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

Here are those wonderful words, such as blunger,  saggar,  jomuklobby and ewster that were common in The Potteries. These words have been collected during a lifetime in potbanks. Some are specific to a particular factory, others are more general. Some vary from potbank to potbank and from Tunstall in the north to Longton in the south. Some are technical, and some feature the very special dialect of The Potteries. Some words are being lost as potbanks close or manufacturing methods change. All are fascinating. This is not an academic work but in fact, in places, its 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? BANJO

BANJO Kiln Furniture. A saggar with a particular shape. A bit like a banjo. Mainly for glost firing. Ideal for a double row of dottled muffins.

BANJO - you can see the shape of the banjo saggar
in this picture, bottom right

But what is a muffin?  Don't get confused!  An American Muffin is a small domed spongy cake made with eggs and baking powder. An English Muffin is leavened bread, beloved by the English aristocracy particularly in the early 20th Century and served in a Muffin Dish.  A Muffin Dish should not be confused with the Muffin which is a small pottery plate measuring 5 or 6 inches in diameter. So Banjos were for small pottery plates.  more here>

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>