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Devon County

Devonshire Rgt.

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Parish Records




War Memorials



(Continued . . .)


Like most industries the clay trade was hit by the General Slump in the early 1930's. In 1931 only 18,000 tons of clay was shipped through Teignmouth.  Although most clay bound for the "Potteries" was by then being sent by rail it still amounted to a dramatic decline in sales.  The fall in demand was serious enough for the clay-miners to be given a ten per cent reduction in wages.  Another strike broke out in 1932 over this imposed reduction in wages. However, the strike was unsuccessful and the wage reduction had to be endured until the outbreak of WWII.  The advent of motor transport had killed off most of the traffic on the canals.  First to close to clay traffic was the Hackney Canal in 1928 the Stover Canal ceasing operations eleven years later.


Since World War II the integration of the clay concerns has brought about rapid capital expansion.  The English Clays, Lovering and Pochin group, which had acquired the Mainbow interests in 1932, took over the Ringslade Company in 1951.  Hexter and Budge became part of this group in 1957.  Devon and Courtenay and Whiteway and Co. merged with Watts, Blake, Bearne and Company in 1966 whilst the final merger occurred three years later when the latter named firm took over Newton Abbot Clays. The next great change in the ownership of the clay companies came from Europe as both Watts Blake Bearne & Co and ECC Ball Clays were acquired by foreign the interests of Sibelco and Imerys Minerals respectively in the late 1990s.


The old 56 Adits at Preston Manor

The old 5 and 6 Adits at Preston Manor

©Richard Harris


Progress in technology over the years has meant that wider applications for the use of ball clay have been found.  Coupled with this, manufacturers also have the knowledge to lay down the precise characteristics they require from clays.  These factors, together with the increased demand from abroad, have necessitated dramatic changes in both winning and processing the clay.  The quarries are totally mechanised, using hydraulic excavators.  Different characteristics of clays can be blended together through shredding, drying, and pulverising processes.


Drift mines, which followed the particular stratum of clay to be extracted, replaced the vertical shaft method of mining in the late 1950s.  These mines were sunk into the ground following the angle of dip.  Clay was brought to the surface in trucks hauled by a winch.  In 1999 the last underground mine closed ending a tradition of mining in the village that had lasted some two hundred years.


The clay carts, loaded with "balls" have long disappeared from the village streets. Today clay is transported in nylon woven sacks or moisture resistant paper sacks loaded on pallets for easier handling.  The introduction of these modern techniques has allowed production to keep pace with demand and the Preston Manor Works now produces some 500,000 tons. Today ball clay is exported to over 70 countries throughout the world and the Kingsteignton deposits are one of Devon's major sources of foreign exchange.


White Pit in 2005

White Pit in 2005

©Richard Harris


Clay mining has played a great part in the history and development of Kingsteignton, particularly from the employment and environmental aspects and this is likely to continue into the future. The massive quarries along with their associated tips have a marked effect on the landscape. 


Numerous disused pits exist and these have been left to fill up with water to form some very attractive ponds, once natural re-growth of vegetation has taken place. Since passing into foreign ownership both companies have seen major restructuring and large scale job losses. Local administrative headquarters have been axed and management control has been passed to remote locations. As the new owners seek to capitalise on their newly acquired assets much of the huge land bank they own in the Bovey Basin has been declared surplus to requirements. With the Kingsteignton area being suggested as an area for even further growth the traditional buffer zone between the village and the pits has been suggested as an area for development. The suggested development will see village population increase by some 50% and bring the built up area of the village right up to the edge of working claypits and many of the long established fishing lakes disappear.


For more information and many photographs, visit the Ball Clay Heritage Society's site at





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