Kith and Kin: New Glass and Ceramics Stage 2 – The ‘Crinson Jug’

The second stage of Kith and Kin: New Glass and Ceramics began at the National Glass Centre on 9th January, where a number of the exhibitors changed or augmented their displays. As the exhibition curators, Prof. Peter Davies and Prof. Kevin Petrie point out, “relationships between family and friends change over time and the same is true of an artist’s relationship to ideas and materials.” The changeover of the exhibition was, therefore, intended to reflect this by allowing the work of participating artists to “evolve” during the course of the exhibition.

'Heirlooms' cabinet installation by Christopher McHugh

'Heirlooms' cabinet installation by Christopher McHugh, Kith & Kin 11 November 2011 – 19 February 2012 Curated by Prof Peter Davies and Prof Kevin Petrie Institute for International Research in Glass and Ceramic Art Research Centre, University of Sunderland. Photo: Colin Davison

My decision process regarding the development of new work for the changeover was greatly facilitated by a contingent event which occurred early in the first stage of the exhibition. Rather than undertaking a wholesale reorganisation of my cabinet display, I decided to make and add a single porcelain jug in response to an enquiry made by Howard Forster, a visitor to the first part of Kith and Kin. Mr Forster lives in Sunderland and has traced his family tree back to his third great-grandfather, William Crinson (d. 1836), who was indentured as an apprentice potter at Scott’s Southwick Pottery in 1788. Many of the other members of the Crinson family were Sunderland-based potters and Mr Forster’s research corresponds with the items of paper ephemera I displayed from the ‘Scott Archive’ borrowed from Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens described in my last blog post. For example, William is mentioned as the father of Robert Crinson in the declaration document. Mark Crinson (b. 1841), manager of Rickaby’s Pottery, named on the apprentice indenture, was Mr Forster’s great-grandfather’s brother. A later Robert Crinson (b. 1876), the potter who wrote the letter to the Sunderland Museum in 1969, was his grandfather’s brother. Further research by Mr Forster shows that Robert’s brothers, John Henry Crinson and William Stanley Crinson, served in the Durham Light Infantry during the Great War. William Stanley was injured during the conflict and John Henry was killed in action on 14th September 1916 during the Battle of the Somme.

Crinson Jug showing John Henry Crinson

Crinson Jug showing John Henry Crinson who was killed during the Battle of the Somme in 1916, glazed porcelain, ceramic decals, mixed media

Detail of Crinson Jug

Detail of Crinson Jug showing Howard Forster's family tree

After meeting Mr Forster and viewing the results of his family research accumulated over fifteen years, I decided to make a jug which employed this information to commemorate the Crinson family in ceramic. Much of this research took the form of digitised original documents downloaded from family search websites and the like. The ‘Crinson Jug’ synthesises a variety of this imagery, including photographs, memoirs, military records and a family tree, as printed surface decoration. It is an attempt to materialise and dramatise Mr Forster’s family history, creating a mnemonic focal point for reflection and remembrance. Printed ceramic, perhaps more than any other medium, has the ability to preserve this kind of potentially ephemeral information in an enduring and creative manner, whilst still retaining a certain sense of familiarity conferred by our long association with clay vessels.

Crinson Jug Labels

Detail of Crinson Jug Labels, porcelain paper clay, ceramic decals

Although the potteries which made the Sunderland pottery in the SMWG’s collection are no more, the descendants of their workers are alive and thriving in Sunderland. The next step is to create a further piece which depicts the three living generations of the Forster family – father, son and grandson. This project, although narrow in scope, provides an ‘organic’ example of small-scale grass roots engagement through creative ceramics practice and perhaps testifies to the enduring relevance of the collection to the kith and kin of contemporary Sunderland.

Howard Forster with Crinson Jug

Howard Forster with Crinson Jug at the National Glass Centre

Christopher McHugh is an AHRC Collaborate Doctoral Award PhD student based at the University of Sunderland and Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens. See more images of the exhibition here.

Kith and Kin: New Glass and Ceramics runs from 11 November 2011 to 19 February 2012 at the National Glass Centre, University of Sunderland.   Curated by Prof. Peter Davies and Prof. Kevin Petrie, Institute for International Research in Glass and Ceramic Art Research Centre, University of Sunderland.

9 Responses to Kith and Kin: New Glass and Ceramics Stage 2 – The ‘Crinson Jug’

  1. Anne Holmes says:

    I have read with interest the creation of a ‘Crinson Jug’: a fine tribute to the Crinson family whose history is entwined with that of Sunderland itself in the nineteenth and early twentieth century centuries.

    The William Crinson who was apprenticed in 1788 was also my ancestor, my fourth great-grandfather. I also have carried extensive research on the Crinson family tree: Crinson being my mother’s family surname. My mother was born in Monkwearmouth in the 1920s.

    During my research I also investigated the archives of Scott’s Pottery. A little caution however must be taken with some of the evidence in the archives. Regarding the information on William’s son Robert in 1852, the recollection by the Scott family of the death of William Crinson in 1836 is retrospective. There is no burial record for a William Crinson in 1836 in Sunderland, however there is a record of a William Crinson, aged 52 years, buried at Monkwearmouth St. Peter on 27th December 1833. This may well be William Crinson the potter. If so, and the age is correct on the burial entry, William may have been apprenticed at Scott’s Pottery at the young age of seven. I believe it was not unknown for children to work in the potteries in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

    The 1969 letter of Robert Crinson is of great interest too. Again, although written from memory, it does gives an insight in to, and a basis to explore, where the Crinson family came from before they arrived in Sunderland, probably sometime in the 1780s. My research on my mother’s ancestral family culminated in an article written for the journal of the Northumberland and Durham Family History Society in the Summer of 2010 namely ‘English, Scandinavian or Scottish: a local family’s origins’. It explores the myths and the evidence surrounding the origins of the Crinson family. A copy of the journal can be found at the NDFHS Library at Percy Street, Newcastle. It may be of interest to other Sunderland Crinson descendants.

    William Crinson, the potter, and his wife Eleanor had six children: a daughter Ann and five sons. Two sons Robert and James were also potters. The three remaining sons William, Luke and George all went to sea. The youngest George was a ship’s carpenter. He lost his life at the young age of nineteenth after falling overboard. Sadly, for the family his elder brother William was Master of the ship at the time.

    Finally, the theme of football boots in the jug’s structure is fitting. A great great grandson of William Crinson, another William Crinson, was a professional footballer in the early twentieth century.

    I hope to visit Sunderland later this summer. Will the Crinson Jug still be on view then?

  2. Amanda Loutfi, Kuwait says:

    I live in Kuwait, but was born in South Shields and lived in Sunderland. My grandfather was Robert Crinson and I can trace my relatives back to the Crinsons in this article. I read this story with interest. My father, Victor Crinson, lives in Essex and he was also interested. I would love to find more about it. Would you have the contact details of Howard Forster so I could ask him some questions about the family tree? Thank you, Amanda Crinson Loutfi

    • Christopher McHugh says:

      Dear Amanda,

      Thank you very much for your comment. I’m delighted you enjoyed reading the blog and it is great to hear from another member of the Crinson family. If you agree, I can pass on your details to Mr Forster. Unfortunatley, due to data protection rules, we can’t give out personal details.

      Yours sincerely,

      Chris McHugh

      • Sarah says:

        Hi my mum is Teresa Crinson and she lived in Sunderland and it was her Uncle that was the footballer who played for Sheffield Wednesday she has his picture in her wall

  3. Dennis Crinson says:

    it is great to see all the comments from people who are descendants of the crinson family from Sunderland. I was wondering if there where any crinson family members apart my self my brothers and son. I was born in Sunderland 1965
    Dennis Crinson

    • kirsty crinson says:

      hi dad! was also looking into my family name on this page, and bumped into my old man, Dennis! ^^^ we’re also from sunderland originally. as far as i know the name derives from an old Medieval name ‘grinston’ which translates at ‘green rock’ perhaps a moss or algae covered rock? I looked into this and the nearest thing i could see related to that in the Sunderland area was Pin Cushion Rock, apparently only accessible at half tide and covered in algae, thus making it green. I’m sure the family name is tied to some sort of landmark, perhaps a megalith, but Google has only so many answers. Again, really good to see so many people digging into the old Crinson roots. Has anybody any knowledge of a family crest? I imagine we have good genes then, we have potters AND footballers. Thanks emma i will check out that link.

      Kirsty Crinson

  4. admin says:

    Hi Dennis
    Thanks for getting in touch. if you email our colleagues at they will be able to point you in the right direction to begin your family research

  5. Christopher McHugh says:

    Dear Dennis,

    I’m delighted to hear from another member of the Crinson family. We have had several enquiries from people who are descended from the Sunderland potters who now live all over the world.

    Good luck with the search.

    Best wishes
    Christopher McHugh

  6. Christopher McHugh says:

    Dear Kirsty,

    Thank you very much for commenting on the blog. I have heard a few people say that ‘Crinson’ may have Scandanavian roots, although it seems inconclusive. Your account sounds very interesting! I am delighted to hear that there are still descendants of the Crinson potter living in Sunderland!

    Kind regards,
    Chris McHugh

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