Ceramics in Stoke-on-Trent 20th Century

Spode Factory in the 1920s

By the beginning of the 1900s, Stoke-on-Trent’s population had reached 240,000. The number and size of the pottery factories changed very little, with manufacturers tending to take over existing works rather than building new premises.


In the early 20th Century there were approximately 500 potworks, some employing between 100 and 400 workers. Larger potteries, such as Adams & Wood and Johnsons had several small potworks rather than a single larger site.

 

During the 19th century, each of the six towns appointed local commissioners responsible for services such as street improvements. From the middle years of the century local boards of health were appointed with greater responsibilities. Stoke became a borough in 1874, Hanley in 1857, Longton in 1865 and Burslem in 1878. Fenton and Tunstall were created Urban districs in 1894. This structure remained in place until 1910 when the towns joined to form the County Borough of Stoke-on-Trent. There has always been close rivalry between the six towns and this can be shown in the town halls that each town built. These are striking building, standing out amongst the terraced streets and potbanks, competing with other municipal and institutional buildings on the local landscape. It was not until 1924 that Stoke-on-Trent became a City.

 

In 1938 half the workforce of Stoke-on-Trent worked in pottery factories and 2000 bottle ovens were in use.

 

In 1952, the Clean Air Act changed the face of the pottery industry. Pollution has been a major problem in the Potteries because of the large number of bottle kilns bellowing out smoke. It was not uncommon for the sun to be virtually blacked out by the smoke and not surprisingly the area had a very high death rate associated with diseases of the lungs.

 

By 1958, the industry was highly concentrated in North Staffordshire. Of pottery workers in the country, 94% general eartenware workers worked in North Staffordshire. There were 298 pottery factories using 438 bottle kilns and 654 tunnel and other gas/electric kilns. By 1965 there no longer any bottle kilns in use.

 

In 1968, there were 62,000 people employed in the pottery industry in Stoke-on-Trent and by 1991 this had reduced to 22,500.

 

By the end of the millenium, Stoke-on-Trent had a population of just below 250,000 and there were still around 20,000 directly employed in the pottery industry and a further 20,000 in employed in allied industries.   

 

Information courtesy of The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery and Steven Birks at http://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