Boyton Clay Pits



picture.gif The Clay Pits at Boyton

The Clay Pits at Boyton

One of the farms in Boyton inherited by Edmund Warner included a field beneath which potters clay was found. This clay was particularly suitable for the manufacture of delftware, containing a high proportion of calcium carbonate. Clay destined to take a tin-glaze requires a calcium content of as much as 20-25% and Boyton clay had perhaps twice this amount. It was therefore of high value and suitable for dilution with other clays before manufacture.

In the 17th century, the London delftware potters of Lambeth and Vauxhall were taking cargoes of Boyton clay as early as 1639 and records in the Exchequer Port-books indicate an annual supply of up to 500 tons. The clay was carted to Boyton Dock, some two miles from the pit and loaded on a small coasting vessel for London, frequently with a few firkins of butter.

We know that Boyton clay was also shipped to Holland and even to America. This was cited in a trial before the Exchequer Court in 1693 when a cargo destined for Holland was seized by the Customs in the belief that it was Fullers Earth  a prohibited export. Edmund Warner produced convincing evidence from potters in London, clay merchants in Holland and cloth-workers in many parts of England that Boyton clay was useless for fulling cloth and its value as pottery clay was four times that of Fullers Earth.

At Lady Day in 1750, profits from the clay pits had begun to trickle into the Almshouse Trust and for the next thirty-five years there was a small but steady income from this source. Coasting vessels were loaded with up to 90 tons of clay per voyage, the London potter paid 5s 6d a ton, from which the farm tenant received 2s 6d for digging and carting. In all, nearly 2,500 tons were shipped for the Trustees before the pits were exhausted in 1785. Well-known delftware potters in London using Boyton clay at this period included:

William Groves of Horsely Down (near Tower Bridge)

Richard Day of Montague Close, (behind Southwark Cathedral)

John Saunders of Glasshouse Street, Lambeth

Samuel Swaby of Vauxhall, Lambeth

Griffith & Morgan of Lambeth High Street.

In 1782, however, the charitys Receiver was asked to enquire whether the potters clay at Boyton could be used in the Staffordshire manufactory but there is no record of this being taken up.


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