Bristol and Regional Archaeological Services have been excavating at the site of the Barton Hill Pottery in Barton Hill, Bristol for the last couple of weeks.

The Barton Hill Pottery was a small redware pottery making lead-glazed farmhouse kitchenwares and horticultural wares in the second half of the 19th century on a small site just to the north of the Feeder Canal. The excavations, completed this week have exposed the entire plan of the pottery and include the foundations of a bottle kiln and evidence of clay-processing plant as well as waster pottery from this and a second pottery making transfer printed wares on the opposite side of Queen Anne Road.

 Looking across the site from the road looking towards the canal. The main rooms run along the boundary wall with a long entrance passage in the foreground. The base of the kiln is within the square room in the centre. The nearer room has a tar covered floor and was perhaps a stockroom. The range of ware would have included many large shapes as well as large numbers of plant pots. The area was known for its market gardens and long ranks of rhubarb forcers were a feature of the land alongside the M32 to the north relatively recently.

 The kiln base. The bases and ashpits of five coal fireboxes sit in a ring around a massive stone footing for the floor of the ware chamber. The is a fairly small bottle kiln built within a two storey square building and cutting though the roof above.

One of the firebox bases. It is very clean and neat.

At the rear of the potter was the clay processing equipment. The big lump of concrete in the middle is nothing to do with it. The octagonal path in the background is the surround to a blunger. Probably operated by a small steam engine, the blunger mixed clay and water to slip which was then run off and dried to a plastic consistency ready for pottery-making. There would be a large shallow tank somewhere for it to dry in – perhaps in the space to the right. A pug-mill, also run from the engine would have further mixed the plastic clay to get an even consistency before wedging and throwing. The making workshops and drying areas may have been upstairs.

This is a 19th century catalogue illustration of an octagonal clay blunger (taken from the Walk Around Stoke-on-Trent website This is from a 1893 William Boulton and Co catalogue and would have been driven by a steam engine that would also operate other machinery nearby. The octagonal structure at Barton Hill is the base of a piece of equipment similar to this although driven from above like those at Weatheriggs and Soil Hill not from below as here.

The blunger as originally designed by William Boulton

Wasters. The big sherd is too big for a chimney pot and is likely to be from a rhubarb forcer. The slip wash decoration seems to be typical. There are also sherds with a rouletted raised bead. The larger plant pots are very well thrown indeed. The smaller ones are rough and ready – traditionally the apprentices learned to throw making the smaller forms. The range also included lead-glazed pancheons and salting pans.
Update Jan 2017. Cai Mason’s full report on the Barton Hill Pottery excavation has now been published online through the Journal of the Society for Post-Medieval Archaeology – see Having said that Taylor & Francis want £28 for 24 hours access!!!
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