|The Potteries is an area in Staffordshire in the middle of England
around the city of Stoke on Trent where the pottery industry grew up
originally because of the clay in the ground. The industry reached its
peak in the Victorian and Edwardian eras and is now sadly in decline.
area was once full of pottery factories or potbanks with their
distinctively shaped bottle ovens where the ware was fired. There are
relatively few of these left now and these are listed buildings.
These are some of the best preserved bottle ovens being situated at Gladstone pottery museum, the last remaining complete Victorian pottery.
The two remaining kilns on this site have been saved and incorporated into a new housing developement
|For all children brought up in the Industrial period of our history
life was hard and certainly in the pottery industry life was just as
hard as it was in the mines or mills of Lancashire. Here in the
Potteries, children had to contend with the heat of the bottle kilns,
poisonous substances, the heavy weight of clay to break down and carry
and very long working hours.
The factories could either be very well appointed or completely run down as the following reports of the time show.
The building, situated on spacious
and open ground fronting the canal,
is of large dimensions, substantially
and well built; every room throughout
is well ventilated, lofty, clean, and
extremely commodious. The system
and order equally good, the people
all seem happy and contented.
These works are very extensive, they appear to be erected many years. The printing rooms, throwing rooms, pressing
rooms, and painting rooms, in which
numbers are working together, are
close, low, small, and inconvenient
places and they are hot and unhealthy.
There are no means of ventilation.
|The quotes from some children at the time give some idea of their working day.
|Jacob: aged 12
I am a runner of
dish moulds for John. He lays on me sometimes. Other men lay on their
lads often for nothing; some of them put red hot coal under the feet of
the runners to burn and some put on cockspurs to hurt our feet when
running. We work without shoes or stockings. I am very tired when I get
home at night. I get bread and cheese for breakfast. If I had my choice
I would rather work from six to six rather than to nine.
William: aged 11
I work in the
dipping house brushing the ware. Can't read or write. I don't go to
Sunday school cos I haven't any clothes to go in. I have no jacket
besides what I have on. I work a 12 hour day.
Herbert: aged 12
I have worked in
this room for 4 years as a handle presser. I've got a cough, have had
it 3 or 4 years; feel it more in the winter; I do not think that
jumping on the moulds hurts me; I do not like it; I want to go into
another room; I like potting; I would rather be a potter than a tailor
Mary Ann: aged 11
I take tiles off
the bench and lays them down on the hot floor; they call me a runner. I
cannot read or write;I worked in the brickyard for about 4 years.
Before I come to work I stopped at home to nurse the baby. I get
milk-meat for breakfast and beef and tatoes for dinner.