A little while ago I entered an essay in the J.T Diamond Essay Competition. I have not received the result yet. I have not been able to paste the family tree on to this post.
The Clark Family and their involvement in the pottery industry in West Auckland
Why is it called Limeburners Bay?
What makes Clark House special and the strange bricks that it is made out of?
Who built the little white church in Scott Road all those years ago and whose land was it built on?
How did the pottery tradition at Limeburners Bay begin and lead to Crown Lynn and Ceramco?
This is connected with the Clark Family history starting with: R.O Clark (1816-1896)
When Rice Owen Clark of Buckinghamshire arrived in Port Nicholson in 1840 he had already become a more than capable twenty-four year old having had a rather expensive education behind him plus some good commercial experience. He had thought that he should be doing better than earning just half a crown a day building roads. He moved with his wife Louisa and their small one year old daughter to Auckland after trying his hand at farming unsuccessfully in Wellington. Rice wanted to be a Farmer so he bought 139 acres of land off the Crown on the 3 July 1854 at Hobsonville. He transported his possessions over there and became the first white settler in the area. After he had made attempts to crop the land he decided the heavy clay needed to be drained. He made field tiles to drain his land. He was able to put them to good use and turned around 30 acres into a producing market garden and he took his produce across to the city in his cutter. His neighbours noticed what he had done and with the idea of getting some business he sent to England for a hand operated pipe making machine. The business was born!!! Being a deeply religious man he donated the land and most of the finances for the church that still stands on Scott Road.
He had four Children as the family tree shows. Two of sons got involved in the pottery trade. The children of his daughter Louisa also became involved in the trade.
Rice Owen Clark II developed his father’s pipe making business into something quite big. At one stage the pottery sprawled over two kilometres of land along the waterfront in Limeburners Bay. During his time at the head of the business he bought out another pottery of the area J&W Ockleston & Co which his brother Henry was a partner in. He put a Restraint of Trade on his younger brother for twenty years so he could not challenge his business. He was the inventor of the Ceramic building block which is seen in some of the older houses in Hobsonville including the house that he had built, Clark House (now in use by the Air Force).
Our Family Tree shows that he had three children Thomas Edwin, R.O Clark III and Gwendoline.
Thomas Edwin was certainly a major player in the industry during his time in charge of the company. At the start he got the company through the years when it wasn’t going so well after his brother had left to live in Canada. Another major thing he did while at the helm of the company was to close the Limeburners Bay pottery and moved most pieces of machinery and equipment to a new site in New Lynn. He bought Albert Crum’s business: New Zealand Brick, Tile and Pottery. He got the Clay industry people to form a consortium in which they would sell all their goods at they same price per item so that they all got a share of the cake and cream.
The family tree now shows that he had three children called Malcolm, Molly and Thomas Edwin (Sir Tom Clark).
Tom was pulled out of his schooling during the depression because of the expense. He was put into the family business which had started all those years ago when R.O Clark first made some Field tiles. The company was now known as Amalgamated Brick and Pipe. His brother, Malcolm, was also working in the company. It was during this time that the business started to make things such soup bowls and coffee mugs for the American forces that were in New Zealand during the course of WWII. Malcolm was put in charge of the heavy clay department, while Tom was put in with the fine earth side of things before their father died in 1964 when they were appointed joint managing directors, with each looking after their own respective divisions. When the war was over the company found a new name which was: Crown Lynn. Crown Lynn became an iconic West Auckland business situated in New Lynn and by 1959 the company had produced its one-hundred millionth article. In the 70’s tom consolidated Crown Lynn, Amalgamated Brick and Pipe and their parent company Consolidated Brick and Pipe Investments Ltd into Ceramco Limited. They did have their problems though because in the early days they developed a reputation for having the handles on the cups break off very easily. Tom was given a knighthood in 1986.
Those are the main pottery people in the Clark Family. There were some other relations that were also involved in the industry:
· Louisa (daughter of R.O Clark I)
· Gardner Brothers
· Briar Gardner
· Henry Clark (son of R.O Clark)
· Raymond Clark (son of Henry)
· Allan Clark (Raymond’s son)
Louisa Gardner was the daughter of the first R.O Clark and was the mother of four children who were involved in the pottery business. Her connection to the pottery industry was through this. She married a farmer called John Gardner who owned a farm at Glorit.
Louisa’s oldest three sons were R.O Gardner (Tonks), John and Charles of Gardner Bros. & Parker Ltd. They set up a business in New Lynn after running some brickworks up north. This challenged Mr J.J Craig’s dominace in the brickmaking scene but then Albert Crum’s business started to challenge not only those dominant in the brick industry but also the Clark dominance of the pipe-making industry. Their company joined the consortium that T.E Clark set up. Charles was also the first mayor of New Lynn.
Their sister’s name was Maria Louise Gardner but she was called Briar because her baby brother called her that as he could not say Maria properly (at least at that stage). She became an ornamental potter sometimes having a Queen St window display in Smith and Caugheys.
Henry Clark was one of the first R.O Clarks sons and was a part of the industry for a couple of segments in his life. He was a partner in J & W Ocklestons & Co, a pottery from out in the Hobsonville area which his brother R.O II bought out during his time in charge. His brother put a restraint of trade on Henry for twenty years. Once the twenty years were up in 1930, he, along with his sons, set up and ran Clark’s Potteries Ltd in opposition to Amalgamated Brick & Pipe.
Raymond Clark was one of the two inventive sons of Henry Clark. He worked with his brother to design their own machinery for use in making pipes and the fittings for pipes in the pottery plant they worked with their father in running. Raymond died tragically when he drowned in 1959 at Lake Rotoiti.
W.A Clark (Ted) was Raymond’s brother who helped him in designing the machinery for the family business. Ted’s major achievement was to invent a machine that made the amount of gully traps that were able to be made in a day increase by a fair amount.
Raymond Clark’s son Allan carried on the family business before eventually selling out to cousin Tom at Ceramco.
That is just an overview of the Clark family’s involvement in the pottery industry of West Auckland. There is also another message which should be told. It is that recently developers have damaged historic sites in Limeburners Bay area beyond Resource Consent and that four-wheel drivers have been damaging the former site of Clark’s original pottery. It would be a superb move if the council bought the site of the pottery off the developer who currently owns it and turned it into a Hobsonville Early Settlers Park commemorating the first families who settled in the area. I would be most willing to supervise this project for the council.
The Author would like to Thank: Nana and Poppa, Mum and Dad and my brother and sisters.