The hot, throbbing heart, of The Potteries

The Potteries Bottle Oven : the huge, imposing, and towering brick-built, bottle-shaped structure, up to 70 feet high, once essential in the making of pottery.  Images of the remaining examples here>      Where are they located? Find out here>

Painting: "Bottle Ovens at Twyfords Etruria in 1950"

“In the pottery district of North Staffordshire, chimneys may, at any time, be seen vomiting forth black smoke filling the streets and roads to such an extent as sometimes to impede vision beyond a distance of a few yards." The report for 1878 by the Medical Officer of the Local Government Board

In 1939 there were about 2000 bottle ovens, or strictly speaking, bottle-shaped structures of various types used for firing pottery ware or its components. They dominated the landscape of The Potteries of Stoke-on-Trent. Most were fired once a week. At a push, some were fired twice a week. Each firing required at least 10 tons of coal. Each 'baiting' filled the atmosphere with thick, belching black smoke.

"It's a fine day if you can see the other side of the road"

Today (2018) there are less than 50.  Only one remains in working order - the oven at Hudson and Middleton's factory in Normacot Road, Longton, site of the Last Bottle Oven Firing in August 1978. None will ever be fired again. The Clean Air Act of 1956, and their delicate condition have put paid to that.

In total only 29 'potters' ovens remain standing. These were the ones specifically used for the firing of biscuit or glost pottery, they were not used for calcining. 18 of those are all within 5 minutes walking distance of Gladstone Pottery Museum in Longton, Stoke-on-Trent

At the multi-award-winning Gladstone Pottery Museum itself, there are 5 bottle ovens. There are also two next door, at the Roslyn Works. This is the most important and precious group of buildings in The Potteries. 

Throughout this website the term 'bottle oven' refers to a bottle shaped structure, of various types and functions, used for firing pottery ware or its components. Bottle ovens can be classified into four main types. Within these four types are additional variations giving a total of twelve different types of oven. All are listed here>

This website has been archived for preservation by the British Library

The last commercial bottle oven firing 1976

This was the penultimate commercial bottle oven firing in The Potteries.  It was at the factory of Acme Marls, Bournes Bank, Burslem and it took place in the summer of 1976. This small selection of photos was taken at the event. more here>

One further firing took place at the factory before production was transferred to a new site.

Acme Marls, Burslem July/August 1976
Final temperature of close-on 1400C has been reached
Thermocouple and block removed from the top of the clammins and the crown damper cracked open
photos: Terry Woolliscroft Collection  more here