OUR first lecture of the 2013-2014 season featured Lance Bates from the Chimney Pot Museum in Longport, Stoke-on-Trent.
He was ably assisted by his colleague Roger Townsend in a PowerPoint presentation ‘Chimney Pots through the Ages’.
Mr Bates (no connection with Downton Abbey) explained that he had been collecting chimney pots for more than 30 years and now had over 2,500 examples in the Museum, formerly a Co-op store.
Chimney pots came on the scene in Great Britain in the 13th century when it was realised that they were a much more efficient method of removing smoke from fires rather than just a hole in the roof. North of the border, they are frequently called ‘tams’ or ‘lums’. Originally, these architectural features were not manufactured separately but were part of the heavy clay industry which produced salt-glazed goods such as drain/sewerage pipes as well as bricks and tiles. The Doulton Company, famous for more refined ware, also made chimney pots and locally, JC Edwards in Derbyshire, was very active in the same field between 1870 and 1880.
Obviously, chimney stacks/pots were initially an essential but mundane feature of domestic dwellings but over the years they became much more like artistic artefacts and there are excellent examples which are unmistakably related to the Tudor, Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods.
Major centres of production were to be found at Doncaster, Huddersfield, Leeds, Swansea and Burton-on-Trent at a time when there were thousands of brickyards throughout the UK. There were no copyright laws so manufacturers copied one another’s designs with impunity. Cast iron versions were also quite common, being made at centres such as Coalbrookdale and Cradley Heath. The Clean Air Act of 1956 put a damper - so to speak - on chimney pot manufacture and these days there are fewer than six companies making them.
Mr Bates answered a number of questions before being thanked by our Chairman, John Richards, who then reminded members that the next lecture on 5th November would be given by Pam Woolliscroft on the topic ‘The Spode Bateman Collection’.