Saturday, May 15, 2010

Pottery career of Michael J Conlon (1841-1913)

I've previously posted this excerpt from Australian Pottery: The First 100 Years by Geoff Ford, (Wodonga, Vic, Australia, Salt Glaze Press, 1995) but have not previously posted the transcript.

Excerpt from 'Australian Pottery: The First 100 Years' by Geoff Ford

Michael Joseph Conlon, the son of an Imperial Soldier who retired from the army and settled in Sydney, was born in Fairy Meadow, Wollongong, in 1841.

After receiving his education at St. Benedict's School in Sydney, at the age of 13 he started work with Enoch Fowler in late 1854, and began learning the trade. Fowler's business was, at that time, in Bay Street, Glebe.

After only 2 years with Fowler, Conlon left, and in August 1856, he began work with Thomas Field in George street, Sydney. His main job there was to operate the new hand driven drain pipe making machine.

Eight years later in August 1864, Conlon decided to leave Thomas Field, to go into partnership with Frederick Baldock. At a site in George Street, Redfern, they established a small pottery business, where under the name 'Redfern Pottery Works' they began manufacturing pipes. This partnership lasted until 1866, when Conlon left and moved to Broughton Street, Glebe, where he established his own pottery business and continued producing pipes.

In 1877, he was registered in the Business Directory as 'Conlon & Co.'. At this time Conlon began producing salt glazed ginger beer bottles, and chutney jars. A wider range of basic pottery was probably produced, like bung and lidded jars and demijohns.

This partnership lasted less than a year and may have only been financial backing of a local Merchant with an arrangement to have containers made for his products. Pieces made during this partnership were impressed with a potter's stamp 'CONLON & Co. BROUGHTON STREET GLEBE'.

By early 1878, Conlon had entered into another partnership, this time with John Cotter and together they produced pipes, chimney pots, paving and common bricks, which were impressed 'CONLON & COTTER BROUGHTON ST GLEBE.' No reference to basic domestic pottery production during the period of this partnership has been found.

After Conlon dissolved his partnership with Cotter in 1882, he returned to running the business himself, and continued production of pipes, chimney pots, paving and common bricks, as the advertisement which Conlon placed in the 'Freemans Journal' in 1889, states:

Manufacturer of Drain Pipes
Closet Pans and Traps, Chimney Pots, Gingerbeer Bottles, Fancy Garden Tiles, Paving Tiles, Bricks, &c.

Michael Conlon was an alderman of the Borough of Glebe for many years until he contracted rheumatic gout in 1891.

In June 1892, Conlon submitted a quotation to supply the City of Sydney Council with pipes. The Bakewell Brothers works were the successful tenderers.
Production of bricks and pipes had by now become the main line of manufacture, which Conlon continued to produce at his works in Glebe for many years.

Over the years Michael Conlon became a very skilled lawn bowls player. At a match on Australia Day 1900 he collapsed, and was never able to play again. For the remainder of his life he was an invalid. With the business well established and sufficient employees to maintain it, Conlon now took on the role of Manager.

On 26th November 1913 Michael Joseph Conlon died, aged 72, at his home, 'Carrara', in Alexandra Road, Glebe Point, and was buried at the Rookwood Cemetery. Part of his will requested the trustees to carry on the pottery business in Broughton Street Glebe, as nearly as possibly along the same lines as he had done and to divide the profits equally among his three daughters every six months until the youngest turned twenty one. His wife and son predeceased him some 12 years earlier.

His wish was obviously fulfilled as the business continued production until 1919.
Besides bricks, tiles, chimney pots, pipes, ginger beer bottles and chutney jars, it is not known what else Conlon may have produced during his 50 years in the business.

Besides a few bricks impressed 'CONLON & COTTER BROUGHTON ST GLEBE' little has been found with a potter's mark produced by any of the Conlon potteries, or partnerships except a few Ginger beer bottles and a chutnry jar which were produced in 1877, and impressed with 'CONLON & Co BROUGHTON STREET GLEBE'.

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