Phil Crow ABIPP is a photographer based in Lincoln, UK

The Bottle Ovens and Bottle Kilns of Stoke On Trent

Stoke on Trent 1933
Stoke on Trent 1933 ©Historic England

Here is a picture of Stoke in 1933. Why have I posted this? Well, Coronation Pottery that’s circled on the map used to be my family’s business going back 2 generations. As you can see, there are two bottle ovens and two [smaller] bottle kilns within the works.

Back then it was known as the Victoria Works: James Robinson, Edward James Leadbeater and Robert Leason established the Victoria Pottery Company in 1882 and occupied premises at the Victoria Works on Lonsdale Street, Stoke-on-Trent. Robert Leason left the business in 1883 and the company continued only to c.1889. The Victoria Works was later renamed Coronation Pottery.  [Part of an article from]

Later owned by a family called Spares, then bought by my Grandad Crow (based in London) and managed by my other grandfather, Ernest Frost. Because of The Clean Air Act of 1956, the ovens and kilns were eventually knocked down and replaced by 2 electric kilns. 

The wares produced were stamped either ‘Coronation Pottery’ or ‘Viola’ (after my Grandmother, Violet Frost)

In the 1960’s, Coronation Pottery stopped producing pottery and became a cash and carry warehouse still trading under the same name until Dad retired in the mid 1980’s when he sold the place. Times have changed as you will see on the next picture!

Stoke on Trent 2021
Stoke on Trent 2021 ©Google Maps

I’ve tried to be as accurate with this comparison as I can. When The Clean Air Act of 1956 came into force, that was the end of the Bottle Kilns and by the mid 1960’s they were all but decommissioned and demolished. Only a handful now survive. Of the 47 surviving kilns, less that 10 are conserved despite them all being Grade 2 listed buildings.

Over the last year I have had to make many trips to Stoke to visit my Mum in hospital, then in a care home and finally at Bradwell Crematorium to say farewell. To cope with all that was happening I took some comfort in visiting as many sites of these iconic buildings as I could and I think I’m going to have to visit and photograph the lot. 

Some of my images have been posted to Instagram, so here’s a few more with a lot more to come. The thing is, what to do with the pictures once I’ve ticked them all off… 🤔

Acme Marls site, Burslem
Acme Marls site in Burslem. Three downdraught bottle ovens. Inside the hovel, this shows the doorway, or clammins to the kiln. Just large enough to allow a man with a saggar on his head to pass through to stack the kiln for firing
Falcon Works, Stoke
Falcon Works, Stoke. A pair of updraught bottle ovens. A superb site for a visitors centre right next to the Portmerion factory but the idea was abandoned in 2011 [by Portmerion]and the land was sold to a company called Connexa.
Top Bridge Works bottle kiln
Top Bridge Works (Price & Kensington Factory), Burslem. Originally there were seven bottle kilns on this site. This basic updraft kiln was built about 1830
Dudsons, Hanley. Photography by Phil Crow
Dudsons in Hanley was originally founded in 1800. The firing chamber has been removed and the shell of this bottle oven has been utilised as a visitors centre/museum. There were 2 other ovens on this site with their positions still marked out in the courtyard.
Roslyn Works, Longton. Photography by Phil Crow
Roslyn Works, Longton: Part of the Gladstone Pottery Museum complex, these two updraught bottle ovens were built circa 1856
Fountain Works, James Kent. Photography by Phil Crow
"Fountain Works" - Known locally as “Salt, Pepper & Vinegar” these three flint calcining kilns have been preserved and are well looked after by the James Kent Group.
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