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 Since the Second World War, they have been replaced by cleaner, gas, oil or electric kilns.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.
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>