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Timaru Potteries

Photo courtesy of Davina Davis, Curator of Collections, South Canterbury Museum, Timaru.

Page 3 A selection of Stour Ware crocks with Bristol glaze made by the South Canterbury Pottery and Mining Company between 1935 and 1939.

1939 -1959

The South Canterbury Museum held an exhibit “Made by Timaru Potteries" December to 2nd March 2008, an exhibition of local mid 20th century commercial, industrial and domestic pottery. Timaru Potteries was known for producing high quality utilitarian distinctive stoneware ceramics. They had a dedicated and talented staff that also produced items of beauty. The exhibition featured pieces along with images and information about the firm’s history. There were over 100 items made by Timaru Potteries including high quality crocks and demijohns. A smaller permanent display on Timaru Potteries (one display case with perhaps 10 items) will be reassembled after March. Straight sided crocks were made using moulds and designed to be picked up by the rim. Shaped crocks were made on the potter's wheel. The wide mouth jars were used to store pickles preserves, etc. Often sealed with a cork or with wax paper tied with string around the rim. The numbers under the rim indicate how many pints a crock can hold.

A booklet produced by the South Canterbury Museum called “Made by Timaru Potteries” is available for $NZ15.00 and postage. To order please contact  The booklet written by Davina Davis ; object photographs by Michael Hyman, with a large number of colour images, 39 pages, was based on the exhibition, published 2007. The images with page numbers are courtesy of Davina and are from the booklet. Thanks Davina. To find out more about the South Canterbury Museum view their website.  

Photo courtesy of Davina Davis, Curator of Collections, South Canterbury Museum, Timaru.

Page 4 c logo. The South Canterbury Pottery and Mining Company artefacts (1935 – 1939) are stamped on the base with “Stour Ware Timaru”. They are made with the oatmeal coloured Mt Somers clay quarried from near the Stour River and are mostly glazed with the tan brown Bristol glaze.

Photo courtesy of Davina Davis, Curator of Collections, South Canterbury Museum, Timaru.

Page 11b logo This stamp has both the Stour Ware and the Timaru Potteries company logos so was most likely to have been used as the new Timaru Potteries Company was being established. It would help existing markets to link the two companies.

Photo courtesy of Davina Davis, Curator of Collections, South Canterbury Museum, Timaru.

Page 26 b logo. Timaru Potteries used several company stamps on their products. This circular logo with “Made by Timaru Potteries Ltd” appears to have been used with items from the 1940s including casserole dishes, mixing bowls and chamber pots.

Photo courtesy of Davina Davis, Curator of Collections, South Canterbury Museum, Timaru.

Page 24 b logo. This broader style of logo came in two versions and seems to have been used mostly in the 1950s on vases.

Provincial Directors of Timaru Potteries Limited

Charles Leslie Orbell, chairman
Herbert Elworthy
Percy Ashton Elworthy
Albert Edward Smith
George Henry Andres.

Jimmy Johnston, a skilled thrower who had previously worked in several New Zealand potteries including Luke Adams of Christchurch, was employed as pottery manager by July 1935.  The company manufactured pottery, stoneware, acid jars, fire clay and red ware. Orders were received for demijohns, flower pots, vinegars jars, bed warmers and chamber pots. Early wares appear to be stamped on the base “Stour Ware Timaru” and are made with the oatmeal coloured Mt Somers clay (kaolinite, 65%) and are mostly glazed with the tan brown Bristol glaze. Later the firm made firebricks with the whole production sold to Alloy Steel (NZ) Ltd. Sales had risen from £2,000 in 1940 to over £12,000 by 1944. By 1953 sales were over £20,000 but started to decline by 1957.

For many homes especially those in the remoter rural areas of South Canterbury electricity and refrigeration were still a few years away and these crocks were the alterative. Housewives were known to place the crocks in tubs of cold water to keep food fresh. A cold stream replaced the tub when out on a picnic or delivering food to workers in the field. On Sherwood Downs we did not get electricity until August 1957 and homesteads had their own electric generation plants. In those days the kitchen was large and square with the dinning table in the centre of the room with a kerosene fridge that were two doors side by side, kerosene heaters and lamps and a kitchen sink below a large picture window and beside the sink a meat safe that had fine wire mesh to the outside wall and on the other wall a Rayburn coal range with a wetback for hot water beside the hot water cylinder cupboard. We also had three large bins under the kitchen counter for 50lb sacks of flour, sugar and bread.

Timaru Potteries was established in 1939 after buying out the South Canterbury Pottery and Mining Company. George Clements founded the South Canterbury Pottery and Mining Co in 1934 after discovering coal and clay on his farm. Clay was also obtained from Pleasant Point, Kakahu and Mt Somers. The quarry at Mount Somers was called the 'Sunnyside Clay Mine' and was owned by the South Canterbury Mining Company and later by Timaru Potteries Limited.  There was also deposits of brown ash coal suitable for firing the kiln to the high temperatures. Silica was also present in the district. Silica was mixed with the clay to reduce shrinking and used in the glaze.  The pottery works and kiln was established in Mill Street, Timaru on a site that had previously been occupied by the Municipal Power Department. The large smoke stack on the north side of the building was used as a drying room and the remainder of the building remodelled. It was conveniently situated close to the Port of Timaru and next to the railway line and a railway siding was leased from CFCA. A shunting charge of 2/-per loaded four wheeled waggon and 4'- per loaded bogie wagon placed on or lifted from the siding instead of the minimum rental payment of 50 per annum was negotiated with New Zealand Railways.

Timaru Potteries did not employ a chemist to make the glazes but many of the staff experimented with glazes. Glazes were difficult to obtain during the Second World War so many items had either a clear glaze or were unglazed. Many of the industrial and domestic demijohns, crock and jars only had a clear glaze with the occasional decorative coggle line. Timaru Potteries made vases in a variety of shapes but similar in their clean lined style. Many had a clear glaze on the inside to make them waterproof and sometimes a small amount of colour was added to the rim. The softer Kakahu clay was often mixed with the stronger Mt Somers clay and in an unglazed vase made with the two clays the vase ended up with a stripped appearance. Some of the unglazed vases where hand painted by their owners or were spray painted crimson red at the factory.

Photo courtesy of Davina Davis, Curator of Collections, South Canterbury Museum, Timaru.

Page 25 b Bread Barrels. Crocks, demijohns, vases and other household items made by Timaru Potteries in the 1950s have coloured glazes. Green mottled glazes were the most common, although a pink and green mottled glaze was also popular. The more expensive blue glazes are rarer. The round sided bread barrels were thrown on the wheel, while the straight sided butter cocks were made using moulds.

The clay was only mined as needed and the pit was closed during winter. The clay face was 15-30 feet in height. Holes were drilled by hand and blasting powder used. The clay was loaded on to tip trucks. On arrival at the pottery works the clay was ground in a grinding pan or ball mill. Water was then added to assist the removal of gravel, dir, grass and other debries in a process called 'blunging'. The liquid clay was sieved and passed through filters to remove the water. The clay was then compressed and sliced in a plug mill to obtain a uniform consistency and here silica added to improve the plasticity of the clay.

Timaru Potteries ceased operation in November 1959.
Several factors that lead to the closure:

Photo courtesy of Davina Davis, Curator of Collections, South Canterbury Museum, Timaru.
Page 15. Selection of crocks and demijohns: A selections of crocks and demijohns made by Timaru Potteries Ltd. During World War Two the company made a large number of these for the New Zealand government to supply the armed forces. They are made using the creamier Kakahu clay and have a clear glaze.

Locally made products were needed during World War Two as imported items were no longer available. During World War Two, some glaze ingredients were hard to obtain. Many of the Timaru Potteries Ltd items from this period have either a clear glaze or are unglazed. The creamy Kakahu clay, which was often mixed with the Mt Somers clay, looked good without embellishment and so many of the industrial and domestic demijohns, crocks and jars only had a clear glaze with the occasional decorative coggle line.

The products made are a lasting testimony to the skilled workmen who worked for Timaru Potteries Limited.

The information above is courtesy of Davina Davis, Curator of Collections
South Canterbury Museum, Perth Street, Timaru. Posted February 2008.

Physical properties of clay

Plasticity: some clays don't have any. This property can be added.
Tensile strength: resistance to rupture in the air-dried condition is an important factor in determining its commercial usability. High tensile strength and plasticity often go together.
Shrinkage: all clays shrink during drying and again in firing (air shrinkage and fire shrinkage) Differ widely.
Fusibility: related to the temperature of of the burning - incipient fusion - clay softened and serve as a binder. Sewer tile and paving brick to the point of vitrification- particles become soft and consolidate. Refractory (fireclay) the maximum temperature which clay can stand without fusion or failure.
Texture: the size of the grains
Colour: colour is usually due to iron
Slacking: the speed and ease with which a lump of raw clay disintegrates in water. It affects the cost of preparing the clay for fabrication.
Hardness: varies from less than 1 to 3.5 on the Moh scale. Has no direct relationship to the strength of the clay but it does effect grinding and preparing the clay for fabrication.

Clay Working Process

Preliminary crushing. : crusher
Feeding through grinder: fine grinding, the dry pan. Ball mills are used for extremely hard clays
Screening: vibrating screens
Mixing with about 16 to 20% water in pug mill
Pugging or tempering clay- tempered with water to develop its plasticity. The plug mill is used for this purpose.
Extruding through auger machine.
Forming machines.


Ball mill: a grinding mill in which the material to be ground is tumbled in a drum with heavy balls of iron, steel, or rock.
initial kiln firing in which clay sinters without vitrifying, and though very porous, will no longer soften in water.
: to mix clay with water, so as to form a liquid suspension.
Bristol Glaze
: a glassy, creamy glaze, a surface finish, sometimes coloured with iron to make it brown, most commonly found on cylindrical vessels, ¼ glazed brown and ¾ cream colour.
of or pertaining to products made from clay and similar materials, as pottery and brick, or to their manufacture.  Most ceramics are crystalline and are poor conductors of electricity. Insulators
Coggle line:
small stamp wheel with raised pattern around the rim, which when rolled along a plastic clay surface leaves a band of relief pattern. Usually formed with damp or dry clay and bisque-fired.
Earthenware: Pottery made from a porous clay that is fired at relatively low temperatures. Faience, delft, and majolica are examples of earthenware.
Kaolinite has a low shrink-swell capacity. It is a soft, earthy, usually white mineral, produced by the chemical weathering of aluminum silicate. Kaolin is low in plasticity and in ceramic uses often other clays are added to overcome this deficiency.
Firebrick: a refractory brick, usually made of fire clay, used for lining furnaces, fireboxes, chimneys, or fireplaces
Kiln: a furnace or oven for burning, baking, or drying something, esp. one for firing pottery, calcining limestone, or baking bricks.
Pottery: ceramic ware, esp. earthenware and stoneware.
a place where earthen pots or vessels are made.
Salt glaze:
a ceramic glaze on stoneware produced by the chemical reaction that occurs when salt is thrown into a kiln during firing.
: the dioxide form of silicon, SiO2, occurring esp. as quartz sand, flint, and agate: used usually in the form of its prepared white powder chiefly in the manufacture of glass, water glass, ceramics, and abrasives.
Sintering :
in heating clays and glazes, a solid-state reaction where particles stick together permanently, and mass can be considered fired.
is vitreous pottery, a hard, opaque, vitrified ceramic ware.
Vitrified : having the surface made shiny and nonporous by fusing a vitreous solution to it; "glazed pottery"

Example of Timaru Potteries wares can still be found on online auction sites - February 2008

One gallon crock  	Cordials LTD Timaru 'Stourware' stamped on back 
Wide mouth jar  	Pair of miniature travellers samples, 3ins tall, no lid plus 4ins tall two tone jar, marked Stourware Timaru
Hot water bottle  	dark bluestone, screw in lid, has Stourware of Timaru 
Bed Warmer  		"Stour Ware" Timaru Potteries 
Hot water bottle  	"Made by Timaru Potteries Ltd" stamped on the bottom 
Hot water bottle 	23cm at the 2 widest points and around 11 cm high to the top of the screw on cap, rubber washer.
Storage canisters 	2 gals and 3 gals  made by Timaru Potteries.
Crock 3 quart  		greyish /off white colour Timaru Potteries stamped on the side
Stour Ware crock 	measured 18.5 cms tall and 19.5 cms in diameter.
Stone jar 		with original "Worcestershire Sauce" label. Made by Timaru Pottery. Stands 31cm tall and diameter is 18cm.
Potty -  Chamber pot  	Made by Timaru Potteries
Canister  		Timaru Potteries 310mm x 300mm wide at its widest and 220mm wide inside the top opening, glazed. approx 7½ kg. 
1½ gal. glazed  crock 	27cm high Timaru Potteries with lid
Demijohn 		with robust 'strap' handle. Made by Timaru Potteries NZ, (stamped on base) Stands 18cms tall. 'Toffee' colour.

A crock with a decorative coggle line. The rim was used for lifting the crock.

Newspaper snippets - the discovery of clay in South Canterbury.

Timaru Herald, 31 January 1900, Page 3
Mr H.B. Kirk's brickmaking works, College Road. He intended going for pipe and tile making especially as he found from exhaustive tests that the Timaru clay was admirably adapted for those purposes; in fact, to quote him, "one of the best clays I ever used." All is well for the reception of the machinery. The building to be used as the machinery and moulding rooms adjoins the old brickworks is getting its finishing touches at the hands of Mr Petrie the carpenter. Close to the building is the kiln with its numerous retorts and immense chimney stack.

Wanganui Herald, 31 March 1903, Page 4
Samples of the clay found at Kakahu Creek, in South Canterbury, have been sent to the Homebush Pottery Works to be tested and reported on. Mr Edmonds of Messrs Edmonds and Page, who left a few days ago on a trip, to England, also took samples of the clay with him, and intends having its qualities tested at English pottery works.

Otago Witness, 1 April 1903, Page 4
The Homebush Pottery Works have been supplied with samples of the clay found at Kakahu Creek, in South Canterbury, to test and report upon. Samples are also being sent to England to be tested by the Home pottery works.

Homebush Station near Glenntunel, Mid Canterbury was owned by the Deans family. They farmed and ran the Glentunnel Tile Brick and and Pottery Works. There is a homestead, brick woolshed on the property and the library is built with locally made bricks in 1886.

Otago Witness, 29 April 1903, Page 4
Samples of the clay found in large quantities in the vicinity of Kakahu Creek, near Winchester, have been analysed (says  the Press) by Professor Bickerton, who expresses the opinion that the clay is kaolin, which, in addition to possessing curative properties — an ointment made from it is a remedy for crysipelas, is largely used in the manufacture of the higher grade of pottery. Mr J. M. Douglass, whose son-in-law has taken, up a claim of this kaolin, having the clay tested at some of the local pottery works and also by Home potteries.
Wanganui Herald, 7 January 1904, Page 4
The Winchester correspondent of the Christchurch Press writes that he has been shown some pottery made from Kakahu clay. The specimens included candlesticks, butter dishes, flower pots, wall brackets, and various other ornaments. He states that the whole work compared favourably with imported articles. The articles were manufactured in Christchurch. Putty is also being made from the clay, and so far has stood the test of exposure to the weather very well. Crayons, of good quality, were also shown.

Otago Witness, 1 February 1905, Page 33
A meeting is to be held at Temuka this week to consider the question of forming a company to start pottery works in the district, expert experiments having proved that the deposits of clay at Kakahu are very suitable for the manufacture of pottery. Mr W. H. Rowley, of Temuka, who has had a very large experience in pottery manufacture in Staffordshire, when interviewed by a Timaru Herald representative, was quite enthusiastic over the future of the enterprise, and designated the district as a " veritable geological Garden of Eden." It is proposed at present, he said, only to develop the clay deposits there, and of such good quality was this clay that there were virtually no limits to the pottery productions which could be obtained from it. It combined, in a general way, all the qualities of the best Devon and Cornwall clays, and was obtainable in practically unlimited quantities. In point of excellence, it was far above any other colonial clay, and would compare with the best of the Old Country. The clay lends itself very readily to manufacture, and its natural advantages would allow of the local production of materials much more cheaply than they could be imported, and the whole of New Zealand could be supplied with them. The productions would have to be suited to the requirements of the colony, and he would suggest the manufacture of sewerage and sanitary ware, glazed bricks, wall and floor tiling, and fire clay goods. Samples- of all these have been made, and have met with the strongest praise from experts. Asked if similar clay existed in any other parts of the colony, the expert replied that only outcroppings had so far been discovered, and in no instance was there an indication of the existence of such large quantities as were to be found at Kakahu.

Otago Witness, 8 February 1905, Page 54
Steps are being taken at Temuka to form a company to manufacture various articles of salt glaze pottery, flooring and ornamental tiles, sanitary pipes, etc., from Kakahu siliceous clays, which are favourably reported on by a Staffordshire expert. It is proposed to have a factory at Temuka.

Wanganui Herald, 28 September 1907, Page 7
Timaru, September 27. The South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce is endeavouring to establish new industries in Timaru, and is collecting information as to the probable cost of establishing and maintaining the following: — Brick and pottery works, hosiery, soap, and candles, sauce and pickles, tannery and fellmongery, biscuit factory, iron and brass foundry, wholesale stationary, paper bags, etc. It is believed that all these can be profitably carried on here, and that their initiation will greatly aid the advancement of the district.

Timaru Potteries exhibit at the South Canterbury Museum, January 2008

The Timaru Potteries demijohns were probably made between 1939 when Timaru Potteries was established and 1942 when demijohns were no longer used. The majority have the "Stour Ware Made by Timaru Potteries" stamp. They were designed with screw lids to hold liquids in bulk such as vinegar, sauce, wines, spirits, cordials and beer. The company's name was embossed on the shoulder, e.g. Little's, D Sinclair (both were grocery stores), George Watts, Timaru Cordials (has a cork stopper) (34 Woollcombe St, 1926-1959), Bay Hotel, Club Hotel, St Andrews Masonic Hotel, etc.

Museum Gifted Pottery
13 July 2005 Timaru Herald

A new collection of local pottery has the South Canterbury Museum all fired up. Timaru's Jeff Elston has donated 50-odd pieces of Timaru Potteries Ltd to the museum from his vast collection. The gesture has thrilled museum director Philip Howe and curator of collections Davina Davis, who were like kids in a candy store choosing which pieces from Mr Elston's 400-500 Timaru Potteries collection to take. Mr Howe said the gift filled a hole in the museum's collection. Timaru Potteries was founded in Timaru's Mill Road in the mid 1930s. At the time, the establishment of a factory was a bold undertaking for Timaru. The factory continued to expand to make a variety of wares, including cooking dishes, vases, jugs, chamberpots, and various jars. It eventually closed in 1959. Mr Elston said the company tried hard to cater for a wide range of tastes. These days, it is highly collectable, he said. "People can identify with items from the past." It's not the first time Mr Elston has donated pottery to the museum. Pieces from the collection will form part of an exhibition planned for next year on the history of local pottery.

"Were the finished productions depend on personal skill"

Mollé Pottery
The North Otago Museum in Oamaru has a collection of Timaru and Temuka Pottery.
Commercial Ceramics Temuka Pottery, Timaru Potteries, Crown Lynn Pottery at some stage created pieces using clay sourced from the Mount Somers area. Logo used since 2011.
Bricks 1
Lawry & Co. - Temuka N.Z. made demijohn 1860-1879s 

Maker’s mark is important

Poverty Bay Herald, 17 March 1920, Page 8
The chief postmaster, in conversation with a pressman on the matter, said that the present telephone exchange was capable of taking another 50 subscribers. The war had been responsible for a shortage of material and most of that used was manufactured outside the Dominion. About the only parts manufactured in New Zealand were the "cups", which were supplied by a Temuka firm, but the supply is no way equalled the demand. On the line from Timaru to Oamaru there was a considerable number of breakages of cups caused by stone throwing, and these lines had to be maintained by replacements.

Auckland Star, 30 August 1918, Page 2 FIRE AT TEMUKA.
The Christchurch Pipe and Tile Company's works at Temuka were almost totally destroyed by fire last, night, only one uncompleted building escaping. The damage is estimated at £10,000. The works were apparently safe when inspected at 10.30 p.m. yesterday. The fire occurred about midnight. The origin is a mystery.

Auckland Star, 11 December 1925, Page 11
The making of insulators for Government Departments and power boards has now become fully established in the Temuka district, where excellent deposits of clay are available at the works' site. Tests show that the insulators manufactured are of good quality, and, despite the keenness of overseas competition, the manufacturers are receiving a large measure of support, both from the Government and local bodies.  

South Canterbury NZGenWeb Project

'The South Canterbury Museum Ink Well' 

South Canterbury Pottery Group fb