The Foxearth and District Local History Society

The Hysterical Hystorian

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Sunday, April 10, 2005

Edward Bingham and the Hedingham Pottery.

Once you have seen the pots of Edward Bingham, the potter of Hedingham, you will never forget them. The best of them have an almost anarchic quality. One is left gasping the exuberance of the modelling, and the way that he takes a classical idea and gives it a tremendous vitality. He was a potter who managed to avoid having the originality of his art beaten out of him, for he was taught by himself and his father. At the same time his work is sometimes mistaken for authentic fifteenth-, sixteenth-, and seventeenth-century wares.

Edward Bingham was from a potting family. The Binghams came from Lambeth to Gestingthorpe in 1834. His father was a potter who made plain pottery and garden ornaments. The young Edward assisted his father for a while when the family moved to Hedingham but subsequently became a schoolmaster in Rugby. After his return, he worked for a while with his father but was forced to open a small school and to work at pottery in his spare time. The next six years were a struggle and he even spent some time as a sub-postmaster as he perfected his art as a potter.

There must have been something special about the young lad that was recognised by various people in the area, who leant him books on pottery, and showed him pots to copy. By the 1880s he was achieving success, and there were thirteen kilns and a ramshackle pottery in the Hedingham area, mostly in what is now Potters Lane, manned by various members of the Bingham family, and he had exhibited at the Albert Hall.

The Early Bingham pots used the local clay which was rather coarse but fired to a rich brown colour, and he experimented with glazes to achieve striking blues, greens, greys and browns. Later on, he bought in a clay from Devon which altered the characteristics of the pots.

The workshops were untidy and described as being of mediaeval appearance.. The walls were covered with biblical texts referring to pots and pottery, and works of reference lay scattered around with illustrations of classical pots, babylonian, Egyptian, Greek and Venetian.

The pots themselves were indescribable, with an authentically antique appearance, and where details burst out with an almost outrageous exuberance, humans, animals, vegetation, coats of arms, patterns and symbols.

Bingham was a visionary and an artist. He had few commercial instincts. He found the technical aspects of the work slightly baffling, and gradually passed over this side of the work to his son. Eventually, the firm was bought by a Devon Pottery in 1901, and poor Edward Bingham was deserted by his family who emigrated to the States. After a pathetic struggle to continue producing pots, he gave up and he joined the rest of his family in the States, where he retired, complaining of the lack of a good clay in America.


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