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Headlands Today

Headlands (Holt House)

Home to the Pilkington Family

[Thanks to the Pilkington's Lancastrian Pottery Society.]


The property first appears on the map of 1894, and is mentioned in the previous census of 1891, although the residents were not present, just their parlour maid, and two housemaids. In the cottage close by lived the coachman, John Johnson and his family.

In the next census of 1901, seven servants are listed, including a governess, all for the Pilkington family : Charles, Mabel and their son, Dennis Fielden. Charles Pilkington's occupation was listed as a Colliery proprietor, born in St Helens, he is also listed elsewhere as a share holder in Clifton and Kearsley Coal Co. The family rented Headlands from Mary Grundy.

The Coal Company itself, was founded by Edward and Alfred Pilkington, who had purchased it from Matthew Fletcher, engineer. Fletcher had been employed by the previous owners to address a severe flooding issue encountered at Wet Earth Colliery due to the river Irwell and the Pendleton Fault. Fletcher had eventually took ownership, investing in new shafts, underground canals (like Bridgewater had done at Worsley) and Fletcher's canal linking Wet Earth to Botany Bay. The Fletcher family then in turn sold the pits to the Pilkington's by the 1750s.

[Edward lived at Clifton House, the stables of which still stand at Clifton Country Park today]

Disaster had occurred in one of the Pilkington's pits in 1878, at Unity Brook Colliery, with the loss of 43 lives.

Unity Brook Disaster

Read more about the attempts of rescue & recovery, and the Wolstenholme family that lost three in the disaster here

Such disasters were unfortunately commonplace, despite some safety measures, with a further 178 men and boys lost in an explosion at Clifton Hall Colliery in 1885 (owned by Andrews Knowles & Sons).

Clifton Hall Disaster

[C&K Coal Co. owned pits at Wet Earth, Spindle Point, Outwood, Newtown, Moss (Unity Brook), Manor (Kearsley), Robin Hood and Botany Bay (Clifton)]

In 1889 the Clifton and Kearsley Coal Company had sunk a pair of pit shafts with the intention of working the coal seams along the Pendleton Fault.


However a large quantity of red marl (clay) was encountered at the Clifton pit, making it quite difficult to extract the coal. The owners Edward, Alfred, Lawrence and Charles Pilkington decided to use the clay to make glazed bricks.

[Lieut-Colonel Richard Pilkington (1841-1908), C.B., MP, mayor of St. Helens, glass manufacturer ( of Pilkington Brothers) and colliery proprietor was brother of Charles]

Factory & Mine Locations

The secretary of the Clifton & Kearsley Coal Co. knew a Mr. William Burton who was a chemist with Josiah Wedgwood & Co. Mr. Burton undertook to make tests of the marl and suggested that a more commercial venture would be to make tiles. The use of decorative tiles was becoming quite fashionable and there was a high demand for them in the growing city of Manchester. The site of the proposed factory had many natural advantages. It was adjacent to Fletcher's Canal (Bury & Bolton canal). It was close to two railways that met at Clifton Junction, and of course there was abundant coal nearby in the local Wet Earth colliery, and others, owned by Clifton & Kearsley Coal Co. The brothers set about building a purpose built premises, and Pilkington's Tile & Pottery Co was formed in 1890.

Read about the Battle of Clifton Junction

William Burton was in his late twenties when he became the Manager of the new company. However he was still under contract to Wedgwood's until October 1892, he suggested that they appoint his younger brother Joseph, also a qualified chemist. Joseph became the "eyes and ears" for his brother. William did not move to Clifton until well into 1893.

William Burton had enormous drive and charisma and soon attracted many of the most gifted artists and craftsmen to the new company. He was recognised as one of the foremost authorities on pottery and matters to do with pottery.

A 1908 Pilkington's Vase

Read more about the Pilkington's Pottery business here: Pilkington's Lancastrian Pottery Society.

The census of 1911 shows Charles, Mabel and his two sons Edmond (25), colliery account student, and Hugh (24), Mining Student. They also had a cook, a kitchen maid, ladies maid, waitress, and two housemaids.

Charles Pilkington

Mabel Fielden

In 1913, the year that saw Emily Davison rush out in front of the King's horse at Epsom, King George V and Queen Mary visited Lord Derby where several Lancastrian vases were proudly displayed. It was then that permission was granted for the Royal warrant to be used and the pottery was renamed Royal Lancastrian pottery.

In June 1915, Charles Pilkington lost his 2nd son, Hugh Brocklehurst Pilkington, who had been an apprentice mining engineer, then took a position as a director at his father's Coal Company. Hugh was educated at Winchester College, and Cambridge. He served five years before the war in the 6th Battalion Manchester Regiment, being promoted to Captain early in 1914. Hugh was mentioned in dispatches, and died aged 27, leading 'C'company at Gallipoli. A stained glass window in his memory was installed at St Anne's Church, Clifton, and he is listed on the War Memorial at Clifton.

Captain Hugh Pilkington

Captain Hugh Pilkington

Pilkington Window

After the First World War, sales at the tile factory became slower and several of the best artists left, despite a brief resurgence in 1928, closure of the pottery business occurred in 1938. The Tile Factory continued until closure in 2010.

Production restarted in 1948 but by then the kilns used to produce the lustre ware had been demolished. The new pottery was very much of a 50s style. Production did not last long and ceased in 1957/8.

In 1896 the Clifton and Kearsley Company employed 2,729 workers, 2,146 of them underground while in 1923 it employed 4,300 workers, nearly 2,000 of them at its newest colliery Astley Green. In 1929 the company became part of Manchester Collieries.

Headlands was opened as a Salvation Army Care Home in 1934, after a legacy from John B Holt of Heywood, and is now known as Holt House, but stands off Headlands Drive.

Holt House