The COX Family - in Angus and Perthshire

1798 in Abbotshall, Kirkcaldy
Janet Izat 1804-1866
David 1825, James 1829
Eliza 1827, Robina 1831, Jessie 1835
1864 at Abbotshall, Kirkcaldy

David Methven's family was very closely linked with the Coxes. Two of his daughters married Cox brothers William and George, and one of his sons married Helen, the youngest Cox sister. The Methven family is also interesting in its own right.

David Methven was born in Kirkcaldy but lived for many years in Cupar, Fife where all of his five children were born. He is listed in the 1837 Pigot Directory for Cupar as an earthenware manufacturer and china dealer.

Meanwhile his uncle George Methven, owned and ran the Links Pottery and the Links Brick and Tile Works in Kirkcaldy. He had no children and when he died in 1847 he left both businesses to his nephew. David then moved, with his wife and five children from Cupar to Kirkcaldy.

Kirkcaldy had everything needed for a thriving pottery industry: local clay, water, coal and working harbours. It was one of the main centres of the Scottish pottery industry in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and had four potteries making many different products, from everyday items to larger ornamental pieces.

The largest of the four was the Links Pottery which had been owned by the Methven family since 1776 when the company was bought by David's grandfather (also David Methven), who was manager at the time. Over the following 120 years, various members of the family took charge of the business, until it was eventually sold in 1892.

The 1851 Census shows our David Methven in Abbotshall, Kikcaldy aged 52, Occupation: Brick, Tile and Earthenware Manufacturer, employing 76 Men, 29 Boys and 14 Women. The Census also shows his son David aged 25, still single (he married Helen Scott Cox in 1854) Occupation: Partner with Father.

Note - Methven is pronounced 'Meaven' as in 'Heaven'.

Dish by David Methven & Sons, Kirkcaldy
Transfer printed in Verona pattern, mid 19th century

Covered Bowl by David Methven & Sons, Kirkcaldy
Spongeware bowl and cover - circa 1890

SOURCE: Scottish Pottery by Graeme Cruikshank

Methods of Decoration

Decoration was most often by means of transfer printing, involving the use of many hundreds of different patterns, dozens of which were registered with the Patent Office. Some transfer patterns, although not registered, became recognised as virtual trademarks of the potteries which produced them, almost exclusively: 'Triumphal Car' by Bell of Glasgow, ... 'Verona' by Methven of Kirkcaldy ... . On the other hand, the ubiquitous 'willow' pattern was made by at least ten potteries in Scotland.

The favourite colour by far for transfer prints was blue, with sepia a distant second. Other rarer colours included purple, grey, russet, green and red. Quite often the larger vessels carried additional hand-painted decoration, but all too frequently this amounted merely to blocking in an area of the transfer design, a technique (known as clobbering) which did little to enhance the artistic appearance of the pot.

The other principal method of decorating earthenware was sponge printing, whereby a pattern could be applied repeatedly by means of the root of a marine sponge which had been cut or tied to form the desired shape. Easier and quicker to execute than a transfer print, spongeware was therefore cheaper to produce and what it lacked in elegance it made up for in homely charm.

Many of the larger transfer-ware factories also produced spongeware, one of the foremost being the Links Pottery of David Methven in Kirkcaldy. Although made in other countries, spongeware gained the reputation of being a particularly Scottish product.