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Hoffman Brick & Potteries history

 


 
 

Below, two common pottery marks from Hoffman wares. Many more marks are documented in The Potteries of Brunswick by Gregory Hill (ISBN 0 9577065 2 9).Early Hoffman impressed mark, c1920

Ink-stamped Mel-rose mark, c 1935


 

 

There is an active community campaign to conserve for public use the former Hoffman Brickworks site.
Click here to go to the campaign Web site.

 

At the end of the nineteenth century, there were more than a half-dozen potteries operating in the Melbourne inner suburb of Brunswick. The Hoffman Brick, Tile and Pottery Company  (1862-1990), was the largest of these—the largest in Victoria, in fact. It  occupied more than 70 acres, with a private rail system and as many as 20 kilns whose tall stacks poured smoke day and night. A few decades later, about the only conspicuous sign of the former existence of the Brunswick potteries was the large number of deep holes—the old clay pits—ready to serve as rubbish tips for the new age of disposable containers.

   Click here to see an aerial view of the major Brunswick potteries taken around 1920.




   The Hoffman works were started for the purpose of brickmaking, but by 1900 were producing a large range of architectural and garden ornaments as well as Bristol ware crocks, cannisters, bottles and jars for commercial and domestic use. The production of domestic wares was finally phased out in 1960.
    Around 1930 Hoffman introduced the colourful and commercially successful line of decorative pottery called ‘Mel-rose Australian Ware ’. This development followed Hoffman’s discovery of a new source of high-quality clay in Gippsland (southeastern Victoria). Early pieces were wheel-thrown, but as the newer practice of slip-casting (pouring a runny clay mixture into a plaster mould, then drying, removing, decorating and firing the piece) was mastered, the firm’s capacity to meet the growing demand for Australian plant and animal decor was greatly increased. These wares were sold by leading department stores like Myer and Mutual.
    The distinctive Mel-rose glaze combinations are said to have been the intellectual property of Francis Manallack, an expert in all facets of pottery-manufacture but especially glaze-making. He spent many years in the employ of Cornwell’s pottery (also in Brunswick), worked for a time as a chemist for the Melbourne Glassworks, and taught classes at the Brunswick Technical school. He contributed his glazing expertise not only to the Mel-rose line, but also to McHugh Brothers  art ware, leaving his mark several times over in the history of Australian pottery.
    The history of the Hoffman pottery works has been thoroughly documented in The Potteries of Brunswick by Gregory Hill (ISBN 0 9577065 2 9).
    One of the interesting details highlighted by the book is the number of artist potters who came to Hoffman for knowledge and experience. Merric Boyd, sometimes described as the father of art pottery in Australia, had his pots fired in Hoffman kilns in the early 1930s after he burned out his own. He is also thought to have modelled some decorations for use in the Mel-rose line. Allan Lowe, William Ricketts, John Barnard Knight and Klytie Pate are other studio pottery artists who were associated with Hoffman’s at one time or another. 
    David Dee, one of the founding partners of Premier Potteries in 1929 (makers of the Remued artwares), had previously earned a reputation as an expert thrower at the Hoffman works.

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