How many?

Exactly how many bottle ovens were there in The Potteries?  And how many are there now?

Fewer than 50 bottle-shaped structures remain today on 29 sites in The Potteries of North Staffordshire.

At one time, at their peak, there were about 2000 bottle ovens/kilns in The Potteries. Most were fired once a week. At a push, some were fired twice a week. Each firing of a relatively small oven, required at least 10 tons of coal. (Bigger ovens required much more) Each 'baiting' filled the atmosphere with thick belching black smoke.

Today, (in December 2018) only 29 'potters ovens' remain standing in The Potteries. These were the ones specifically used for the firing of biscuit or glost pottery. The rest of the bottle shaped structures in The Potteries are either calcining kilns or enamel kilns.

18 of those 29 potters ovens are all within 5 minutes walking distance of Gladstone Pottery Museum in Longton. So, two thirds of all the biscuit and glost ovens which now exist are concentrated in a very small area of the southernmost town of the six towns of the City of Stoke-on-Trent.

What's the difference between a bottle oven and a bottle kiln?  

The terms are often used to mean the same thing - a brick built, bottle shaped structure for the firing of pottery or associated materials. In the trade, the word 'oven' usually meant the potter's biscuit or glost firing ovens having an open flame which passes directly into the firing chamber itself. The word 'kiln' usually meant that the flames were 'muffled' and thus kept entirely separate from the firing chamber. Kilns included the enamel firing kiln, hardening-on kilns or calcining kilns, frit kilns, beehive brick kilns and lime kilns. Usage did vary from factory to factory, so its complicated and difficult to be precise.

How many? Differing statistics have been suggested

Some say that there were once 3000 or even 4,000 bottle ovens belching smoke into The Potteries atmosphere, but this is a grossly exaggerated figure. There were simply not that many actual bottle ovens.  But there were lots of other factory chimneys - those which serviced boiler houses, steam engines, slip kilns, and more. There were also those chimneys associated with collieries, the Shelton Bar steel plant, and Michelin. These conventional chimneys added to the grand total which spewed their black filth into the atmosphere of The Potteries.

It is safe to say, that in their heyday, just over 2,000 operable coal-fired bottle ovens dominated the landscape of the six towns of Stoke-on-Trent. Maybe up to 2,300. So how can we be so sure?  This report from the BPMF, British Pottery Manufacturers Federation, in 1964 shows some details:

  Here are the facts - 'operable coal-fired bottle ovens' 

  • 1939: 2000+ operable coal-fired ovens
  • 1958: 295
  • 1959: 222 
  • 1960: 157 
  • 1961: 95 
  • 1962: 70 
  • 1963: 30 
  • 1964: 20
  • 1965: 11
  • 1966: 3
  • 1967: 0 - except in 1978 - 'The Last Bottle Oven Firing' 
  • 1978: 1 -  that of The Last Bottle Oven Firing more here
  • 1979: 0
Figures do not include bottle ovens fired with alternative fuels, e.g oil
Figures do  not including calcining kilns
Source: W H Holmes published the above figures in Ceramics, Volume 20 , 1969


The Spode Factory in Stoke supported 37 bottle ovens: 7 biscuit, 14 glost, 16 enamel.
Source: The Penny Magazine Of The Society For The Diffusion Of Useful Knowledge. May 1843


A photograph of the Josiah Wedgwood and Sons factory in Etruria, Stoke-on-Trent shows 21 bottle ovens


The Ordnance Survey  1:1250 Sheets clearly show the position of ovens on individual pottery factory sites.


Extract from 'Industrial Health - a survey of the pottery industry in Stoke-on-Trent (Ministry of Labour and National Service) Report by H.M. Inspectorate 1959.

"During the period of the survey (1956-1958) there were 572 coal-fired ovens or kilns still in use, but the industry estimates that at the present time it is burning at least half-a-million tons of raw coal a year less than it was before the war, and over 1,500 bottle-ovens have been replaced by smokeless ovens and kilns."

It is interesting to see that the inspectorate gives a figure of 572 coal fired ovens in use in 1956-1958 whereas the industry's own trade association (British Pottery Manufacturers Federation - BPMF) gave a much lower figure of 222. Perhaps the the Association wanted to show a more optimistic figure to demonstrate, perhaps, that they were proactive in ridding the district of the smoke-spewing bottle oven for good.


58 ovens were recorded by The North Staffs Junior Chamber in 'Operation Bottle'
All but one (at the Hudson and Middleton Factory in Normacot, Longton) were inoperable.


The last time a bottle oven was fired in The Potteries 

The Last time a bottle oven was fired in The Potteries  -  1978
The last time a bottle oven was fired in The Potteries was in August 1978
The event was organised by Gladstone Pottery Museum
The oven was at the factory of Hudson and Middleton (Sutherland Works), Normacot Road, Longton

2018 (update: 07.12.18)

Fewer than 50 bottle-shaped structures remain today on 29 sites in The Potteries of North Staffordshire.

However, it could be argued that 52 bottle ovens/kilns remain if the following are included:
  • Extant firing chambers with no hovel, including muffle kiln
  • Extant hovels with no firing chamber
  • Kilns with the appearance of 1 chimney stack but are built in such a way as to form 2 stacks
  • Kilns with only one chimney stack but having two firing chambers

All are now inoperable. Some have been restored. Some are open to the public. Some have collapsed into rubble. There are tall ones, short ones, wide ones and thin ones, square ones and circular ones.  All are Listed Buildings.

15% of Stoke-on-Trent's remaining ovens are preserved at the group to be found at Gladstone Pottery Museum (more here>) and the adjacent Roslyn Works in Uttoxeter Road, Longton, Stoke-on-Trent.


Bottle ovens are listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, as amended, for its special architectural or historic interest. The 'List Entry Number' shown below against each location is the Historic England reference number on their site here>

No bottle ovens remain in Tunstall, the most northerly of the six towns of Stoke-on-Trent.

3 x Downdraught 
@ Bournes Bank, Burslem. Former Acme Marls Ltd. List Entry Number 1220118 Important downdraught ovens.

2 x Calcining 
@ Furlong Lane, Burslem. Furlong Mills Ltd. List Entry Number 1291014

1 x Muffle enamel kiln
@ Moorland Road, Burslem. Moorland Pottery. Former Studio Szeizler Ltd. List Entry Number 1297965

1 x Updraught 
@ Sandbach Road, Cobridge, Burlsem. Moorcroft Ltd. List Entry Number 1297942

1 x Updraught 
@ Newcastle Street, Longport, Burslem. Formerly Price & Kensington (Prices Teapots) Teapot Works. List Entry Number 1290799

2 x Calcining 
When viewed from above, you can see a divided flue in the single square chimney.
@ Milvale Street, Middleport, Burslem. List Entry Number 1220736 'kiln, square in section, with two flues separated only at the apex.'

3 x Calcining
When viewed from above, you can see a divided flue in the single square chimney.
@ Newport Lane, Middleport, Burslem. List entry Number 1297928 'a pair of calcining kilns adjoin the workshop range: one a narrow cylindrical form, the other square in section, with heavily moulded cap, and chimney to rear.'

1 x Updraught 
@ Port Street, Middleport, Burslem. Burgess & Leigh Ltd. Middleport Pottery. Open to the public. List entry Number 1297939  'biscuit oven'

2 x Calcining 
@ Eastwood Road, Hanley. Former Johnson Brothers Trent Pottery for flint calcining . List entry Number 1291067 

1 x Hovel only
@ Hope Street, Hanley. Dudsons Ltd. Home to a museum. Open to the public. List entry Number 1195798 

1 x Updraught 
@ Lichfield Street, Hanley. Former Bullers Works, Allied Insulators Ltd. Imperial Court. List Entry Number 1290918

1 x Hovel only
@ Warner Street, (Mollart Street) Hanley. Former Smithfield Pottery. List entry Number 1210835

2 x Calcining
@ Shelton New Road, Cliffe Vale, Hanley. Former Twyfords Sanitaryware Factory. List entry Number 1195842

1 x Calcining
@ Etruria Bone and Flint Mill. Former Shirleys Bone Mill. Now a museum. List Entry Number 1195818 

1 x Updraught, remains of a collapsed oven. Firing chamber only.
@ J H Weatherby Falcon Pottery, Town Road, Hanley: The hovel collapsed in February 2012. List entry Number 1297938  The entire firing chamber still exists

1 x Muffle, remains of a collapsed oven. Firing chamber only.
@ J H Weatherby Falcon Pottery, Town Road, Hanley: The remains of one of a muffle kiln is housed on this site, immediately adjacent to the collapsed updraught oven.

1 x Calcining
@ Lytton Street, Stoke. Former Dolby Pottery. List Entry Number 1220666

2 x Updraught hob-mouthed
@ Sturgess Street, Stoke. Falcon Works. Formerly Goss. List entry Number 1210472 (may be incorrectly listed as 'downdraught')

1 x Updraught, remains of a collapsed oven. Firing chamber floor only.
@ Spode Works, Church Street, Stoke. Former Spode factory. The hovel collapsed in 1972. List Entry Number 1392359

1 x  Updraught 
@ Hines Street, (Chilton Street), Heron Cross, Fenton. Heron Cross Pottery. List Entry Number 1220240  "a wide hovel set in the main range and housing a reconstructed fritt kiln."

3 x Calcining
@ Fountain Street, Fenton. James Kent (Ceramic Materials) Ltd. Bayer U.K. Ltd.  List Entry Number 1195832 . Excellent condition

4 x Updraught
@ Chelson Street, Normacot Road, Longton. Enson Works. List Entry Number 1195827

2 x Hovel only. Former updraught. Firing chambers demolished
@ Commerce Works, Commerce Street, Longton. Former Ashdale Pottery Products.  List Entry Number 1220277

2 x Updraught
@ King Street, Longton. Albion Works, King Street. Also known as Phoenix Works  List Entry Number 1195804

1 x Updraught 
@ Corner of Warren Street and Normacot Road, Normacot, Longton. Minkstone Pottery. List Entry Number 1220876

2 x Updraught 
@ Normacot Road, Longton. Rear of Sutherland Works. Birchcroft China  List Entry Number 1195814

1 x Updraught 
@ Normacot Road, Longton. Hudson and Middleton, Sutherland Works
This was the last bottle oven to be fired in The Potteries, in August 1978. 
Oven firing organised by Gladstone Pottery Museum >

1 x Calcining
@ Rear of 120, Uttoxeter Road. Near Short Street, Longton. List Entry Number 1297907

4 x Updraught
@ Uttoxeter Road, Longton. Gladstone Pottery Museum. Open to the public.

1 x Muffle enamel kiln
@ Uttoxeter Road, Longton. Gladstone Pottery Museum. Open to the public.

2 x Updraught
@ Uttoxeter Road, Longton. Former Gladstone and Park Place (Roslyn) Works, adjacent to Gladstone Pottery Museum. List entry Number 1195854 

52 Bottle ovens/kilns including empty hovels and remnants of firing chambers

29 Sites

23 x Updraught potters ovens
  3 x Downdraught potters ovens
17 x Calcining kilns
  2 x Muffle enamel kilns
  4 x Hovel only
  2 x Firing chamber only
  1 x Base only, remnants (hovel collapsed 1972)

NOTE: Don't get confused!
There are two Falcon Works in The Potteries.  Falcon Works, Stoke - these are the works of W.H. Goss, off London Road/Sturgess Street. And Falcon Works, Hanley - the works of  J.H. Weatherby, in Town Road.

EXTRACT FROM “Remembering the heyday of the pottery industry” by the late John Abberley
Courtesy of  "The Way We Were" published by The Sentinel, 5 April 2008

"At the peak there were more than 2,000 bottle ovens in the district, all in use at different times in a week. The pollution was appalling. The thick smoke sometimes made it impossible to see the other side of the street in Burslem or Longton.

It inspired the improbable story that a German bomber pilot saw the pall of smoke over the Potteries and flew on, thinking the place had been bombed already.

This piece of self-mockery typical of Potteries humour, might well have been dreamed up. All the same, you can see why the national image of Smoky Stoke lingered so long. It all came to an end in the late 1950s when the Smoke Abatement Act forced firms to turn from bottle ovens to tunnel kilns fired by gas or electricity. This put a lot of small companies out of business.

But there was no denying this was a further step along the way to eradicating those aspects of the industry most harmful to health, something which long before had been the concern of medical men like Dr John Arlidge. Dr Arlidge was a pioneering figure in tackling ill-health among pottery workers exposed to dangerous materials and the ever-present dust, which caused thousands of deaths.

Yet soon after the disappearance of the bottle ovens, the pottery industry began to change in other ways. So our pottery industry today is a mere shadow of what it used to be. Sons and daughters no longer follow their parents into the potbanks which are left."

For definitions of unusual Potteries words go to The Potbank Dictionary here>