Fowler’s Pottery

Fowler's Pottery following the widening of Parramatta Road c1920.


Casey & Lowe Pty Ltd were commissioned by Otto Cserhalmi & Partners (OCP) to provide an archaeological assessment of the Toyota building at 139–143 Parramatta Road, Camperdown. The site is part of the former Fowler’s Pottery site which was demolished c1918. The properties associated with the pottery extended to the west and east but the main group of pottery buildings were in the block between Australia and Denison Streets and were within the study area.

The study area is located within the boundaries of two land grants; Thomas Rowley’s 240 acre grant that he named Kingston Farm after his birthplace on the Thames at Surrey and William Bligh’s Camperdown Farm also of 240 acres.  Rowley arrived in the colony in 1792 and in 1796 was promoted to captain, serving in Sydney and Norfolk Island.

By 1805 he was using his 1975 acres for sheep farming focusing on meat production rather than breeding or wool. The homestead comprising a dwelling, cooking house, servants’ rooms, gig-house and a stable was built on high ground and surrounded by a garden.

Historical Background

During the first half of the nineteenth century the standard of Australian-made pottery wares had improved resulting in local demand increasing.  This in turn stimulated the on-going development and expansion of the industry.  It has been estimated that in the period between 1840 and 1860 only seven potters (as distinct from brickmakers) operated in New South Wales.

Enoch Fowler was born in Newtown Stewart in County Tyrone, Ireland.  Several generations of the Fowler family worked in the pottery trade and Enoch followed in the tradition.

Soon after his arrival in Sydney Enoch Fowler established a pottery on leased land on the northern side of Parramatta Street (now George Street) between what are today Harris and Wattle Streets, Broadway.  After building a small up-draft kiln he began manufacturing salt glazed storage jars and ginger beer bottles from clay found on the site.  His early pottery was simply stamped ‘FOWLER’ or ‘E. FOWLER’.

Fowler moved his pottery to Bay Street, Glebe, behind what was then the site of the Lansdowne Inn in 1854.  With a staff including his son Robert from about 1856, and a number of young boys, ginger beer bottles, blacking jars and household goods were made for the local market. Goods were stamped ‘E. FOWLER POTTER SYDNEY’ during the period 1854 until about 1863.

Anticipating the growth of his Glebe pottery works and knowing that Camperdown had a good source of clay, from c.1861 Fowler began to acquire land in North Kingston later known as Camperdown.  By 1863 the pottery works had outgrown the Bay Street site and the pottery was moved to Camperdown, a site which they would occupy for more than fifty years. Enoch Fowler died in 1879 at the family residence on the site of Fowler’s Pottery at Camperdown and was buried in cemetery of St Stephen’s Church, Newtown. The business was carried on by Enoch’s eldest son, Robert Fowler and later by his grandson.



This view is taken part way into the pottery site, the kilns would be behind the viewer. Engraving titled ‘Colonial Industries – Fowler’s Pottery, Camperdown, near Sydney’. Illustrated Sydney News 16 October 1865: 5


The potential archaeological remains within the study area relates to the use of the area for brickmaking (c1820s to c1830s), the site for an inn (c1830 to c1860) located on the former alignment of Parramatta Road and the Fowler’s Pottery site (c1860 to c1920). There is some indication that there was early use of the clay for brickmaking which may have dated from the 1830s and was still being undertaken in the 1840s. The presence of brickmakers in this area probably provided the knowledge of the clay sources to Guthrie and Fowler and other early potters in this area.

The presence of the inn on Parramatta road may indicate that the brickmaking was happening away from the road. Initially Fowler appears to be using his lease as a source for clay. The later intensive occupation of the site by the Pottery is likely to have impacted on most remains associated with this period.

Fowler’s Pottery was operated from c1860 to c1920, a period of 60 years. The archaeological remains associated with this phase include those associated with the Pottery works and also with the occupation of the house by Enoch Fowler and his family and his heirs.

Pottery Works

The Pottery works has potential to contain considerable evidence of the layout of the industrial process and activities across the site, associated with the three main manufacturing areas: earthenware, stoneware (some bottles but a significant proportion of pipe manufacturing), and sanitary ware.

Enoch Fowler and the Family’s House

As with the potential evidence for the Phase 4 remains the area of Enoch Fowler and families house is considered to be relatively undisturbed by the building of the surrounding pottery as it was a distinct element within the overall site. There may be potential archaeological evidence of the structural remains and artefact-bearing deposits such as:

  • well, stables, cesspits, kitchen, underfloor deposits, rubbish pits and other archaeological deposits.
  • how the family used, modified and occupied the former inn as a house and the outbuildings.
  • artefacts associated with their lives and what it may tell us about the aspirations of middle class who were successful entrepreneurs.





Walker Corporation


The photos used in this report are by Casey & Lowe. All other images are from SRNSW

Brick kilns and chimney stacks at Fowler’s Pottery as seen in 1908 from Parramatta Road, Camperdown. Powerhouse Museum, 1908 photo album ‘Fowler’s Pottery, 1908;, photographs by Charles Kerry, 09609
Illustration of a downdraught kiln type. P. A. Scholes, 1979, Bendigo Pottery. p164

Fowler’s Pottery