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Robert Plot 1640-96 - scientist & antiquary

Plot and pottery (8): the placing of pottery vessels in the kiln

In The Natural History of Stafford-shire (1686) Robert Plot gives a precise description (pp 123-4) of how pots were placed in the kiln for firing:

'.. [the vessels] are placed one upon another from the bottom to the top: if they be ordinary wares such as cylindricall Butter-pots &c. that are not leaded, they are exposed to the naked fire, and so is all their flat ware though it be leaded, haveing only parting-shards. i.e. thin bits of old pots put between them, to keep them from sticking together: But if they be leaded hollow-wares, they doe not expose them to the naked fire, but put them in shragers, that is, in course metall'd pots, made of marle (not clay) of divers formes according as their wares require, in which they put commonly 3 pieces of clay called Bobbs for the ware to stand on, to keep it from sticking to the Shragers; as they put them in the Shragers to keep them from sticking to one another (which they would certainly otherwise doe by reason of the leading) and to preserve them from the vehemence of the fire, which else would melt them downe, or at least warp them.' (Plot 1686 pp 123-4).

Here the wares referred to include Midlands Purple butter pots, coarse marl saggars ('shragers'), slipwares (flat and hollow wares), blackware and mottled ware hollow wares. The technique of stacking wares in the kiln uses broken sherds of pottery and pre-formed clay 'bobs'. Plot's statements have been born out by archaeologists examining 17th-century pottery production waste from Burslem.

Close-up of stacking scars on a Staffordshire press-moulded slipware plate

Close-up of stacking scars on a Staffordshire press-moulded slipware plate
showing that two such plates were fired back-to-back

Glazing the vessels

Plot and Pottery

The pottery kiln and firing time

Robert Plot: case study
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