Raised in Hampshire, Celebrated in Dorset

poole pottery

Poole Pottery was founded by a builder’s son from the Itchen valley

ENTREPRENEURS give their eye teeth to acquire names that are household words. It saves a fortune in advertising, opens doors, gets a smile and immediate recognition, and ultimately sells goods.  But it often takes many years and false starts to get there.

When a forty-something man raised in Abbots Worthy, near Winchester, bought a run-down pottery works on Poole Quay in 1873 he could scarcely have imagined that he would go on to build a business that is known the world over.

This was Jesse Carter, who started life as the son of jobbing builder, William Carter. They lived in a thatched cottage rented from the Baring family, merchant bankers seated at East Stratton, with an estate that stretched to the banks of the river Itchen.

In former times the family had eked a living with farm work and thatching. One of their jobs was roof-work at Bull Farm, once a capital holding of Hyde Abbey, bought in the 1930s by the HCC and divided into smallholdings. Life was obviously tough for the Carters. Their name appears in the poor record, when JPs ordered them from parish to parish.

William’s father John had been a mason and may have had ambitions to better himself. A local rector in the 1830s, the Rev Thomas Vowler Short, despite a strong interest in education, seems to have regarded this as a step too far. After a deathbed communion as John lay dying from consumption, he wrote in his commonplace book: “Small business is a great temptation to men.”

William, too, worked in the building trade, as a bricklayer, and in the early 1800s gradually improved his lot. His careful estimates for a wide variety of jobs can be found in the Hampshire Record Office. He worked for Sir Francis Baring at Northbrook Farm, Micheldever. Another client was George A.E. Wall, the hard-drinking, hard-riding owner of Worthy Park (now a school).

In 1849 and 1864 Kings Worthy church underwent major works to accommodate its growing congregation. By 1851 Carter was employing 11 men and might have got some of the work, but was beaten by another, well-established village builder, Michael Vokes.

All this must have been the stuff of conversation in the cottage that William and his wife Charlotte rented from the Barings. No doubt young Jesse listened in and got a taste for “works”. He seems to have cashed in on the mid-19th century expansion  of Winchester, employing “49 men and 5 boys”, according to the late Chris Grover’s Hyde: From Dissolution to Victorian Suburb.  He collaborated with local businessman Charles Benny and built many houses in King Alfred Place, close to the ancient site of Hyde Abbey.

Jesse’s next move was a partnership in an ironmongery and builders’ merchants in Weybridge, Surrey. His taste for business may have come from Benny who was a property developer, grocer and general “Mr Fix-It”, twice Mayor of Winchester.

In 1873 Jesse moved again, to buy a defunct pottery on Poole Quay. Peter Blake takes up the story in The Dorset Magazine (August 2016): “In 1871 he was living in Weybridge, but moved to Poole soon after acquiring the pottery site, living first in Market Street, then later in West End House, a very imposing Georgian residence, which still stands.”

Jesse renamed the business Carter’s Industrial Tile Manufactory and produced products of such quality that they can still be seen throughout London’s Underground system. The company really got underway in the 1920s, in the hands of designers Harold Stapler and John Adams, and especially Adams’ wife Truda. In 1964 it was taken over by Pilkington Tiles.

The name “Poole Pottery”, which acquired cult status in his hands, has in recent years had a hard time. In 2011 it was absorbed by the Denby Pottery Company. A shop continued to trade on Poole Quay until 2017, when it finally closed 144 years after Jesse’s arrival. The brand, however, refuses to die and continues as https://www.poolepottery.co.uk/, a fitting tribute to the Carter family.

For more information, on see: Barry Shurlock, Jesse Carter of the Hurst, Abbots Worthy: founder of Poole Pottery, Worthy History, 24, 2020. You can find out more information about the Worthy Local History Group, publishers of Worthy History, HERE , or access their website HERE

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