was an agricultural labourer living in one of the five Folly Pottery cottages. By 1861 two of his sons and two of his daughters were working at the Bovey Pottery but also in 1861 at nearby Slade’s Meadow, his nine-year old grandson joseph was already a brick-maker. In 1891 two other (by now adult) grandsons were living in town and working as brick-makers but by 1911 one had become a road labourer and the other a potter, suggesting reduced opportunities for brick-makers on the Bovey Pottery site.

Candy & Co Ltd were in the ascendancy and there is an interesting link between this company, the Buller family of Strete Raleigh, Whimple and Bovey Tracey. In 1921 an elderly William Hayman gave evidence in a dispute about the public right of way along a footpath near Whimple. William had been born in 1846 at Brickhouse, one of Capt. Thomas Buller’s estate farms in Ottery-St-Mary, a little distance from Strete Raleigh in adjoining Whimple. William started work at the Whimple Brick and Tile Works for Capt. Buller’s son Wentworth William Buller and he was there for ‘some years’ in his early working career.63

His evidence was that he and others had walked, presumably to work, along this footpath for many years. William was listed as living in Whimple in 1861 and working as a sixteen year old brick maker’s labourer.

William then moved, but not to the Bovey Pottery as had John Marchant and John Hayward beforetimes, but to the Marland Brick and Terra-cotta Works, Torrington where he married a local girl and they were located there in 1871 and 1881.64

When this enterprise was in financial difficulty in 1889 William moved his family to Bovey Tracey, as did John Morland Limpus the works’ young manager.65 William settled on East Street where he was described as a, ‘Brickworker provision dealer’ on the 1891 census, but by now this could have been at either the Bovey Pottery or the new Candy & Co. Ltd site in Heathfield – we cannot tell for sure.

William and his son Thomas were both working in brickyards in 1901 and 1911 but son Thomas was now living at Haytor View, the extensive terrace built for especially for the workers at Candy & Co Ltd.66 Thomas was certainly working for this company as he is recorded as being a brick burner at the Heathfield Brick and Tile Works, that is, Candy & Co Ltd.

It is interesting that as a young man William had chosen to move to Torrington rather than to Bovey Tracey where his former employer Wentworth William Buller was, from 1852, co-owner of the Bovey Pottery which included the brickworks and the Coal Pit.

The manager of Candy & Co Ltd was John Morland Limpus. He was the young manager at the Marland Brick and Terra-cotta Works at Torrington who moved to Hennock after this brickworks was offered for sale in 1889 following the bankruptcy of its then owner. John also became the chairman of the Chudleigh Knighton Debating Society where he mixed with Mary Divett and the daughters of William Templer Hughes and Harriett Fox-Strangways – all Buller blood relatives and subject of companion articles.

Candy & Co. Ltd. bricks are a very distinctive pale buff colour and they feature extensively in Bovey Tracey and Newton Abbot (Fig. 3). Following the demise of Buller and Divett’s Bovey Tracey Pottery Company in the 1890s the new Bovey Pottery Company Ltd continued producing ceramics into the 1950s but did this company compete with Candy & Co. Ltd by also continuing to manufacture bricks into the twentieth century? We are not sure.


Figure 3. Brimley Road Houses Built in c.1900 using Candy Bricks.  Malcom Billinge 2017.

An undated, hand-drawn map by Les Manley shows ‘Sites of brickfields. – Hand-made and clam fired by gorse and browse’ across the road from the House of Marbles, and a brickyard higher up Pottery Road in the vicinity of the Coal Pit / Bluewaters. The former may have been the site of the earlier more rustic industry in operation before Capt. Buller and John Divett assumed ownership in 1843.67

An architect’s plan of the Bovey Pottery from 1943 shows a brick-making shop, since demolished, a little way up the road from the House of marbles and a photograph in a book by Brian Adams purporting to show the pottery in about 1890 displays a building with an integral kiln in a similar location.68



Several brick-built terraces and late Victorian houses were built in Bovey Tracey during the latter years of the Buller and Divett ownership of the Bovey Tracey Pottery Company and into the twentieth century and it would seem likely that locally produced bricks were used in at least some of these developments (Fig. 4).

Figure 4. Houses Built Between 1871-1881 – Bovey Pottery Bricks? Malcolm Billinge 2017.


In 1935 a letter to the local press mentioned ‘bricks made yer [sic] in Bovey’ having been used in the recent construction of the children’s ward at the Bovey Cottage Hospital and also the R. C. church, but it remains to be determined if these came from Candy & Co Ltd or the brickworks at the Bovey Pottery.69


1.The National Archives 1841 Census.

2. Meller, Hugh, 2015. The Country Houses of Devon (Black Dog, Black Dog Press) 1, Colehayes p. 271;II, Parke p. 756.

3.Durrance, E. M. & Laming, D. J. C., eds, 1982.The Geology of Devon (Exeter, University of Exeter Press) 221.

4.Ewans, M.C., 1964. The Haytor Granite Tramway and Stover Canal (Newton Abbot, David & Charles) 15,19; The Western Times 30 July 1842, pp.1-2, Crown Court Monteith vs. Cumming, I am grateful to Stuart Drabble for drawing this to my attention.

5. Jenkin, A. K. Hamilton, 2005. Mines of Devon (Trowbridge, Wiltshire, Cromwell Press); Brooks, Tony, 2016. Kelly Mine and the ‘Shiny Ore’ Mines of the Wrey Valley (Exeter, Short Run Press)

6. Rolt, L. T. C., 1974 The Potters’ Field (Newton Abbot, David & Charles) p.39.

7. Adams, Brian and Thomas, Anthony, 1996. A Potwork in Devonshire (Devon, Sayce Publishing) Chapter 1.

8. See note 3.

9. The Western Times 19 January 1850, p. 8.

10.Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 6 September 1867, p. 9.

11.The Western Morning News 26 May 1875, p. 3.

12.  Pengelly, W., 1863. The lignites and clays of Bovey Tracey in Rep. Trans Devon Ass. Advmt Sci., 1 Pt. 1 pp. 29-39.

13. Exeter Flying Post 6 August 1835, p. 3.

14. Devon Heritage Centre 2160A/PB/4/a/1, Tithe Map Bovey Tracey.

15. See note 1.

16. Billinge F. and M., 2017The Bullers of Bovey Tracey and The Divetts of Bovey Tracey, 2017 accessed 28 September 2017.

17.  See note 1.

18.Transcription of a letter from Thomas Wentworth Buller to his wife Ann dated 22 October 1834. Private collection. I am grateful to April Marjoram for this information.

19.See note 2.

20. Devon Heritage Centre 62/9/2  box 9/21 Strete Raleigh Estate Map 1884.

21. Ibid.

22. See note 1.

23.Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 9 July 1831, p. 3.

24. The National Archives 1881 Census.

25. See note 1.

26. The Western Times 10 April 1879, p. 1; The Western Times 31 October 1879, p. 4

27. Exeter and Plymouth Gazette Daily Telegrams 16 May 1881, p. 1

28. The National Archives 1891 Census.

29. Saunders, Chris, 1999. More Diggings on the A30 in Heritage, Journal of the Ottery St Mary Heritage Society, No. 3 ; Saunders, C. 2000.  Brickworks Postscript ibid. No. 4.

30. Exeter Flying Post 19 June 1845, p. 3.

31. See note 1.

32. The Western Times 19 January 1850, p. 8; See note 1.

33. Exeter Flying Post 13 March 1851, p. 8 .

34. The National Archives 1851 Census.

35.  The Western Times 23 May 1846, p. 7.

36. The Western Times 17 October 1846, p. 4.

37. Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 1 November 1851, p. 4.

38.  Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 1 March 1851, p. 4.

39. The Western Times 7 June 1851, p. 4.

40. The Western Daily Mercury 18 November 1864, p. 3.

41. William White, 1878. History Gazetteer and Directory of the County of Devon (Sheffield, William White) p.168.

42. Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 21 September 1866, p. 6; Buller, Wentworth W., 1868. On Predictive Meteorology in Rep. Trans Devon. Ass. Advmt Sci., 2 Pt 2, 368-371.

43. The Western Times 3 August 1876, p. 3; Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 6 Sept 1867, p. 9  .

44. Exeter Flying Post 3 December 1857, p. 5.

45. For example Exeter Flying Post 15 June 1864, p. 8.

46. Taunton Courier 8 April 1857, p. 8.

47. Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 7 September 1866, p. 8.

48. The Fox-Strangways of Bovey Tracey, 2017, accessed 28 September 2017.

49.  Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 26 January 1866, p. 8.

50. The Western Morning News 19 March 1869, p. 3.

51. The Western Times 30 October 1868, p. 7.

52.  The Western Morning News 19 March 1869, p. 3.

53. The Western Times 6 September 1867, p. 7; Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 6 September 1867, p. 9.

54.  Edwards, Richard A., 2011. Devon’s Non-Metal Mines,(Wellington, Halsgrove House) p.139.

55. The Western Times 14 May 1859, p. 6 .

56. The National Archives 1861 Census.

57. Exeter Flying Post 13 May 1858, p. 7.

58.  Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 6 Sept 1867 p. 9.

59. Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 31 January 1868, p. 7.

60. Torquay Times, and South Devon Advertiser 25 December 1869, p. 4.

61. Kingdom, A. R. & Lang, M., 2004. The Newton to Moretonhampstead Railway, (Newton Abbot, Ark Publications, Railways) p. 29.

62. W. White, 1878 p. 168, see note 41.

63. The Western Times 13 September 1921, p. 2.

64. The National Archives Census 1871, 1881.

65. Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 6 December 1889, p.

66. The National Archives Census 1901, 1911.

67. Les .C. Manley map, undated, thought to be circa 1960 . Private collection Bovey Tracey.

68. Heathfield Pottery site based on an architect’s map of 1943, Bovey Tracey Character Appraisal p.17 accessed 29 September 2017; Adams, Brian, 2005. Bovey Tracey Potteries (Bovey Tracey, House of Marbles) p.17.

69. The Western Morning News 11 December 1935, p. 5.

Updated 2 June 2018