On 29 August 1978 a traditional Potteries bottle oven was kindled and fired, with coal, for the very last time. The event was organised by staff and 72 volunteers at Gladstone Pottery Museum in Stoke-on-Trent.
The bottle oven in Longton, Stoke-on-Trent, was filled with over 1000 saggars containing specially made commemorative pottery. The eight firemouths around the oven were then filled with rolled newspaper, dry wooden sticks and a 4cwt (200kgs) layer of coal.
The date when the firemouths were Kindled (set alight) was 29 August 1978 and this has been known as Annual Potteries Bottle Oven day. In total, 12 tons of coal were burnt. The firing was an outstanding success. The resulting pottery was fired to perfection. No exaggeration. The glazed surface was lustrous and bright. But a bottle oven will never kindled again. It would contravene The Clean Air Acts and now, all the 47 remaining bottle ovens are just too fragile. The day the oven was kindled is so special for the people of The Potteries.
Forty years later and we are celebrating the Last Bottle Oven Firing with a 2-month-long exhibition and over 30 activities at Gladstone Pottery Museum and we thought it would be great to have Potteries Bottle Oven Day recognized and listed on your site, annually.
The current manager of Gladstone Museum says “The Last Bottle Oven Firing was one of the most important events in the history of Gladstone Pottery Museum with significant and lasting affects over the 40 years since that amazing achievement. The information recorded plus practical skills and knowledge gained by the volunteers who worked on the project is invaluable. It has continually informed the ways the museum can help visitors to understand coal fired bottle ovens. It has also made a lasting impression on those who witnessed the event. Gladstone Pottery Museum will forever be grateful for the vision, determination, organisational skills and hard work which created The Last Bottle Oven Firing.” We will always remember the date – 29 August – when the oven was kindled for the last time.
Potteries Bottle Oven Day, the date when the Last Bottle Oven was kindled, 29 August, comes right in the middle of the full two months of activities planned at Gladstone Pottery Museum in Stoke-on-Trent. The two months will be anchored by a specially curated exhibition assembled by some of the original volunteers. A new book is being published which gives a full account of what went on at the final firing. More than 30 special activities will take place at the museum and there will be something for everyone including film shows, walks, talks and lectures; a firing event ‘smoking ovens,’ tours of local bottle ovens, popup art gallery, lots of kids activities and more.
On Potteries Bottle Oven Day itself, 29 August, some of the 72 volunteers who made the final firing happen will be at the museum to chat with visitors about their experiences. A special film of the final firing will be shown and theatrical smoke will arise once more from a bottle oven! More activities are being planned.