Home   News   Article

History of Godshill Pottery uncovered by diary discovery



More news, no ads

LEARN MORE


FINDING his mother’s diary helped Christopher Pan Charman uncover the story behind the romantic – yet bizarre – creation of one of the New Forest’s most special buildings.

For over 100 years Godshill Pottery has stood in the village, hidden away among trees – a simple, timber-frame building with a surprising history.

Life there for Christopher’s parents, revealed in his mother’s journal, was a bohemian existence, involving spiritualism, ventriloquism and talk of woodland fairies.

Godshill Pottery
Godshill Pottery

The property’s intriguing history was born of a family fall-out between his mother, Margaret Westlake, and her father, Ernest.

He was a devout Quaker, famous geologist and founder of the Woodcraft Order of Chivalry and Forest School at Sandy Balls – now a holiday park.

When Margaret fell in love with her father’s friend, Tom Charman, who was 33 years older than her, Ernest was furious. He had high hopes for Margaret, who was the first woman to go to Oxford where she gained a degree in anthropology.

Margaret and Tom on horseback (Charman Family Archive)
Margaret and Tom on horseback (Charman Family Archive)

When Tom and Margaret eloped to the Forest, Ernest tracked them down – at one point even sleeping between them in their bed in a bid to destroy the love affair.

But he failed and eventually the pair married with Ernest’s blessing, gifting them a home in the Forest – the simple wooden chalet they moved into in 1919 and which became Godshill Pottery.

Hugely talented, Tom was not only a potter but a wood carver, spiritualist and even ventriloquist. Together with Margaret he shared a love of nature and free living.

Tom camping near Stoney Ridge in 1926 (photo: Margaret Charman)
Tom camping near Stoney Ridge in 1926 (photo: Margaret Charman)

Margaret would make pots which he would decorate with images of fairies and woodland creatures. Their bohemian way of life, as revealed in the diary, attracted a host of interesting people.

Christopher, whose middle name comes from the Greek god Pan, remembers the parade of colourful characters, and talks about them in his memoir, In the Spirit of Godshill, inspired by his mother’s diary.

Sonia Green of Millersford Press, who helped Christopher bring the magical world of his childhood to a wider audience, said: “Margaret and Tom were a very bohemian couple. It was the start of the Arts and Crafts movement in which they became very much involved.

Christopher and sister Danae (Charman Family Archive)
Christopher and sister Danae (Charman Family Archive)

“Many people were attracted to their little wooden home, with people from the movement coming to stay.

“From the 1920-30s it sort of became a retreat for people interested in free living. People would just turn up and Margaret would always invite them in.”

One of the visitors was Archibold Knox, a leading Arts and Crafts figure. He was head creator for London’s Liberty department store, designing everything from wallpaper to jewellery.

Christopher and wife Kate
Christopher and wife Kate

He was drawn by the Westlake’s extraordinary way of life, living without electricity or running water, cooking on open fires and hosting guests in a Gypsy caravan.

Tom had been part of a ventriloquist double act performing along the south coast, but it was as a master potter that gave him fame.

His carvings of Forest spirits, fantastic creatures and birds were shown at the Knox Guild exhibitions in Kingston, Surrey, and later at the annual Artist Craftsman shows in London.

Tom and Margaret by a gypsy wagon at the Ridge, Godshill (Charman Family Archive)
Tom and Margaret by a gypsy wagon at the Ridge, Godshill (Charman Family Archive)

Tom died in his 80s while Margaret lived on into her 90s.

Christopher followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming a master potter himself and running Godshill Pottery with his artist wife Kate until they retired and the pottery closed.

Now in their 80s, they both hope that one day it will re-open and once again become a centre of creativity.

In the Spirit of Godshill is available at local bookshops and museums and online for £20 at www.millersford.co.uk



This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More