The Potbank Dictionary - the glossary of the Potteries of Stoke-on-Trent. Established 1976

This is a record of those strange words, such as blunger,  saggar, and jomuk, that were, at one time, very common in English district known as the Potteries. These words and phrases have been collected during a lifetime in 'potbanks'. Some are specific to a particular factory, others are quite common. Some are technical, and some feature the special dialect of the Potteries. Many words and phrases are dying out as potbanks close or manufacturing  methods change. This is not an academic work and, in places, it's rather quirky!

BBC Interlude 1950 - Potters Wheel


The Potteries Bottle Oven : a huge and imposing, towering and daunting brick-built, bottle-shaped structure, up to 70 feet high, essential in the making of pottery. The red-hot heart of The Potteries of Stoke-on-Trent.

In 1939 there were about 2000 bottle ovens, or, strictly speaking, bottle-shaped structures of various types used for firing pottery ware or its components. They dominated the landscape of the Potteries of Stoke-on-Trent. In 2019 there are fewer than 50 still standing complete with their chimneys. None will be fired ever again. The Clean Air Act of 1956, and their delicate condition have put paid to that.

At the multi-award-winning Gladstone Pottery Museum, in Longton, Stoke-on-Trent, there are 4 bottle ovens and a bottle kiln. There are also two bottle ovens, next door, at the Roslyn Works. This is the most important and precious group of buildings in the Potteries.

Take a look at The Potteries Bottle Oven website here>


BONE CHINA A smooth textured and extremely white firing pottery body.  Translucent and very strong. It is unique in that it contains a high proportion of calcined bone ash and biscuit fires at approx 1220 C. A type of porcelain.

Around fifty percent of the body recipe contains calcined cattle bones. Invented at the Spode factory in Stoke-on-Trent around 1800. The recipe contains about 50% calcined cattle bone, 25% china clay and 25% china stone. The bone used at Spode was more specifically the shins and knuckle bones of oxen. (Lower grades of bone china, not from Spode, may have used all or some bones from sheep or goats.  But definitely not horses.)  The bones are calcined at temperatures up to 1000 C before being ground to a fine powder and used in the bone china recipe. Bone china is extremely hard and intensely white.

Bone China: a Particularly English Porcelain
The Invention of Bone China:  The Spode company, under Spode I and Spode II, is credited by potters, collectors, researchers and other experts with having perfected the bone china formula before 1800.

What is? CRAZING

CRAZE and CRAZING Glaze fault. A network of fine surface cracks in glaze. Occurs due to stresses created in the glaze by expansion of the body. Results from a mismatch of thermal expansions of the glaze and body. The craze pattern can develop upon removal from the kiln or even years later. Crazing happens when a glaze is under tension. more here>


BORDALOUE Ladies portable urinal. Sometimes known as a 'coach pot.' Absolutely not a gravy boat. Made in their thousands in The Staffordshire Potteries. Examples on display at Gladstone Pottery Museum, Longton, Stoke-on-Trent. @gladstonemuseum

Spode Bordaloue. Italian Pattern 1820