Gladstone Pottery, Longton's complete Victorian potbank, was rescued in 1971 just as bulldozers were set to move in. It is now an internationally renowned, multi-award winning and unique museum of the Stoke-on-Trent Pottery Industry. The entire collection of Gladstone Pottery Museum is a Designated Collection of national importance.

At the site, five magnificent and towering coal-fired bottle ovens still stand. Each can be explored, as can the cobbled potbank yard, the steam engine and sliphouse, the saggar making shop and the potters shops with live demonstrations. The galleries of sanitaryware, tiles and pottery colour give an insight into the complex and fascinating industry of The Potteries.

You can rest up in the tea shop for a break before you finish your visit exploring the souvenir shop packed with goodies. If you're planning a visit to The Potteries then you should go to Gladstone Pottery Museum before you do anything else.

This blog was created to recognise the remarkable achievements of Gladstone Working Pottery Museum during the forty years since it was opened officially by The Duke of Gloucester on 24th April 1975. The jewel in The Potteries Crown.

The beginnings of Gladstone?

1964  A germ of an idea 

In October 1964 Reginald G Haggar wrote to the Pottery Gazette and Glass Trade Review with his visionary thoughts about preserving a potbank for the benefit of future generations.

The editor of the magazine wrote  "In our news pages, Mr. Reginald Haggar, well-known author and artist, makes an impassioned plea for preservation of the historical Potteries in the form of bottle ovens (“beautiful”) and even a whole factory as a complete industrial museum. Those of us who love the area with all its character and idiosyncrasies would back his plea, and hope that something can be done to preserve the old, whilst acknowledging the benefit of modern methods in present-day production of the Six Towns.’

Here>   is Mr. Haggar's letter in full.  
The germ of an idea and the beginnings of Gladstone Pottery Museum.

What there is to see here>





One of its busiest days!



Gladstone Pottery Museum is gearing up for one of its busiest days of the year - free admission on Saturday 12th September 2015 for Heritage Open Day.

Gladstone is the only complete Victorian pottery factory from the days when coal burning ovens made the world's finest bone china. Traditional skills, original workshops, the cobbled yard and huge bottle ovens transport visitors back in time.

Please allow at least two hours for your visit.

Gladstone Pottery Museum, Uttoxeter Road, Longton, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, ST3 1PQ

LONGTON HISTORY WALK
There will be a Longton History walk with local historian and volunteer at 1400 on Saturday. Pre-booking required for this guided tour Call: 01782 237777

MUSEUM OPENING TIMES
Saturday 12 September 2015
Museum 1000 - 1700

 See more here>

The museum is on the corner of Chadwick Street and Uttoxeter Road, with brown signs from all major routes into the town of Longton. We have a large free car park on Chadwick Street - to exit the car park you will need to collect a token from Reception. There is parking for Blue Badge holders at the very front of the museum next to the main gates at the entrance. If you need any help with directions please call us on 01782 237777 or email gladstone@stoke.gov.uk

New Exhibition for the Autumn

Stoke is famous for its pits & pots but who knew the secret history of Stoke Spiritualism? New exhibition at Gladstone Pottery Museum from 1 September to 31 October 2015.

"Most of our visitors know how important pits and pots are in the history of Stoke-on-Trent but in our new exhibition we're telling one of the untold stories of the everyday life of our city. 'Talking with the Dead - Spiritualism in Stoke-on-Trent' is an exhibition which looks at how the Spiritualist religion has played a significant role in Stoke-on-Trent’s history since 1870 and is free with admission in September and October. It has brought together memories, objects and photographs from three local spiritualist chuches, the Longton church being one of our neighbours. Whether you are a cynic, believer or just curious it offers an interesting look at a hidden past of out local area." From Creative Stoke - the official Facebook group here>  you will need to log in, I think


The Saggar Makers Bottom Knocker

There is a certain fascination about the old Potteries tradesman - The Saggar Makers Bottom Knocker.

What on earth did he (yes, it was definitely a male occupation) actually do?

Gladstone Pottery Museum, in Longton, Stoke-on-Trent is the only place in the world where you can learn about the saggar maker, his frame filler and his saggar makers bottom knocker.

It is here, tucked away in a corner of this remarkable multi-award winning museum (which according to the 'Visit England Awards 2015' it is amongst the top three visitor attractions in England) that you can walk right into the saggar making shop and see where the craft of saggar making took place.

Gladstone Pottery Museum Story - saggar making shop
photo : Phil Rowley 
Its a small workshop, packed with the tools of the saggar maker and his bottom knocker. An introductory video and well written descriptive posters describe why a typical Stoke potbank would employ such a team of dedicated craftsmen.

The craft of saggar making and of the Saggar Makers Bottom Knocker have long since gone except when occasionally, very occasionally, the traditional skills are revived by one man, Kevin Millward, who was taught how to do it.

Here is a great movie "MAU'ING THE SAGGAR". A film by Gerald Mee 1981 showing the process of saggar making by the late Ralph Wheeldon - one of the four last saggar makers at that time working at the Gladstone Pottery.



Read these interesting news articles about saggar making at Gladstone Pottery Museum here>

The opening of the Flushed with Pride Gallery, March 2002

Opening speech made by Terry Woolliscroft, representing the main sponors Twyford Bathrooms, Armitage Shanks and Thomas Crapper.


Thank you, Mr Bill Austin - my Lord Mayor.  Well, what a fantastic day this is! There were times, some years ago when we were in the planning stages, when we thought today might never happen. But here we are! It is happening. Excellent!

And thank you also, Hamish Wood, the Museum Manager, for asking me to say a few words.
And what better place to say them than here on the balcony just outside the new Sanitaryware Gallery ‘Flushed with Pride.’

Gladstone Pottery Museum Story - March 2002
Terry Woolliscroft represents the Sanitaryware Industry during the opening speeches

I'm here to represent the sanitaryware industry. There are two main players in sanitaryware production in the UK - that's Twyford Bathrooms and Armitage Shanks - there is also a smaller company called the Thomas Crapper Company, and these three companies have been major sponsors in the development of the new toilet galleries.

Did you know that together they've contributed almost £100,000 in artifacts, cash and sheer hard work. And I can safely say, on behalf of the industry, we're delighted to see the results here today.
Twyford Bathrooms was one of the very first industrial sponsors of Gladstone Pottery Museum when it opened way back in April 1975. In those early days the original sanitaryware gallery consisted almost entirely of the Twyford's Collection.

25 years ago that original sanitaryware gallery was put together for about £200 - a touch less than the £21.5 million affair we see today! And rather than the army of people that has worked on today's galleries, the original was assembled and curated almost single handedly by a very big friend of mine. She laid the foundations for the galleries and for today's event. Where is she? My big friend - the wife! Pam.

Gladstone Pottery Museum Story
Original Toilet Display  1980 Curated by Pam Woolliscroft

The new galleries really are really worth every penny, though, aren't they? Excellently designed and displayed it’s great to see how the sanitaryware industry has grown. How sanitation originated from its humble beginnings.  And it wasn’t so long ago was it? Just 120 years, its nothing in the history of mankind!



And we know we can put down the development of sanitation to just a few Victorian men. Here in Staffordshire, Thomas Twyford was one of them. A local chap, Potteries born and bred! And we can be proud of him.

His factory is still a major producer and employer in the Potteries. Around 3 million pieces of pottery go from our local factory every year. You know, I really do think it’s about time we created a statue of him in the City!

So today we open the excellent new sanitaryware gallery and congratulations to the Gladstone team for putting it all together.

It remains for me to say that it really has been a delight working with the team. The industry has cooperated like never before and I must thank Sam Woodberry of Armitage Shanks and Simon Kirby of the Thomas Crapper Company. It’s been a pleasure working with them. And many thanks go to Hamish Wood, and Angela Lee and the team here at Gladstone, and to Munroe Blair the local sanitaryware historian who did the "sense" checking.

And of course we shouldn't forget our Australian friend, Kellene Paull, who did much of the ground work for the displays.

So here we are the great day did arrive and we've now got the Official Civic Opening we longed for and we really can be Flushed with Pride!   Thank you.  more photos>

Beginnings

1964  Gladstone and a germ of an idea 

In October 1964 Reginald G Haggar wrote to the Pottery Gazette and Glass Trade Review with his visionary thoughts about preserving a potbank for the benefit of future generations.

The editor of the magazine wrote  "In our news pages, Mr. Reginald Haggar, well-known author and artist, makes an impassioned plea for preservation of the historical Potteries in the form of bottle ovens (“beautiful”) and even a whole factory as a complete industrial museum. Those of us who love the area with all its character and idiosyncrasies would back his plea, and hope that something can be done to preserve the old, whilst acknowledging the benefit of modern methods in present-day production of the Six Towns.’

Here is Mr. Haggar's letter in full.  
The germ of an idea and the beginnings of Gladstone Pottery Museum.



Gladstone hosts the Fifth Longton Beer Festival

The multi-award winning Gladstone Pottery Museum, which is now recognised as among the top three visitor attractions in England, played host to the 5th Annual Longton Beer Festival

The beer festival took place in the unique setting of the yard of Gladstone Pottery Museum on the evenings of Thursday 2nd, Friday 3rd and Saturday 4th July 2015. Admission to the event cost £5 and this included a souvenir beer tankard.

The following groups played:
Thursday 2nd Greg Murray and the seven wonders
Friday 3rd       Moitessier
Saturday 4th        The Maxxx
Stoke Soul Club provided DJ support on all three evenings

The event sold out on the Friday and Saturday evenings.  Another stunning success for the museum, its staff and volunteers



Gladstone Pottery Museum - Longton Beer Festival 1st Night - 2nd July 2015
photos: Phil Rowley

Gladstone Pottery Museum - Longton Beer Festival 3rd night - 4th July 2015
photos: Pam Woolliscroft
Gladstone Pottery Museum - Longton Beer Festival 3rd night - 4th July 2015
photos: Pam Woolliscroft



Gladstone on Prime Time BBC TV

Six celebrities travelled back in time to the relentless graft of Victorian Britain when they spent 24 hours amidst the bottle ovens of Gladstone Pottery Museum in the BBC TV programme "24 Hours in the Past."

Alistair McGowan, Ann Widdecombe, Miquita Oliver, Zoe Lucker, Tyger Drew-Honey and Colin Jackson had ovens to keep alight, clay to prep and pots to make in the show which was broadcast on 12 May 2015.

 The show boosted visitor numbers at the museum.






Have Your Say about the future of Gladstone Pottery Museum

ONE OF THE TOP THREE VISITOR ATTRACTIONS IN ENGLAND - NOW UNDER THREAT?

Stoke-on-Trent City Council has decided to make savings by moving its Sport & Leisure Services and its Museums & Culture Services out to a Community Interest Company (CIC) or a Charitable Trust, either separately or together.

Obviously, Sport & Leisure Services are very different from Museums.  Each have very different audiences, needs and aims. Unlike Sport & Leisure, Museums have their emphasis on education, families, serving the local communities and heritage tourism.


Many would like the Museums & Culture Service to stay with the City Council. But if the City is determined to move it off their books then those in the know prefer the Charitable Trust option.

The Friends of the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery (which includes Gladstone Pottery Museum) are 'wholly unconvinced' that the CIC is the right vehicle for Stoke's Museums.  The Friends Council would prefer to see the establishment of a Charitable Trust because of the significant benefits which the option offers in terms of access to gift aid and philanthropic giving.

MORE INFORMATION?

  • You can find out more in this link, and if you agree, then you might like to sign the petition.  
  • You can also have your say directly with the Stoke City Council here>
  • If you are Twitter fan you may wish to use the hashtag #trust4Gladstone

Consultations finish on 31 May 2015

One of the TOP THREE visitor attractions in England!

Gladstone Pottery Museum has been officially named one of the best places to visit in England.

The  Museum picked up a bronze award for ‘Small Visitor Attraction of the Year’ in the 2015 Visit England Awards for Excellence.



At an awards ceremony in Gateshead on 11 May 2015 Angela Lee (Museum Manager) and Nerys Williams (Audience Development Officer) received the Bronze Award.   The VisitEngland Awards for Excellence are the most prestigious awards in English tourism.

THREE YEARS = THREE AWARDS  
Gladstone Pottery Museum picked up a gold award for ‘Small Visitor Attraction of the Year’ in 2013 and again a year later in 2014, in the Enjoy Staffordshire Tourism Awards.

So now its official:  Gladstone Pottery Museum is one of the top three small visitor attractions in England. Still winning accolades and awards after 40 years!



http://www.stokesentinel.co.uk/Museum-pots/story-26497718-detail/story.html 

There’s a man in reception with a pot!

The story behind a picture in the 1986 Museum Brochure.
From Pam Woolliscroft (nee Bott)


One day, working at Gladstone Pottery Museum as a young curator in the late 1970s, I received an internal phone call from my boss, David Sekers, the Museum Director.

Originally, the museum was not going to establish a collection of ceramic objects - the preserved buildings and the demonstrations of pottery skills were its objectives. But people were so enamoured by this wonderful new museum they kept arriving with items to donate, loan or simply enquire about. So I instigated a system of receipts for any items coming into the museum for whatever reason and had nagged everyone not just to accept items willy nilly.

I answered the phone and David said “Bring your receipt book. There's a man in reception with a pot.”

Working in an industrial museum can be a grimy occupation so quite often I was to be found in a brown all-in-one boiler suit, purchased from the local market and adapted to fit. I was in the middle of some practical job or other when the call came, so I grabbed my receipt book and still dressed in the boiler suit dashed downstairs so that I could make a quick receipt and get back to the work I was doing.

Arriving in reception David Sekers proceeded to introduce me to no less than Sir William Gladstone of Hawarden Castle!

He was holding a huge and most wonderful pot - the pâte sur pâte 'Gladstone' vase made by Brown Westhead & Co. which he was presenting to the museum as a loan.

Gladstone Pottery Museum Story - The Gladstone Vase*

I was embarrassed but also amused; and David was telling the truth when he said 'There's a man in reception with a pot'.

I learnt a valuable lesson, and from then on wore clothes which could adapt from scruffy, grimy work in a museum store or preparing an exhibition, to a quick addition of a jacket to see visitors of all sorts at a moment's notice - useful, as I have always worked in industrial museums or dusty environments in the museums I was employed in after leaving Gladstone.

*The Gladstone Vase. One of the great achievements of the Victorian Potters. The central frieze is of pate-sur pate, the most expensive from of ceramic decoration, created by building up successive layers of bone china to make a translucent cameo effect. This unique vase presented by ‘a few Liberals of Burslem’ to the Rt. Hon. W.E. Gladstone in 1888 was made by Brown Westhead and Co.

More here about Brown Westhead and Co. > http://www.thepotteries.org/potworks_wk/058.htm 


The Official Opening and those photos

The opening day photos - why and how they were taken
from Pam Woolliscroft (nee Bott)

There was great excitement when the staff at Gladstone Pottery Museum heard that The Duke of Gloucester was going to open the first phase of this new and ground breaking working pottery museum in 1975.

A lot of work went in to getting the museum looking perfect for the event. And after last minute touches everyone was prepared to welcome this special visitor. In our best clothes (1970s style!) the team of staff waited its turn to be presented, as rehearsed, to the Duke.


But he spent so much time looking around the museum that the event ran late. He left for his special lunch, in the Potter's Club in Federation House in Stoke, without us even meeting him.

We had missed out on our special handshake and meeting with the Duke.

Seeing our disappointment, after all our hard work and anticipation, our boss, David Sekers, the Museum Director, was not accepting this. In a flash, a plan was devised and we were swiftly transported to Stoke from the Museum.

On arrival at Federation House we were lined up to be introduced and shake hands with a slightly bewildered Duke who was then allowed to go for his lunch!

Left to right : Pam Bott (shaking hands with The Duke of Glouscester), Sally Cole, who is this? who is this?,
Alma Scarratt, and, far right, David Sekers, Museum Director making the introductions.

Left to right: Pam Bott, David Sekers, Sally Cole, who is this? Hilda Woodward (with cigarette),
Lady Mayoress (?), Lord Mayor, Alma Scarratt, Audrey Taylor, who is this? and Muffi Fox, far right.




Over 1000 visitors to Gladstone's 40th Birthday Bash

On Saturday 25 April 2015 over 1000 visitors passed through the museum's doors to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of its official opening.


Almost 40 industry skills had been gathered for the event by the two organisers, Paul Niblett and Fred Greasley, both of whom had worked voluntarily at the Gladstone Works museum since 1972.

At a special reception during the day the Museum Manager, Angela Lee, asked the specially invited VIPs (who included the first Museum Director, David Sekers) to congratulate themselves with a hearty round of applause for the tremendous work they had all put in to make the award winning museum such a success - now nominated as one of the top five visitor attractions in England.

More photos here>
News from The Sentinel 26 April 2015  here>

Gladstone's Ruby Anniversary of the Official Opening





The 40th Anniversary of the 
Royal Opening by The Duke of Gloucester

Saturday 25 April  2015
50 pence Admission - just like 40 years ago!
Free Parking

Officially one of the top five tourist attractions in England

THE MULTI-AWARD WINNING
Gladstone Pottery Museum, 
Uttoxeter Road, Longton, Stoke-on-Trent, ST3 1PQ
01782 237777       stoke.gov.uk/museum



Celebrate Ceramics in Stoke! The 40th Anniversary of the Royal opening!



Celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Royal Opening
by The Duke of Gloucester

40 potter's skills to see
plus all the usual, and unique, museum galleries

Officially one of the top five tourist attractions in England

Don't miss it!  25 April  10:30 - 16:00
50p Admission - just like 40 years ago!

THE MULTI-AWARD WINNING
Gladstone Pottery Museum, 
Uttoxeter Road, Longton, Stoke-on-Trent, ST3 1PQ
01782 237777       stoke.gov.uk/museum

(BREAKING NEWS and many Apologies: 
Poppy Making will not be demonstrated after all. The artist will not allow us to show it. Sad but true.)



The Great Attraction

Stoke's museum of The Potteries, Gladstone Pottery Museum, is now, officially, one of the top five small tourist attractions in England! How good is that? Here's a bunch of hand made bone china flowers, made at Gladstone in Longton, Stoke-on-Trent, to celebrate.

BUT is it really true that Stoke City Council want to get rid of it? www.stoke.gov.uk/haveyoursay


Gladstone Pottery Museum - bone china flowers made on the premises
photo: Phil Rowley

Big Event 25th April 2015


10.30 till 4.00pm   Demonstrations of 40 Pottery Skills. 
Special admission price of 50p, just like it was in 1975 when the museum was officially opened by The Duke of Gloucester.

THE MULTI-AWARD WINNING
Gladstone Pottery Museum, 
Uttoxeter Road, Longton, Stoke-on-Trent, ST3 1PQ
01782 237777
stoke.gov.uk/museum

Finalist : The VisitEngland Awards for Excellence 2015

Finalist : The VisitEngland Awards for Excellence 2015

Many congratulations go to Gladstone Pottery Museum who have been announced as finalists in the shortlist for this year’s VisitEngland Awards for Excellence, Small Visitor Attraction of the Year

2015 Awards Ceremony – 11th May, Sage Gateshead
The Awards Ceremony is the climax of the whole VisitEngland Awards for Excellence competition. By making it to the Ceremony all finalists will have demonstrated that they are the very best of English Tourism.

The Ceremony celebrates success and excellence and is a showcase for England's fabulous tourism products. Above all it provides finalists with a moment of well-deserved glory which can be used to market, promote and improve their businesses still further.

The Finalists : Small Visitor Attraction of the Year

  • Gladstone Pottery Museum Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire 
  • Owl & Monkey Haven, Newport, Isle of Wight 
  • Stott Park Bobbin Mill Ulverston, Cumbria
  • Topsail Charters Ltd Maldon, Essex 
  • World of James Herriot Thirsk, North Yorkshire 
Gladstone Pottery Museum picked up a gold award for ‘Small Visitor Attraction of the Year’ in 2013 and again a year later in 2014, in the Enjoy Staffordshire Tourism Awards.

So now its official:  Gladstone Pottery Museum Story is one of the top five small visitor attractions in England. Still winning accolades and awards after 40 years! 


The Origins of Gladstone Pottery Museum

1974
The idea of making a Living Industrial Museum in the Potteries was given a major impetus by the circumstances which had changed the face of Stoke-on-Trent within a decade - slum clearance, the reclamation of derelict land and major reconstruction.

Bottle ovens, once the most characteristic feature of Stoke’s landscape, still numbered more than a thousand after the war. But by 1964 only about two hundred were left. Today less than fifty remain.

Gladstone Pottery Museum Story
Huge ovens dominate the cobbled yard of Gladstone Pottery Museum

It was during the 60s and early 70s that some City planners and Museum officials had the foresight to conduct surveys of some of the older remaining factory sites with a view to considering whether some of them could or should be conserved. The Gladstone Works in Longton was high up on the list but in March 1971 it became evident that the buildings were to be demolished and it was only at the eleventh hour, when the bulldozers were about to move in, that the site was saved.

H. & R. Johnson-Richards Tiles Ltd under their Managing Director Derek Johnson,  provided the money to buy the site; immediately thereafter the Trust was formed which was destined to plan and finance and administer the Living Museum on the site. In September 1972 the Title Deeds of the Gladstone Works were formally handed over to the Trust.

The plan was to restore the Gladstone Works so that future generations should come and see the old bottle ovens, and learn how this major industry developed here in Stoke-on-Trent. It would be a working museum, where methods of manufacturing pottery would be daily demonstrated to visitors.

Edited from the Gladstone Souvenir Brochure  more>


40th Anniversay of The Royal Opening

Not many can boast of  TWO  40th Anniversaries - but Gladstone Pottery Museum can! The museum first opened to the public in August 1974 for a 'trial period' . Over the winter of 1974/5 the museum was closed for more restoration work and for the development of galleries. Then on 24th April 1975 the museum was opened again, but this time by Royalty - The Duke of Gloucester.

So we have enjoyed not one but two celebrations for Gladstone's 40th Birthday. Beat that!

Gladstone Pottery Museum Story

Gladstone Pottery Museum Story

Gladstone Pottery Museum Story

The Gladstone Pottery Museum Story

The Gladstone Pottery Museum Story - the fascinating heritage of the Working Pottery Museum, in Longton, Stoke-on-Trent, which was opened by The Duke of Gloucester on 24 April 1975.

This was one of the first museums, in the world, to embrace the 'working museum' concept, and was a major pioneer in UK museums.

Forty years on, and as busy as ever, Gladstone Working Pottery Museum is a major visitor attraction in the UK.  It is the 'Jewel in the Crown' of  The Potteries.

A museum for all of the Potteries, not a just one Potbank.

Unique with its 5 bottle ovens and cobbled yard. Steam engine and sliphouse, saggar making shop, tile gallery, toilet gallery, potters shops, colour gallery, mould store, and Victorian offices.



More movies  here>

Gladstone celebrates its official 40th Anniversary with a never-seen-before-display of 40 skills in a major event curated by Paul Niblett and Fred Greasley, volunteers at Gladstone since 1971.

25 April 2015

See the saggar makers bottom knocker, the brick maker, the encaustic tile maker, the clog maker, the flower makers and throwers, the scraffito potter, the jiggerer and jolleyer and much much more  here>

Don't miss it!


Gladstone Pottery Museum Story


Staffordshire Film Archive - special screening 15 April 2015

Gladstone Pottery Museum Story

Special screenings of archive films of Gladstone Pottery Museum
15 April 2015 at Stoke Film Theatre  here>

The Staffordshire Film Archive was founded and developed by Ray Johnson and is housed at Staffordshire University – forming one of the Special Collections. In addition to the original archive films collected, there are many hours of complementary video material generated by Ray to inform and enhance the period films – location filming, interviews, relevant visual materials and complete documentary video productions.

All SFA screenings are free of charge and start at 7.45pm unless otherwise stated.

Please note that seats cannot be reserved - arrive early to avoid disappointment.

For more details please visit the SFA website   here>

Gladstone Forty-Fied

Gladstone Pottery Museum Story - Forty History
The Gladstone Pottery Museum Story - Forty-Fied
The first Forty Years of Gladstone Working Pottery Museum
Celebrating  40 Years with 40 Skills
The Gladstone Pottery Museum Story

Saturday 25 April 2015

It's a one off  |  DON'T MISS IT

Check out the skills on show here>

Operation Bottle

The survey of the remaining bottle ovens in The Potteries 1976

On 22 November 1975 and over the winter of 1975-76 a team of volunteers from 'North Staffs Junior Chamber' and Gladstone Working Pottery Museum set about surveying the last remaining bottle ovens in The Potteries. There were exactly 60 on the list. The basis of the survey was a questionaire prepared by David Sekers, Director of Gladstone Pottery Museum.

The team's leader was Frank Galbraith, Former Chairman, Community Development Commission, North Staffs Junior Chamber.

Gladstone Pottery Museum StoryAll of the remaining ovens in The Potteries were identified, owners contacted and permission sought to photograph and measure them in as much detail a possible. The survey was concluded in May 1976. The final report was deposited at Gladstone Pottery Museum in Longton. more>

Last Bottle Oven Firing 1978

For three centuries, Staffordshire pottery has been coal fired in hundreds of 'bottle ovens.' Since the Second World War, they have been replaced by cleaner, gas, oil or electric kilns. The Gladstone Pottery Museum now preserves the sole surviving group of four majestic ovens together with one small ‘enamel’ kiln. They will never be fired again. The Clean Air Acts, and their delicate condition prevent it.

But in August 1978, with around 12 tons of local coal, a group of increasingly elderly men who still possessed the stamina and the skills required, together with a massive team of (younger) volunteers and staff from Gladstone Pottery Museum, organised the Last Bottle Oven Firing.

Gladstone Pottery Museums Story History

This was the last firing, ever, of a traditional coal fired oven, in the traditional and time-honoured way, at the nearby Hudson and Middleton Works. The whole process took 8 days - actually much longer than for a commercial oven firing - and was recorded on film for posterity.

The mastermind behind the project was David Sekers, Museum Director at the time.  The Fireman responsible for the event was Alfred Clough, the local master potter and retired pottery manufacturer.

The Last Bottle Oven Firing was just part of the many and exciting years which make up The Gladstone Pottery Museum Story.  more>

What is a bottle oven?

The Potbank and its Bottle Oven
A bottle oven is a large bottle-shaped structure, built from brick, in which pottery was fired. It most commonly consists of two main parts, an outer and an inner.

The outer, which is the bottle shaped part, is known as the hovel. This could be up to 70 feet high. The hovel acted as a chimney taking away the smoke, creating draught and protecting the oven inside from the weather and uneven draughts.

The inner part is the oven proper. It is a round structure with a domed roof, the crown, and its walls are approximately 1 foot thick. Iron bands, known as bonts, run right round the circular oven about 12" apart to strengthen it as it expands and contracts during firing. A doorway, the clammins, just large enough for a man with a saggar on his head to pass through, is built into the oven surrounded by a stout iron frame.

Around the base are firemouths - the exact number depends on the size of the oven - in which fires were lit for the firing. Inside the oven, over each firemouth, is a bag which carries some of the heat from the fire into the oven, like a small chimney.

Flues underneath the floor of the oven leading from each firemouth distribute the heat throughout the inside. In the centre of the oven floor is the well hole.

Gladstone Pottery Museum Story
The cobbled yard and three of its towering ovens
at Gladstone Working Pottery Museum
Pottery may need to be fired several times during its manufacture and different ovens were needed for each type of firing so, depending on the output of each factory, a single works could have anything from one to 25 ovens.

Within a factory, ovens were not situated to any set plan. They may have been grouped around a cobbled yard or in a row. Sometimes they were built in to the workshops with the upper part of the hovel protruding through the roof. The stack of such ovens was usually built on the shoulder of the oven itself.   more here>

Gladstone Working Pottery Museum is unique. It has four huge bottle ovens in the cobbled yard and one smaller enamelling kiln away from the hustle and bustle of the works. Nowhere else has a Victorian Potbank of this quality been preserved. The skyline of Stoke -on Trent in 1939 was dotted with 2000 bottle ovens. Today in 2015 there are 46 - 5 of them (more than 10%) are preserved at Gladstone.

Getting the Show on the Road

Getting the Show on the Road
Personal recollection by David Sekers, first Museum Director 

"My job as Museum Director was to get the show on the road, and make the museum financially viable as quickly as possible. The priority was of course the conservation of the historic fabric, including the majestic bottle ovens. Then  (with John Bedford as designer) to plan and install displays.  In particular I was charged with establishing demonstrations of manufacturing processes, with a view to marketing the products as souvenirs.

Gladstone Pottery Museum Story
We suffered unforeseen delays with the restoration work (the gable end of the warehouse block was unstable); and the three day week in the early months of 1974 added to initial difficulties; so the opening was delayed until August 20.

By then we had a new gas kiln and an agreement to make traditional Staffordshire figures under license. The site was transformed by the arrival of the pioneers teams of  volunteers; and the main attraction was watching the demonstrators, David Rooke, Hilda Morris, Mrs Goodwin and Mrs Birks. Largely due to them, visitors from the start seemed to enjoy learning about  the unique personality and character of the Potteries."   more here>

A germ of an idea

A germ of an idea  
In 1964 Reginald G Haggar wrote to the important Pottery Gazette and Glass Trade Review with his visionary thoughts about preserving a potbank for the benefit of future generations. This was the beginning of the Gladstone Pottery Museum Story.

Gladstone Pottery Museum Story History
Reginald Haggar

"Sir — The Potteries as some of us knew it 30 years ago is fast disappearing. The distinctive architecture of the Potteries towns, the bottle oven, is almost a thing of the past. The two or three thousand which existed then are now reduced to a couple of hundred or less, and, of these, not more than a score are still in operation.

It does not seem to be realised what beautiful things these bottle ovens were, the astonishing variety of contour, the queer and unusual bulges that resulted from the excess of heat, the varied manner of construction, the shaping of the neck and the almost battlemented edge. Some were heavily corsetted, others still graceful spinsterish affairs which seemed so virginal as never to have trafficked with clay or fire.

You might come across a large nest of them at a street corner, or perhaps a lone slender cone at the end of a backyard. Now most of these have gone and the atmosphere is the cleaner and healthier for it.

For many years some of us have been urging the preservation not merely of an oven or two but of a whole factory which might be renovated and transformed into a live Potteries industrial museum and in which it might be possible for future generations to see how pots were made and decorated and fired in the days of Astbury and Whieldon and Wedgwood and Spode. There they would see some of the original machines and tools and equipment. They would see also the astonishing variety of Potteries products, for in such a museum with its original warehouses it would be possible to display on a generous scale the prototypes of industry, moulds, models and machinery, and unusual pieces. One room might be used to house one example of every article made in this so diversified an industry.

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Welcome to The Gladstone Pottery Museum Story

Welcome to The Gladstone Pottery Museum Story - celebrating the long and fascinating history of the Working Pottery Museum, in Longton, Stoke-on-Trent which opened, officially, on 24 April 1975. This was one of the first museums, in the world, to embrace the 'working museum' concept, and was a major pioneer in UK museums.

Forty years later, and as busy as ever, Gladstone Working Pottery Museum is a major visitor attraction in the UK and is one of the 'Jewels in the Crown' of  The Potteries.


Gladstone Pottery Museum Story

The Gladstone Pottery Museum Story