Roger Harris, the potter at the 1642 Living History Village at Little Woodham outside Gosport in Hampshire has been building a reconstruction of a 17th-century Barnstaple-type kiln for a while now. On the 2nd of August David Dawson and I were invited down to observe, advise and join in. He has based the kiln fairly closely on the one that we built in 2001 at the Plimoth Plantation museum in Massachusetts – we provided our plans and drawing for him to work from.
The kiln is built of brick and insulated with soil. It is a bit shorter than ours – Roger is concerned that he can make enough work to fill it. The outer facing is a unique wooden construction rather than brick or stone. We generally follow the Barnstaple model and use stone. The wooden frame is strong but the front is going to burn off at some point.
The Village is a delightful group of well built timber buildings and has a range of crafts going on including a blacksmith shop as well as a tavern. The volunteers are very enthusiastic and include a group of costumed children who evidently enjoy themselves immensely. It’s a real surprise, not least because it is hidden behind a modern housing estate opposite the HMS Sultan naval base.
The firing went very well reaching 800C in seven hours although it them became obstinate. The relationship between the firebox and the chamber floor is awkward and the fuel was clogging against an obstruction in both boxes. Nonetheless a few modifications and it should fire well.
Roger’s workshop next to the kiln is kitted out with a momentum wheel and nestles in the wood. He has an enviable relationship with the local foxes who sent most of the day circling us and watching us working. Roger has named them and Willow was prepared to scrounge a sausage from him whilst we stoked.