Artist 10 – Millhouse Pottery, Harleston and the work of Alan Frewin (1935-2016)
Millhouse Pottery and shop will be open during the trail. This is a very special occasion and certainly the end of an era.
Funny how you allow yourself to think your town and places you love will stay the same for ever. The large house on the corner of Station Road with it’s glorious wisteria has always been The Pottery, Millhouse Pottery home to Alan and Anne Frewin.
Alan Frewin was a member of The Harleston & Waveney Art Trail for many years and he delighted in showing people round the pottery and exhibiting his paintings. Sadly when Alan died in 2016 his Wife Anne and his Son Paul were faced with having to rethink the future of this quaint, fascinating building, whilst finding appropriate homes for the rest of Alan’s work.
Millhouse has not been quiet however; Paul, a potter himself has been kept incredibly busy. The kiln has been fired up no less than 19 times in the last 2 years in an attempt to finish Alan’s work and use as much of the unused clay as possible. He has also emptied all the cupboards, nooks and crannies rediscovering treasures from his own past as well as his Father’s. Ask to see the snails he made when he was a boy!
In 1959 Alan wanted to be a Painter but by accident he started to play with clay, discovering that he really quite liked it. Whilst his friends struggled to sell their paintings, his hand thrown mugs sold with ease. Making pottery that has a use, he thought was the way to go. He trained with Briglin Potteries ( briglin.com ) in London’s West End. Their ethos was to produce well designed pots that could be used in the home and to sell them at affordable prices. Despite Briglin’s wealthy location their theory worked well. Brigitte Goldschmidt and Eileen Lewenstein, the owners, were also active in the formation of The Craft Potters Association. Alan’s style was to continue to be influenced by Briglin.
During the 60’s Alan started selling pottery in Cornwall and Devon. The need for a large space to work in became an absolute necessity. So, 50 years ago in 1970 Alan and Anne moved to Harleston. As we talked about the history of Millhouse Ann explained, they chose Millhouse purely because of the building behind in the courtyard; it was going to make The Perfect Pottery. Anne said “Really the main house was just an as well as, the pottery was the most important space”.
The kilns one gas one electric were built in situ by Alan they were too massive to be brought in any other way.
The house turned out to be enormous too and at a time when funds were low Anne ran a B&B. She recalls hilarious events such as entertaining the entire Dutch cycling team, masseur and all!
Alan and Anne spent most of the 60‘s and 70’s driving back and forth to Devon and Cornwall delivering mountains of work and taking more orders from collectors, galleries and shops. Such was the demand they struggled to keep up. Alan never liked the marketing side of things but when they got back home to Harleston he just loved taking on the massive task of making and firing all the orders. Working on his own, in his perfect space, he was completely happy. When the Kiln was emptied, the contents filled the court yard from one end to the other. The house became a store room too. As a boy Paul remembers his bedroom being totally taken over with very little space for him at all.
Paul is now recording every item, putting together books of photographs, grouping pots according to their age. In between the pots are Alan’s paintings which, yes, he did come back to later in life, screening off one end of his workshop to keep warm, he painted multiple colourful portraits.
The shop has been loaded with pots, bowls, tiles and plates of all shapes and sizes. Alan’s reference books are for sale too. The workshop has been laid out with beautiful samples of Alan’s work going back 50 years. Everything is for sale from the tiniest pot to a very large teapot and teacup that are in fact a water feature. I’m very tempted. Anne and Paul have agreed to open the shop throughout the trail giving us all a last chance to own and treasure a piece of Norfolk history.
The Harleston And Waveney Art Trail wish to thank Anne and Paul for taking part in the trail this year and we wish them luck with their future plans.