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.

more here>

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