I broke my little plate the other night: my treasured Hornsea Pottery Fleur seven-inch side plate. I knocked it off the end of the washing up rack on to the cooker hob. It’s a disaster – so distressing.
I once had much more of the same: breakfast bowls, dinner plates, cups and saucers, a milk jug. I bought it all from the pottery shop at Hornsea in the nineteen-seventies but gave it to someone whose set had pieces missing when I moved house a long time ago. Later, I found I still had the little side plate along with a couple of egg cups and storage jars. I have used the plate almost every day since. Only me: it’s my plate.
Hornsea Pottery was based in the out of-the-way Yorkshire seaside town of Hornsea to the north-east of Hull. One of my friends had a family caravan there on the cliff top to the north of the town. We sometimes hitchhiked there for the weekend, or after I learned to drive borrowed my parents’ Hillman Super Minx for the day. We would play football on the sandy beach, hoping the ball would not get blown away by the wind, or walk along searching for fossils in the muddy debris of the rapidly-eroding cliffs. You could find different types from different periods dragged down from the north during the last ice age. And if we got bored there was always the Marine Hotel for an under-age pint.
My friend spent most of his sixth form and university summers at the caravan earning good money as a pottery tour guide. The student guides used to compete to spin the tourists the most outrageous lies. Goodness knows how many went off believing there was a machine called a ‘frigger’ that could turn out fifteen thousand pots per hour.
The pottery expanded to a second site in Lancaster in 1976, and then in 1994 branched out and opened Hornsea Freeport, said to have been the first Retail Outlet Village in the country. Initially the Freeport was very successful but it now struggles to compete with better located outlets such as Junction 32 at Glasshoughton near Castleford. The Freeport survives but the pottery is long gone from both sites. They stopped making the attractive light green Fleur tableware in 1992, and closed for good in 2000. I was last in Hornsea around 2001 when the pottery had become a depressing scene of rusting machinery, discarded clay and sad derelict buildings beyond a high wire fence. It is now a housing estate. Some think the Freeport may sooner or later be heading for the same fate.
Some things you can’t change, but I can do something about my plate. I have ordered a replacement on ebay. I’ll probably try to kid myself it’s the same one.
An online directory of Hornsea Pottery is at http://www.hornsea-pottery.org.uk/