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Ball Clay and Transport (1)

The history of ball clay is bound up with the development of canals, railways and shipping which have all played a vital part in transporting clays economically to customers.

Amos Hewings with J. Vallance's horse and cart at Teignbridge

 

Amos Hewings with J. Vallance's horse and cart at Teignbridge loaded with ball clay en route to Teignbridge clay cellars on the Stover Canal, 1906.
(Photo courtesy Richard Harris)

Packhorses and, later, horses and carts were the only methods of getting clay away from the pits until the advent of railways and lorries. However, it was only practical to use packhorses and carts over short distances. Fortunately, each of the ball clay deposits is reasonably close to a port from which the clay could be transported by vessel to such ports as London, Bristol and Liverpool and Runcorn on the Mersey (for the Staffordshire potteries via the Bridgewater Canal and Josiah Wedgwood's Trent & Mersey Grand Trunk Canal), as well as continental European ports.

In South Devon the port for ball clay was Teignmouth. The first recorded shipment from Teignmouth was to Plymouth in 1691, shortly after William of Orange was proclaimed king in Newton Abbot in 1688. Originally, packhorses carried the clay from the pits to Hackney quay at the head of the Teign estuary where it was either loaded directly into small sailing vessels or taken by barge to larger sailing vessels moored in Teignmouth harbour.

Barges at the Teignbridge clay cellars

 

Barges at the Teignbridge clay cellars on the Stover Canal waiting to be moved to Teignmouth, c. 1920.

The high cost of the packhorse journey was greatly reduced by the construction of the Stover Canal from the Teign estuary to Teigngrace by James Templer II in 1790-1792 and of the Hackney Canal from Hackney quay into Kingsteignton for Lord Clifford in 1843. Clay cellars were built on both canals for the storage of clay prior to shipment. At about this time the Earl of Devon's 'Devon Wharf' (now the 'Town Quay') in Newton Abbot started to be used to load barges with clay from his newly opened Decoy pits. The barges had characteristic square 'Viking' sails but were latterly towed in the estuary by the steam tug 'Kestrel' and finally by the paraffin engine tug 'Heron'.

Falke loading clay from barges at Teignmouth in the 1920s

 

Falke loading clay from barges at Teignmouth in the 1920s

 

 

 

 


clay barges on the Stover Canal with their characteristic square 'Viking' sails - for larger version of this image, click here
Early photograph of loaded clay barges on the Stover Canal with their characteristic square 'Viking' sails rigged.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tug Heron towing loaded clay barges down the Whitelake Channel  - click on the picture to view a larger version
The tug Heron towing loaded clay barges down the Whitelake Channel from the Stover Canal to the River Teign, c. 1920