Stoke-on-Trent - Advert of the week

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William Boulton Limited
Providence Engineering Works
Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent

Prestige and Progress - A Survey of Industrial North Staffordshire
1955 publication of North Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce - page 16


William Boulton Limited

"This firm was founded in 1852 at a time when the manufacture of pottery was evolving from an entirely hand crafted to a semi-mechanised industry. The firm developed many ideas and patented many inventions which revolutionised the mechanical side of the potter, sanitary, glazed tile, electrical porcelains and refractory industries.

This firm is still in the forefront of the present wave of mechanisation, although now its productions have widened and cover many other industries, such as paint, chemical, plastics, vitreous enamel, glass and rubber. It has in particular - as the result of intensive specialisation - a very wide experience of the processes of ball milling, filter pressing, agitating, sieving and screening.

Boulton's productions are known throughout the world, and the firm has a competent staff able to carry out experiments on customers' materials, and offer machines and design most efficient plant to give production on a commercial basis.

The firm has modern shops, with well-equipped precision machinery of a wide range and capacity. This, along with rigid inspection, ensures plant of the highest quality."

1955 publication

Boulton steam engine
The Boulton steam engine supplied all the power
to the slip and clay shop of Burgess & Leigh, Middleport

The steam engine transfers the energy of steam into mechanical energy for a variety of applications, including propulsion and generating electricity. The basic principle of the steam engine involves transforming the heat energy of steam into mechanical energy by permitting the steam to expand and cool in a cylinder equipped with a movable piston. Steam that is to be used for power or heating purposes is usually generated in a boiler. 

William Boulton of Burslem was a prolific engineer and produced many pieces of equipment including clay presses, blungers and pug mills.



Name plate reads:
W. Boulton
Engineers Burslem

A jigger for the production of flatware (plates, saucers etc.)
A jigger for the production of flatware (plates, saucers etc.)

Steam powered jiggers (and jolleys - for producing hollow ware) were known of in the 1840s but there was much worker resistance to their introduction. The first mechanical jigger replacing hand power was the Porteus, driven by long lengths of shafting and belts. The potters were charged a weekly rent equivalent to the wages they had paid the boy who powered it before. In 1863 Francis Wedgwood had a plate making machine presented by a continental potter. The machine was so popular that within 15 years most of the large companies used it.

In 1867, William Boulton (of Burslem) patented a continuous-rope driven jigger. This was much more reliable than the steam jigger and cost half as much. To work to capacity the jiggerer needed three boy attendants, and 600-1000 moulds.

One attendant cut a piece of clay and put onto a revolving surface where it was batted out by a spreader tool. Another attendant fixed a plate mould to the machine head. The jiggerer took the clay bat and threw it onto the plate mould held in the revolving jigger head. He pulled down the machine arm with the profile tool fixed form the back. The face of the plate was formed by the mould itself. The mouldrunner took two made plates to the drying stove and brought empty moulds back. The third boy would back the plate, fettling and finishing it, making sure it was smooth all over.

In the 1880s Boulton produced a machine which could produce 12 plates at a time and ended the need to 'bat out' the clay which had been the heaviest part of the plate makers task. Machinery has continuously improved so that it is possible to have a fully automated plate making machine, using a revolving roller profile which both spreads the clay and gives the shape.

The blunger washes the clay and converts it to slip.
The blunger washes the clay and converts it to slip.
At one time this was an arduous manual job


Many potters started to install mechanised processes in their potworks - the blunger was one of them. William Boulton designed the blunger and patented it in 1874.

  A doctors report to the 1840 commission into child labour in pottery works stated:

" 'Slip making', or preparing the clay, is another unwholesome occupation. "The clay" is prepared by boiling the composition to a proper consistence on kilns, and during the process of evaporation, the room is filled with dense aqueous vapour. The men engaged in this branch suffer severely from winter cough and chronic bronchitis; and but few of them, if they survive, are able to perform much labour after the age of 60".

At one time the slip (liquid clay) which was now free of grit and impurities was converted back into useful clay for pottery manufacture by evaporating off the water.

William Boulton engineers produced a filter press, of the type shown above. This press quickly removed the water from the slip.


contents: 2009 adverts

Related Pages

Article on William Boulton in the 1881 edition of 'The Engineer'
Mr. William Boulton, Providence Foundry, Burslem - from an 1893 advertising and trade journal