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19th century pottery kilns discovered during archaeological dig in Fenton

If you travel along City Road in Fenton, you might have noticed some unusual activity. An archaeological dig is currently taking place on the public car park next to the old NatWest bank ahead of the future redevelopment of the site.

So far teams have uncovered three, 19th century pottery kilns with evidence of later repairs, but further investigations could reveal an earlier construction date.

The site was occupied in the mid-to-late 1700s by William Greatbatch, who was a significant potter at the time and had a well-documented business relationship with Josiah Wedgwood. However, Greatbatch was declared bankrupt in 1782 and had left the site by the following year.

The next documented occupants were Bourne, Baker and Bourne, who acquired the site in the late 1820s and had another factory on the opposite side of the road. The Baker family is credited with having single-handedly ‘built’ Fenton and the Baker and Bourne families owned more than 100 houses and the Roebuck Inn between them at this time.

By 1878 the factory had become an encaustic tileworks, but by around 1884 the firm of Thomas Forester, Son & Co. was manufacturing china and earthenware from the works. The factory is identified as the ‘Sutherland Pottery’ on the 1900 Ordnance Survey map and was held by Hulme & Christie at this point, who were earthenware manufacturers. Between 1924 and 1937, the factory again shifted to tile production and by 1960, it was occupied by the Ceramic Tile and Pottery Company. The works had closed by the late 1970s.

The excavation was due to finish last week but has been extended to October 22 to allow more work to take place. The team on site will be extending two of the trenches to investigate the kilns within them further.

The site is due to be redeveloped into 42 apartments across two blocks, which the city council will own and rent out. The development, which is part of a wider £18 million investment into housing across Fenton, is expected to be finished in February 2022.

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