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THE BALL CLAY INDUSTRY - 3. WORKING TOGETHER
(Continued . . .)

 

Southacre Quarry with the clay seam clearly in view

Southacre Quarry, with the clay seams clearly in view

©Richard Harris

 

In 1870 the vertical shaft method of mining was introduced which replaced the old "square pit" method.  With square pits clay could only be extracted from depths of up to 70 feet.  The vertical shaft meant that depths of over 200 feet could be reached.  Production increased rapidly reaching 60,000 tons in 1878 and 80,000 tons in 1896.  Towards the end of the century overseas sales became an increasingly important section of the market with outlets being established in many parts of Europe and the U.S.A.

 

The latter part of the 19th century and early 20th century was characterised by the emergence of various new companies who worked the clay deposits.  Over the years a series of mergers led to a multitude of small companies being whittled down to two large producers.  The partnership of Whiteway, Watts and Company was dissolved in 1860, each side of the partnership going their own separate way.  Mr. J. W. Watts joined with Messrs. C. Davey-Blake and L. Bearne and the two companies of Whiteway and Company and Watts, Blake and Bearne and Company came into being.  The Devon and Courtenay Clay Company was founded in 1856 and worked deposits at Decoy, Newton Abbot.  Hexter and Humpherson, potters merchants, are first mentioned in 1890.  This partnership was responsible for the building of a large works by the Newton Road, which manufactured bricks, tiles and drainage pipes.  Opposite the pottery 24 houses were built to house the employees.  The clay interests of the company were taken over by a new business formed in 1912 known as Hexter and Budge which operated pits near Newcross.

 

Ken Gibbs and Charlie Wallis in Hexter Budge No.1 Shaft

Ken Gibbs and Charlie Wallis in the Hexter & Budge No. 1 Shaft

©Richard Harris

 

The immediate post World War I years saw the formation of two more companies, which worked clay in Kingsteignton.  In 1919 the Mainbow Clay Company and Newton Abbot Clays Ltd came into being.  The former worked land at Mainbow, Highweek and at Newbridge, Kingsteignton.  Newton Abbot Clays took over Goddard and Company, which had been extracting clay from land on the Clifford Estate.  Further leases were obtained to mine Kingsteignton clay at Bellamarsh, King's Meadow and Homers Lane.  A passing note may be made of Ringslade Ball Clay Properties, established in 1924, which concentrated its attention on deposits at Ringslade, Highweek.

.In June 1913 the clayworkers of Kingsteignton asked for a wage increase of two shillings and sixpence per week plus trade union recognition. The clay companies were unsympathetic to their wage demands and hostile to the notion of the workers forming a trades union. A bitter strike ensued lasting for 11 weeks during which fundraising marches were made to obtain support for the striking miners. Large open air meetings were held at Oakford and stockpiles of clay were prevented from being moved as the men who worked the canals were persuaded to join the strike by pickets sitting on the lock gates. The bitterness of the strike was such that incidences of machinery and equipment being sabotaged were reported. A miner with Hexter & Budge named Alf Scott was instrumental in bringing in a professional union organiser from the Gasworkers Union to give advice on how best to form a trades union. Hexter Humpherson & Co printed the wage rates of its workers in the local press in an effort to undermine the workers position. The miners countered this by pointing to the buoyant financial position of Hexter Humpherson & Co. Shortly before the strike there had been a well publicised legal wrangle over its ownership resulting in its financial position being made public. They could also point to the fact the Mr C D Blake had given his blessing to Trades Unions in local potteries in which he had financial interests. Eventually, albeit reluctantly, the employers acceded to the demands of the workers.

 

Alf Scott and his gang at the top of the shaft at Gallows Cross 1906

Alf Scott with his gang at the top of the shaft at Gallows Corner - 1906

©Richard Harris

 

CONTINUED

 

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