Before 1963, the red hot heart of the Potteries

The Potteries Bottle Oven : the huge, imposing, and towering brick-built, bottle-shaped structure, up to 70 feet high, essential on a potbank for the making of pottery.  


"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 on extent as sometimes to impede vision
beyond a distance of a few yards." 
Extract from The Report for 1878 of the Medical Officer of the Local Government Board.
"It's a fine day if you can see the other side of the road"

Images of the remaining examples here>      
Where are they located? here>


"Figure to yourself a tract of country, the surface of which, cut, scarred, burnt and ploughed up in every direction, displays a heterogeneous mass of hovels and palaces, farmhouses and factories, chapels and churches, canals and coal pits, corn fields and brick-fields, gardens and furnaces, jumbled together in 'the most admirable disorder' and you will have a pretty correct idea of the Staffordshire Potteries. Pervade the space your fancy has thus pictured, with suffocating smoke, vomited forth incessantly from innumerable fires, and the thing will be complete."  Monthly Magazine, 1st November 1823.

"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

"It seemed as though all the porcelain and earthenware for the supply of the world might be made here. Acre after acre and mile after mile of kilns and furnaces, crowded together in some instances, or a little more scattered in others, covered this region." Wilbur Fisk, Travels on the Continent of Europe, with engravings (Harper & Brothers: New York, 1838), p. 503.


In 1939 there were about 2000 bottle ovens and kilns, 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.

In 2019 there are fewer than 50 bottle-shaped structures still standing. The bottle oven at Hudson and Middleton's factory in Normacot Road, Longton, was the last one to be fired, 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 30 potters' ovens remain standing. These were the ones specifically used for the firing of biscuit or glost pottery. 18 of those are within a 5 minutes walk 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 most 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>