It appears that the first people to exploit the clay were tenant farmers leasing land from the Lords Clifford, the Earls of Devon and the Church.
The English pottery industry and the clay trade were given an impetus in 1688 when the skills of the Delft potters were brought to England on the accession of William of Orange. Their English counterparts, such as Twyford who continually searched for materials which might improve their wares, soon acquired these skills
In 1729 the first cargo of local clay bound for Staffordshire was shipped through Teignmouth from whence it was taken up the west coast to Liverpool, and then inland to the Potteries. By 1770 clay shipments through Teignmouth had risen to 4,069 tons.
Writing about Kingsteignton in the mid-18th century Dean Milles of Exeter gave an account of the industry in the parish:
"The land where the clay is dug is part of the Manor of Preston. The tenant generally employs labourers to dig it at ye rate of 1s 4d. per tun. They cutt it into square pieces about one foot long and nine inches broad and of as many thick and of about 35 Ibs weight each."
He goes on to tell how it was carried some two miles to Hackney by pack horses and then loaded into barges for shipment down the Teign. At Teignmouth it was transferred into ships bound for Liverpool.
During these years of infancy the clay trade was handicapped by an inefficient method of transport. Clay had to be carried between two and four miles from the pits at Preston and Bellamarsh to Hackney. The roads were little more than trackways and became quagmires during periods of wet weather. James Templer, the owner of Stover Estate, realised that the construction of a transport link to the clay lands could bring him considerable profit. In 1790 work began on the Stover Canal, which was to extend from the Teign Estuary to Ventiford, Teigngrace, where clay cellars were built. The choice of this site lay in the fact that it lay on Templer's land. Clay cellars were also built at Teignbridge which became the starting point of the most of the journeys of the barges which used the canal. It was quicker to take clay to Teignbridge from Preston and its surrounds than to Hackney.