An Introduction into Brannam Pottery

Brannam Pottery is highly sought after and the number of collectors continues to grow. Many people stumble on Brannam as a result of collecting Torquay Pottery and other related ‘Devonshire’ ware.

The name of Brannam has been associated with pottery making in the north Devon town of Barnstaple since the 1840s, but production really took off when Charles Hubert Brannam became involved in the running of his father’s Litchdon Street pottery in 1879. Prior to this Charles had studied both pottery techniques and the history of art.

He began to steer the pottery towards the burgeoning market for the kind of ware commonly known as Art Pottery.  Making the wares under the trade name of Barum (the Roman name for Barnstaple) the pottery later became known as Royal Barum Ware when it received Queen Victoria’s seal of approval with her purchase of four jardinieres.  Barum ware was sold exclusively for a while in the 1880s by the firm of Howell and James in London.

The colour scheme that was really popular with the public at the time consisted of lighter to darker coffee colour in combination with a delicate blue/green, which had been devised by Brannam.  This is also extremely popular with modern collectors.  Later colour combinations up to around the 1890s became increasingly vivid when oranges, reds and stronger coloured glazes as well as green became popular.

Designers and decorators particularly revered by Brannam enthusisasts include Charles Brannam himself, James Dewdney, William Baron, Owen Davis and the modeller Frederick Arthur Bowden.  William Baron fell out with Charles and left in 1893, later setting up his own rival pottery in the same town.

Other names to look out for are Thomas Liverton, Arthur Barkin, Beachamp Wimple, Frank Braddon and Stanley Williams.  Highly sought after are items such as the early and often elaborate sgraffito vases and pieces designed or executed by some of the top names associated with the pottery.

For some decades Brannam wares such as toilet seats were supplied to Liberty’s employing a much more refined palette of simple blues, greens and yellows.  In stark contrast to this, much typical Brannam pottery has an animal or naturalistic theme – dragon handles, fish mouth jugs, griffin and heron candle holders, fish and peacock decorations on vases and actual animal figures themselves.

Brannam branched out into many varied fields of production – political figures and animal studies based on Francis Carruthers Gould’s drawings, and entire ranges of decorative and functional pieces all with that special Brannam twist.  They made wall pockets, commemorative ware (a Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee mug for 1897 is in the firm’s museum), chargers, tulip vases, cider pots as well as ghoulish or ‘grotesque’ figures.

As Arts and Crafts pottery evolved into Art Nouveau and ultimately Art Deco typical pieces such as jugs and vases became simpler in shape and more refined in their surface decoration.  The pottery started producing more functional ware and production continued until 1979 when the business was sold to Candy Tiles.

Brannam pottery is still successful today and as well as specialising in large terracotta and glazed ware garden pots and ornaments they are still keen to pay homage to the history of the pottery.  In 1989, to commemorate the closure of the Litchdon Street site, Brannam issued limited editions of their Peacock and Fish vases and in 1991 an exhibition of Brannam Pottery was held at Liberties.

In September 1989 they decided to move their premises to a modern site on the nearby industrial estate.  The big modern building is situated on the outskirts of Barnstaple and plays host to a fascinating museum which houses many fine and unique pieces of Brannam pottery and other associated items such as glaze and pattern books.

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