The Stoke-on-Trent Ceramic Heritage Action Zone

The Stoke-on-Trent Ceramic Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) covers both Longton Town Conservation Area and the city’s 50 remaining bottle ovens.  It aims to reinvigorate Longton’s town centre through refurbishment of historic buildings and improved heritage interpretation throughout the town.  Surveys of the city’s bottle ovens will be undertaken, which will not only provide a lasting record of these iconic structures but will also inform their future conservation. The history of Longton and the city’s bottle ovens will be celebrated with the local community through a variety of public events and activities, including an archaeological excavation.

The HAZ is 5 year scheme running from 2019 to 2023 and is being delivered by Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Historic England with support from Potteries Heritage Society, Urban Wildnerness, Longton Exchange, Staffordshire University, University of Keele, Liverpool John Moores University and Institute of Technology Sligo.

Longton Town Conservation Area

Longton, the southernmost of the six towns that make up the modern city of Stoke-on-Trent, developed from the hamlets of Lane Delph and Lane End and expanded rapidly in the early 1800s due to the expansion of local industries, notably pottery, coal and iron. The conservation area covers the tightly packed town centre, which contains many historic buildings and is dominated by the imposing town hall and the railway bridge. The town has the largest number of surviving traditional pottery factories in the city.

With the decline in industry and commerce in the area, many of Longton’s historic buildings have deteriorated.  The HAZ aims to refurbish key historic buildings as well as improve heritage interpretation within the town.  It also seeks to invigorate the town’s retail offer and bring residents back into the town centre by promoting the refurbishment of first-floor apartments above historic retail premises.

Longton based projects include:

  • Repairs to Longton Town Hall.  A £1.8m refurbishment of the town hall, including the creation of a new Council local centre was completed in November 2019.
  • Repairs to Gladstone Pottery Museum.
  • Repair and refurbishment of old buildings and creation of living accommodation through a Partnership Scheme in Conservation Area (PSiCA). The Council has successfully applied for funding from Historic England for this repair grant scheme, which is open to application from September 2021
  • Review of Longton Town Conservation Area Appraisal.
  • Improved heritage interpretation.
  • Community events and activities, including an archaeological excavation.

Bottle Ovens

50 bottle ovens remain standing in the city where once it is estimated that there were up to 2,000. These iconic structures, named for their characteristic shape, were in use in Stoke-on-Trent from the late 17th century until the mid 20th century. They include a variety of kiln types, most used to fire wares to either a biscuit or glost state, but some such as muffle or hardening kilns were used in the decorating process. Another group were used in the processing of raw materials for ceramic bodies (calcining kilns) or glazes (frit kilns).

The surviving ovens constitute an irreplaceable resource, iconic of the areas industrial prominence, but vulnerable to neglect with limited options for sustainable reuse. The HAZ will implement a comprehensive survey of these iconic structures, which will provide a lasting record and inform their future conservation.  

Bottle oven projects include:

  • Bottle oven surveys.
  • Formation of and support for a forum for bottle oven owners. The newly formed Potteries Bottle Oven Owners’ Club aims to formulate and share best practice in maintaining and conserving bottle ovens. For more information click here
  • Repair grants for a selection of bottle ovens.
  • Publication of a book on the history and archaeology of the city’s bottle ovens.
  • Events for Potteries Bottle Oven Day, 29th August. An annual event celebrating the city’s bottle ovens and the last firing of a bottle oven in 1978.

More information about the scheme, grant applications or volunteer opportunities can be found here or by contacting the Stoke-on-Trent Ceramic HAZ project officer:

t 01782 232477