Stoke-on-Trent - Potworks of the week

contents: 2011 photos

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Stoke-on-Trent street scene - c.1940's 

  • From the 18th century until the 1960s, bottle ovens were the dominating feature of the Staffordshire Potteries. There were over two thousand of them standing at any one time and they could be seen everywhere one looked.

  • Some small factories had only one bottle oven, other large potbanks had as many as twenty-five.

  • Within a factory ovens were not situated according to any set plan. They might be grouped around a cobbled yard or placed in a row. Sometimes they were built into the workshops with the upper part of the chimney protruding through the roof.

  • No two bottle ovens were exactly alike. They were all built according to the whim of the builder or of the potbank owner.



Stoke-on-Trent street scene - c.1940's

typical Stoke-on-Trent street scene c.1940's ....
home, pub and pottery works on opposing corners of the street


"The pottery manufactories known locally as "potbanks" - have nothing big about them, no six-storey factories or towering chimneys. You see no huge warehouses, no high public buildings. ....

It resembles no other industrial area I know. I was at once repelled and fascinated by its odd appearance. Perhaps it was all the more curious to me because, being a Yorkshire-man, when I see so much grimy evidence of toil, I also expect to see the huge dark boxes of factories and the immensely tall chimneys with which I am so familiar. 

...... there were no tall chimneys, no factory buildings frowning above the streets; but only a fantastic collection of narrow-necked jars or bottles peeping above the house-tops on every side, looking as if giant biblical characters, after a search for oil or wine, had popped them there, among the dwarf streets. These, of course, are the pottery kilns and ovens, which are usually tall enough to be easily seen above the rows of cottage houses. 

I never got used to their odd appearance, never quite recovered from my first wild impression of them as some monstrous Oriental intrusion upon an English industrial area. But without these great bottles of heat, there would be no Potteries. They represent the very heart and soul of the district, as you very soon learn;"

J B Priestley, English Journey




contents: 2011 photos




related pages 

Postcards of bottle kilns in Stoke-on-Trent

How the bottle kilns works

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