Ceramics in Stoke-on-Trent 19th Century

Burleigh Works Sign

By 1800 the pottery industry was well established and expanding, with over 300 potworks in north Staffordshire. The majority were in the town centres but more were being built alongside the area’s roads and canals. The transport system was further improved by tramways linking collieries, canals and roads. The railway arrived in Stoke-on-Trent in 1848 and the canal was gradually supplanted. This, in turn, offered greater flexibility for the location of potworks.


With the expansion of the industry greater consideration was given to the design and construction of the pottery factories. Fire-proofing became an issue and more potworks were built with tiled roofing replacing the original thatching method. Buildings constructed of brick and tiles were typical of this period. Potworks generally consisted of warehouses, workshops, a dipping house, saggar house, plate house, a packing house and kilns. 

 

Experts calculate that in the heyday there were up to 4,000 bottle kilns in the area. These bottle kilns created a permanent haze of smoke and pollution over the area. The pollution which they produced and the detrimental effect on the workers' health, is well known. Pottery workers lived close to their workplace. Women and young children all worked in the industries and it was not until 1898 that any restriction on age was introduced into the pottery industry. Ill health was widespread with diseases like 'potter's rot' caused by the use of lead glazes and respiratorey disease was the largest cause of death.

 

Visitors to Gladstone Pottery Museum can take an authentic trip back in time to this period, in the midst of the thriving pottery industry. The only complete Victorian Pottery Factory in Stoke-on-Trent to remain; it is accurately reminiscent of a typical pottery factory in the Stoke-on-Trent area and shows what working conditions were like for the men, women and children working in a factory, complete with bottle kilns and a cobbled yard. Visit the Doctor’s House, which is a replica of what a Doctors surgery would have looked like in the 1890’s. This part of the museum shows the illnesses that were common amongst factory workers in the past, and the unusual health advice Doctors would give to deal with their symptoms.

 

At its peak in the late 19th century the region was the epicentre of the world’s ceramic production, home to more than 2,000 kilns firing millions of products a year.

 

Information courtesy of The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery and Steven Birks at www.thepotteries.org

 

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Discover more about the history of ceramics in Stoke-on-Trent by visiting our fantastic museums:

The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery

Stoke-on-Trent

Discover the world famous Staffordshire Hoard along with the history of the Potteries, including the world's greatest collection of Staffordshire Ceramics. See a Spitfire and all sorts of art and craft.

 
 
 
The Works

Stoke-on-Trent

Described as the worlds best kept secret, a visit will reveal Moorcroft's unique handcrafted, quality, collectable art pottery. Factory tours, shopping, museum and bottle oven come together creating an unforgettable experience.

 
 
 
The Dudson Museum

Stoke-on-Trent

Discover the 213 year history of the oldest surviving family business in the ceramic tableware industry. Explore the original Dudson factory courtyard and bottle oven housing a wonderful collection of Dudson pottery.

 
 
 
World of Wedgwood

Stoke-on-Trent

10% off admission and purchases

The World of Wedgwood, a unique visitor experience celebrating the very best of British industrial and design heritage. Experience Wedgwood for the day through shopping, food and visitor tours.

 
 
 
Gladstone Pottery Museum

Stoke-on-Trent

The only complete Victorian pottery factory with original workshops, huge bottle ovens, cobbled yard, tile gallery, Doctor's House and Flushed with Pride - the story of the toilet. Visit the gift shop for handmade pottery,books and gifts.

 
 
 
Spode Works Visitor Centre

Stoke-on-Trent

A fascinating exhibition at Josiah Spode's former pottery, the birthplace of bone china, in the setting of a historic building. There are films, activities, stories of the factory, the workers and the everyday and amazing things they made

 
 
The Ceramics Trail