Stoke on Trent - known as The Six Towns and The Potteries - was once the home of the ceramics industry in England. At one time 2,000 Bottle kilns around the towns billowed thick smoke into the air daily.
Bottle Kilns -
"Some small factories had only one bottle oven, while other large potbanks had as many as 25. Within a factory, ovens were not situated according to any set plan. They might be grouped around a cobbled yard or placed in a row. Sometimes they were built into the workshops with the upper part of the chimney protruding through the roof.
No two bottle ovens were exactly alike. They were all built according to the whim of the builder or of the potbank owner.
The outer part, which is bottle shaped is known as the hovel. A hovel can be up to seventy feet tall. The hovel acts as a chimney; taking away the smoke, creating draught and protecting the oven inside from the weather and uneven draughts.
The inner part is the kiln proper. It is a round structure with a domed roof, the crown, and its wall are approximately one foot thick. Iron bands known as bonts, set about twelve inches apart, run right round the circular oven to strengthen it as it expands and contracts during the firing. A doorway, the clammins or wicket, surrounded by a stout iron frame and just large enough for a man with a saggar on his head to pass through , is built into the kiln. A saggar is a fireclay box for holding ware during firing.
Around the base of the oven are firemouths - the exact number depends on the size of the oven, - in which fires are lit for the firing. Inside the oven directly above each firemouths is a bag. This is a small firebrick chimney, the purpose of which is to direct the flames from the fires below into the oven and protect the saggars nearby.
Underneath the floor of the kiln, flues, which lead from each firemouth, distribute heat throughout the interior.
In the centre of the kiln floor is the well hole over which saggars, with their bottoms knocked out, are placed. This forms a chimney to allow the smoke to escape. This is the pipe bung.
Placing an oven
The ware to be fired was first arranged in fireclay boxes called saggars which were then placed inside the oven. The saggars were arranged in vertical stacks called bungs which extended from the floor of the oven to the ceiling.
When they were full, the saggars were carried into the oven by placers, who balanced them on their shoulders and heads. The weight of a full saggar was approximately half a hundred weight. To protect their heads and to keep the saggars in place, the placers wore rolls made from old stockings which were wedged into the front of each man’s cap.
Ware was arranged differently in the saggars, according to whether it was biscuitware (all pottery after its first firing) or glostware (ware in the process of being glazed).“