Collecting Articles and Features

Charles Hubert Brannam and the Brannam Pottery

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Charles Hubert Brannam (1855-1937) was a renowned British potter, born in 1855 in Barnstaple, Devon, England. He is often thought of as the founder of the Brannam Pottery. Although the most famous name associated with the pottery it was actually Charles’s father Thomas Backway Brannam who established the pottery in 1848 when he took over the existing Rendell’s North Walk Pottery. Thomas expanded the pottery in 1853 when he leased of another pottery in Barnstaple located in Litchdon Street. The pottery initially created utilitarian wares.

A C H Brannam pottery sgraffito vase
A C H Brannam pottery vase showing the sgraffito technique.

Charles passion for pottery started at a young age. He began working at a local pottery in his hometown of Barnstaple at the tender age of 12 in 1867. Brannam’s talent and dedication to his craft did not go unnoticed, and in 1870, at just 15 years old, he won a Queen’s Prize for Drawing. This prestigious award recognized his exceptional artistic ability and set the stage for a bright future in the world of ceramics.

Thanks to his early success, Brannam was encouraged to pursue his passion for pottery further. Local dignitary William Frederick Rock recognized Brannam’s potential and invited him to London to study at the South Kensington School of Art. Here, Brannam learned the theory and practice of pottery from some of the best in the field.

Charles Hubbert Brannam an earthenware slipware Fish sgraffito jug
Charles Hubbert Brannam an earthenware slipware Fish sgraffito jug. Sold for £100 at Rosebery’s London, October 2021.

Brannam’s studies were not limited to the classroom. He also spent time in various museums, studying the techniques of ancient potters and examining their creations up close. This exposure to different styles and methods helped shape Brannam’s unique approach to pottery, which combined traditional techniques with modern innovation.

After completing his studies in London, Brannam returned to Barnstaple in 1879 where he persuaded his father to allow him to produce art ware and he took over the Litchdon Street pottery. He was deeply influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement, which emphasized traditional craftsmanship and simple, functional design. Here, he was able to put his education and training to good use, experimenting with new glazes and techniques and creating pieces that were highly sought after by collectors and patrons. Brannam’s work would go on to earn him numerous awards and accolades, cementing his place as one of the most talented and innovative potters of his time.

Brannam is best known for his use of sgraffito, a technique that involves scratching a design into the surface of the pottery before it is fired. Decoration included bird, fish and natural designs of leaves and foliage. He also experimented with new glazes and techniques, such as the “barbotine” method of applying clay in a liquid form. Brannam’s work was highly acclaimed, and he won numerous awards and accolades throughout his career, including a gold medal at the Paris Exhibition of 1900. His pottery was sold throughout the world, and he counted several famous figures among his patrons, including Queen Victoria (from whom he received an order in 1885 which also coincided with excellent publicity for the company).

An Art Nouveau C H Brannam Pottery vase by Frederick Braddon dated 1910
An Art Nouveau C H Brannam vase by Frederick Braddon, dated 1910, slender, shouldered form, pieced and modelled in low relief with a scaly fish in turbulent water, in shades of green and black on a blue ground, incised C H Brannam, Barum, 1910, FB, PFM paper label, 39cm. high. Sold for £1,000 at Woolley & Wallis, August 2021.

In 1886 Charles registered the name Royal Barum Ware, named after the Roman name for Barnstaple and expanded sales to include prestigious London shops including Liberty. Wares can be found with both Brannam and Royal Barum Ware on the base. Designers who worked and designed at the pottery included Frederick Braddon, Frank Thomas, F Carruthers, James Dewdney, Thomas Liverton and Beachamp Wimple.

A C H Brannam Barnstaple art pottery basket by Frank Thomas
A C H Brannam Barnstaple art pottery basket by Frank Thomas, formed as four grotesque faces joined by strap handles, initialled ‘FB’ and dated 1900, length 22cm. Sold for £550 at Warren & Wignall, October 2017.

The pottery created was influenced the range of movements from the late 1800s to the 1930s – the Aesthetic Movement, Art Deco and Art Nouveau. As well as vases, ewers and plates they also created interesting pieces grotesque wall pockets, and figural  money boxes and candleholders.

Brannam’s pottery is still highly sought after today, and many examples of his work can be found in museums and private collections around the world. His influence on the pottery industry was immense, and he is remembered as one of the most talented potters of the nineteenth century. Brannam remained active in his pottery studio until his death in 1937 at the age of 82. Today, his work is highly sought after by collectors and is displayed in museums and galleries around the world.

Brannam Pottery information at wikipedia

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