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Robert Plot 1640-96 - scientist & antiquary

Plot and pottery (9): the pottery kiln and firing time

In The Natural History of Stafford-shire (1686) Robert Plot gives an all too scant description (pp 123-4) of a 17th-century pottery kiln in Burslem, and the time taken to fire its contents:

'.. [the vessels] are carryed to the Oven which is ordinarily above 8 foot high, and about 6 foot wide, of a round copped forme,' ' In 24 hours an Oven of Pots willl [sic] be burnt, then they let the fire goe out by degrees which in 10 hours more will be perfectly done, ..' The form and size of the kiln would suggest a permanent structure that the potter could walk into to stack the wares. There is no mention of the brick structure, known as a 'hovel' which later enclosed the kiln, protecting it and the potter from the elements. It is the hovel which gives the characteristic 'bottle-oven' shape.'

No kilns of this date have been found in Burslem. In Hanley, another of the six towns of Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, two kilns were excavated thirty years ago. The Albion kiln is dated to 1690-1710; the Old Hall Street kiln is slightly later. (Both kilns are dated by the wares and vessel shapes (forms) present). Each kiln is thought to have been enclosed by a hovel, but the evidence is not conclusive.

The placing of pottery vessels
in the kiln

Plot and Pottery

Glossary of terms

Robert Plot: case study
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