Local industrial archaeology

Pottery bottle oven, Longport, Stoke-on-Trent. Next to the Trent and Mersey canal. I can’t remember the name of the pottery sorry. I think there are only 32 of these old pottery ovens left in Stoke-on-Trent. A few, like at Middleport pottery and the Gladstone Pottery museum are preserved and in good condition. Others are derelict or semi derelict. A few are just the bases of them left on the ground. Some are being rescued and repurposed, but others are dreadfully neglected as this one is.

Bottle ovens/kilns and enamel kilns burn at different temperatures. They were different shapes, the enamel ones are thinner. The outside bottle shape has a doorway into it and surrounds a cylindrical kiln where the pottery is placed. The pottery itself is stacked in ‘saggars’- round or oval shaped covers that protect the ceramics as the kiln is ‘fired’. These old fashioned kilns were heated with coal. The clay and fires lead to lung diseases, which were also found in local miners. As coal firing was stopped because of the clean air act many of these potteries closed or converted to gas firing in modern kilns. Old photos from the turn of the 19th century show many bottle ovens all over the city and the pall of smoke they created.

Stoke-on-Trent has clay, water and coal in abundance which is why the pottery industry set up here as well as a few other places in the UK. There are many books about the industrial archaeology of the area are available. Other information can be found at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in the city centre (Hanley), Stoke-on-Trent.

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