Category Archives: Pottery Industry

Aikin’s Tunstall

Aikin’s Tunstall is an edited extract from Dr John Aikin’s book A Description of the Country from Thirty to Forty Miles Round Manchester which was published in 1795.

Tunstall in 1795

Tunstall is the pleasantest village in The Potteries. It stands on high ground and commands pleasing views of the surrounding countryside. Its factories make high-quality ware which is sold in large quantities. There was formerly a church in the town, and human remains have been found buried there although no trace of either the church or the bones exists today. A neat chapel has been built recently. There are a considerable number of brick and tile works. The local clay is ideal for making bricks and tiles. Tiles made from local clay are as blue and look as good on house roofs as moderate slate. Tunstall is four miles from Newcastle-under-Lyme and nine miles from Congleton. The turnpike road from Lawton to Newcastle passes through the town. Another turnpike road starts in Tunstall and ends at Bosley in Cheshire.

The illustration shows Tunstall Windmill and the courthouse that housed Tunstall Court Leet. Although the courthouse, which stood on the corner where Oldcourt Street joins Roundwell Street, was still in existence in 1795 it not mentioned in the book.

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The Potteries in 1795

Bell Works, Pottery Industry

In 1795, a book called A Description of the Country from Thirty to Forty Miles Round Manchester was compiled by Dr John Aikin from information given to him by local historians.

The book describes Newcastle-under-Lyme and The Potteries which extended from Goldenhill to Longton.

Writing about The Potteries, the local historian, whom Aikin says was a very intelligent gentleman, writes:

About a mile from the borders of Cheshire, the Staffordshire Potteries commence at a village called Goldenhill and stretch for seven miles to Lane End (Longton) creating the impression that it is one town with several different names. Manufacturing pottery is the main business of this extensive area whose population has increased threefold in 20 years. The pottery towns and villages are Goldenhill, Newfield, Smithfield, Tunstall, Longport, Burslem, Cobridge, Etruria, Hanley, Shelton, Stoke, Lower Lane, Lane Delf and Lane End. In all probability, they will become so intermixed that they will soon form one town with one name. Already, people who live only a short distance away are calling these towns and villages The Pottery.

The drawing shows the Bell Works in Burslem

Extract Edited by David Martin (April 2020)

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The Pottery Industry in the 1960s

During the 1960s, The Potteries was a hive of industrial activity. Skilled crafts-persons working in the six towns made the best pottery in the world.

About 90% of the bone china, earthenware, tiles, porcelain, bricks and sanitary ware produced in the United Kingdom came from Stoke-on-Trent.

Pottery workers were proud of their skills and expertise. They took pride in their work, and the ware they made was exported all over the world.

The seeds of North Staffordshire’s industrial development were sown in the 14th century.

Iron ore was mined in Tunstall and at Apedale. Small pot banks, which used local clay to make earthenware, were scattered in isolated villages throughout the district. There were coal seams near the surface, and miners risked their lives working in drift mines and bell pits to get coal to fire the ware.

Industrialisation came to The Potteries in the 18th century when entrepreneurs like Josiah Wedgwood, William Adams, Josiah Spode and Thomas Whieldon built factories that produced good quality ware which was sold at prices people could afford.

During the 19th century, the pottery industry and the coal mining industry expanded rapidly. The population increased and the six towns we know today were created. New factories were built and the smoke from numerous bottle ovens and kilns polluted the atmosphere.

As late as 1939, the pottery industry used 1,500,000 tons of coal to fire its ovens and kilns. After the Second World War, coal fired bottle ovens and kilns were replaced by electric or gas fired tunnel kilns. Between 1945 and 1966, many small firms closed and others amalgamated to form large companies. In 1966, there were about 66,000 people employed in the industry of whom 48,000 were women.

(The photograph was taken in the warehouse at the Gladstone Pottery Museum (Longton) by J. Rutter and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.)

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