Peter Denton’s birth and death took place 150 miles apart. He was the first in our modern peripatetic period. He was born in Prescot and was the second of John’s sons to be called Peter (the first lived only from 1807 to 1808).
Peter chose to move first to Hunslet in Yorkshire and then north to Durham. Intriguingly if you satnav the start and end points of his route today, it virtually passes through Hunslet.
Peter married Elizabeth Critchley in 1831 and in the 1841 census we find them living in Dales Row, Hunslet, Yorkshire. They were both thirty years old with three children (Alice, Ann and Elizabeth), and someone called John Denton. Annoyingly and uncharacteristically the census record does not mention his relationship to head of household. John was fifteen years old, that is born five years before Peter’s marriage. This John was not his brother John, who was older than Peter, and brother John had no son of the same name. Peter’s brother William had a son John but he was younger. So this is another mystery. Both Peter and this John’s occupations were shown as ‘potter’.
The 1851 census finds them at 5 New Moors Pottery, Evenwood, Durham and now having five children living with them (Ann, Elizabeth, Margaret, William and James). There is no sign of the mystery John. Peter is still described as a potter.
The Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described Evenwood thus in 1870 – The village stands on an eminence, above the River Gaunless, adjacent to the Northern Counties Union railway, 5 miles SW of Bishop-Auckland; and has a station on the railway […] Pop., 1,949. Many of the inhabitants are coal miners. A castle once stood here; and there are still traces of its moat. The main pit then was the Randolph Colliery with some associated coke ovens. At peak it employed 1,000 men.
By 1861 they had moved eight miles east to 16 Canney Hill, Coundon, with five children living with them (Margaret, William, Joseph, Benjamin and John). Peter, now fifty-one years of age, is described as an earthenware manufacturer and here research bore fruit.
The BBC ran a local history project on the Canney Hill Pottery which was presumably Peter’s employer (see History of a Pottery by Dr Alan Crosby and Chris Howe on BBC website). This uncovered that an entrepreneur named John Welsh was the original purchaser of the land where the pottery was built and was probably its founder in the late 1840s. He was an entrepreneur who had travelled to Australia and Tasmania, then set himself up as a successful mill-owner in Wisconsin, USA where he also served as a magistrate.
Welsh had no pottery experience and hired master potter John Cooper to set up the required ovens and kilns; Cooper’s brother Henry also worked at Canney Hill. Another Cooper brother had emigrated to Australia and the BBC researcher ponders if he may have met Welsh there and inspired this partnership. Cooper had co-owned a pottery in Jack Lane, Hunslet so I’m not going to be shy in suggesting that perhaps that’s how Peter came to be attracted to the area. Jack Lane still exists and runs for half a mile across Hunslet. I cannot find Dales Row where Peter’s family lived but it would be difficult for it to have been too distant.
The business owners gathered skilled personnel largely from Derbyshire and South Yorkshire. (This was gleaned from the census records). At its peak the pottery probably employed twenty-five men, girls and boys. Their work was quite distinctive with a lustrous glaze that the BBC researcher rather pompously opines would have had appeal to miners’ wives of the period.
– may Peter have made them? (images from BBC website)
The BBC researcher in 2005 discovered that Coundon Gate Methodist Chapel had items in its kitchen from Canney Hill Pottery and one of its large teapots is now on show at Beamish Museum. Potteries in the region were short-lived although Canney Hill Pottery must have had something going for it as it survived until 1913 before the success of Staffordshire factories and the expanding rail network flooded the market with cheaper pottery.
|Note on shorthand acronyms being used in the DFB:|
– GGF1 / GGM1 – means first great-grandfather /mother;
– GU11 / GA11 – means eleventh great-uncle / great-aunt;
– 1C3 – means first cousin three times removed