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.

Upright

Upright bottle oven somewhere near the canal in Burslem, from a photo I took on a walk with the closer to home group on Saturday. I didn’t have time to stop and read the sign about it as I was at the back of the group. Today’s #bandofsketchers prompt. Metallic silver pen, metallic colours, dried up black felt pens, black felt pen, charcoal stick.

Canal view

Tuesdays #bandofsketchers prompt was decay. It took me a while to find a subject that I liked. In this case it was a photo I took of an old bottle oven and fencing / boarding reflected in the Trent and Mersey canal. This was near Dolphin boats in Stoke, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire.

I used Boldmere colouring pencils for the drawing which made it paler than the photo. I could use some watercolour washes to increase the depth of colour but I quite like the way this is blended. One thing I didn’t include was the debris floating in the canal after so many windy days.

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Bottle oven combination

Same bottle oven, six different views, three of the oven, three reflected in the surface of the Trent and Mersey canal. Today I walked four and a half miles. We were doing mostly flat walking although there are a few uphill stretches where the locks allow water to be lowered in stages down hill, the barges float into the locks which are either emptied and the water and barge move downhill, or filled, so the barge moves up hill. We noticed a lot of debris from trees and litter was floating in the canal, the weather was so windy yesterday its blown in…

Memory

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If you can’t read the writing it says (bit truncated) weeping window, 31. 8.18, middleport pottery.

The drawing is of thousands of ceramic poppies which were displayed on the bottle oven at Middleport pottery, middleport, Stoke-on-Trent in August last year. These poppies had travelled round the country to commemorate the men who had fallen in the first World War.

At one stage the poppies were not going to come to Stoke-on-Trent despite thousands of them being made here. I for one am glad they came.