The golden age of Crown Lynn pottery

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A decade of crowning ceramics

Described as classic kiwiana, Crown Lynn pottery was a popular household feature in the 1960s. From its 1920s origins as brick and pipe manufacturers, the company expanded into the domestic market.

Successful Government lobbying to place higher tariffs on imported goods assisted in the company’s fortunes. By 1960 it reached its peak production of about 10 million pieces, becoming the largest pottery company in the Southern Hemisphere at that time.

Slide 1: The 1960s were a celebration of the new and Crown Lynn faced demands to develop shapes and patterns reflecting changing tastes. One initiative was the establishment of an annual design competition resulting in a number of entries being picked up by the company. Winning designs such as Otway Josling’s Reflections and runner-up Don Mills’ Narvick were popular sellers.

Slide 2: Along with a range of new dinner sets, Crown Lynn produced the ‘coffee can’ in 1963. Similar to a tea cup, the straight-sided cup was a novel concept to New Zealand’s caffeine connoisseurs.

Slides 3-4: The visit of Queen Elizabeth to its Auckland factory in 1963 was seen as a turning point in the so-called ‘snob wars’. Perceived as being inferior to British brands, the New Zealand-made product became more respectable to local consumers following the royal appearance. An ornate urn was specially presented during the Queen’s visit with lesser decorated replicas sold as souvenirs.

Slide 5: Fortunately you didn’t need to be the Queen of England to tour Crown Lynn as factory tours were introduced earlier in 1961. By 1986 around 150,000 people had visited the factory.

Slides 6-8: Growing market confidence saw the development of uniquely New Zealand designs with product names such as Egmont and Ponui. Traditional British rose patterns were replaced by forestry scenes like Sierra Pine. Crockery supplied for Air New Zealand in the mid 1960s featured earthy colours alongside a Maori kowhaiwhai pattern.

Slides 9-10: Crown Lynn commissioned international designers like the American Dorothy Thorpe. The Santa Barbara range launched in 1965 featured ball-handled coffee sets. While striking in appearance, they were difficult to hold and damaged easily. Not that this was a problem, as according to a Crown Lynn employee, 'you never used the damn things anyway'. Other designs released in this series included Pine and Palm Springs.

Slides 11-12: Crown Lynn embarked upon an exporting drive with Australia becoming the first international market. As well establishing numerous Australian outlets, the company won contracts with large organisations such as armed forces to supply tableware. Canada became another key market, leading to Crown Lynn being one of New Zealand’s top exporters for the 1960s.

Slide 13: Locally, five designs comprising of Autumn Splendour, Golden Fall, Shasta Daisy, Green Bamboo and Fashion Rose were promoted under an innovative policy which guaranteed that customers could purchase any replacements for broken items. No longer did a breakage mean owning an incomplete dinner set. Autumn Splendour went on to become Crown Lynn’s top seller in the 1960s.

Slide 14: To mark the changeover of New Zealand’s currency in 1967, Crown Lynn produced a cup and saucer featuring the new decimal system.

Slide 14: Not content with kitchens and dining rooms, Crown Lynn created items for the bathroom. The 1967 Feminine Approach range featured door handles, keyholes and light switch plates. Later, toilet roll holders, soap dishes, towel-rail holders and toothbrush stands enabled the use of Crown Lynn products throughout the house.

Celebrating the company's 21st anniversary in 1969, Crown Lynn’s founder Tom Clark remarked that 'only nine years ago Crown Lynn was a dirty word'. The success of the 1960s did not last, however, with import restrictions later lifted, economic difficulties and company takeovers all contributing to the demise of Crown Lynn in 1989. Ironically, 20 years on, Crown Lynn is more popular than ever, with pieces keenly sought out by collectors. Flick through any New Zealand interiors magazine and you will soon come across references to the brand. From op shops to auction houses, Crown Lynn has become desirable; businesses even hire out the company's iconic white swans. Once again, Crown Lynn is being adored by a new generation of Kiwis.

Further information

Links

Books

  • Gail Henry, New Zealand pottery: commercial and collectable, Reed Books, Auckland, 1999
  • Valerie Ringer Monk, Crown Lynn: a New Zealand icon, Penguin, Auckland, 2006

Community contributions

27 comments have been posted about The golden age of Crown Lynn pottery

What do you know?

Fran

Posted: 14 Oct 2020

Wikipedia features information about the history of Crown Lynn and their manufacturing sites at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crown_Lynn. The New Lynn site is now a museum - Te Toi Uku - Crown Lynn & Clayworks Museum where you can see wonderful examples of Crown Lynn.
Visit their website at https://tetoiuku.org.nz/ for more details about opening hours etc.

Fran

Posted: 14 Oct 2020

Can't spot any references to the Gossips pattern apart from a brief mention on Etsy that it was produced in the 1970s. You might want to have a look at https://www.newzealandpottery.net/. There are also some great Crown Lynn facebook page such as a Q & A private group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/147215112567312/ where you can post questions about Crown Lynn.

Jenny

Posted: 12 Oct 2020

Was “the gossips “by crown Lyn D975 made in NZ dinner plate 1970

Maggie

Posted: 17 Aug 2020

Kia ora, thank you for putting all of this information together. Do you know the address of the original Crown Lynn manufacturing site (would you call it a factory?) and the extent of what they did there? Many thanks!

Peter Gilberd

Posted: 26 Mar 2020

Served my apprenticeship for Crown Lynn Engineering fro 1970 to 1974 under Alf Lake as manager, all my friends getting married got Dinner sets as presents

Katherine MOKA-Siaki

Posted: 27 Dec 2018

My first job, (15)?New Lynn. Maude and another man was my boss.
I was in the decorating department on the belt stacking for the cook house. Good money, because I worked a lot overtime free transport, good boses and workers.

Fran

Posted: 30 Jun 2016

Hi Liz. There's some interesting discussion about the black Crown Lynn swans at http://valputaruru.blogspot.co.nz/2013/08/wonderful-whiteware.html. This blog is from Valerie Monk who has written two great resource books about Crown Lynn.

Liz

Posted: 28 Jun 2016

I was wondering if someone could tell me if Crown Lynn produced a Black Swan. I have been told they didn't but they are selling on Trademe as official Crown Lynn Swans given only to staff?
Many thanks.

fran

Posted: 09 Sep 2015

Thanks Emma for the additional details. President Johnson visited NZ briefly in October 1966 and various websites do mention that the TEV Hinemoa was used a hotel ship for the visit. Anyway if you do find out anymore, please post these details on this website as I'm sure others will be interested to know more about the origins of these plates. Good luck with the ongoing search!

Emma

Posted: 05 Sep 2015

Thanks Fran. I have done a bit more research about the Hinemoa and have an idea which may explain about the dishes. The Hinemoa finished service as a ferry in Aug 1966 and then was used as a hotel ship for the press who were covering President Lyndon Johnson's visit to NZ in Oct 1966. I think these dishes might have been commissioned by the NZ government for use on the Hinemoa at this time and possibly a journalist took some back to North America. Perhaps the remaining dishes were destroyed after the visit which might explain why I haven't found anyone who has seen them before. They are apparently in new condition which would make sense if they had been used a couple of times. I have emailed a few other museums to see if this idea is plausible but haven't heard back yet. I'll contact that link you posted to see if I can find out anymore about them. Thanks for your help.

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