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Post-medieval pottery kiln 360m NNE of the Castle

A Scheduled Monument in Dunster, Somerset

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Latitude: 51.1851 / 51°11'6"N

Longitude: -3.4433 / 3°26'35"W

OS Eastings: 299225.80507

OS Northings: 143862.392152

OS Grid: SS992438

Mapcode National: GBR LK.5RHJ

Mapcode Global: VH6GM.8GKW

Entry Name: Post-medieval pottery kiln 360m NNE of the Castle

Scheduled Date: 24 April 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020409

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33038

County: Somerset

Civil Parish: Dunster

Built-Up Area: Dunster

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset


The monument includes a partly restored, standing, stone-built pottery
kiln of mid-18th century date. The kiln is located in the north east
quarter of Dunster just behind the High Street and within the Castle
The circular kiln, which is of a type known in Somerset as a `pinnacle
kiln' after the shape of its roof, once formed part of a pottery
established by the local family, the Luttrells of Dunster Castle. It is of
the simple updraft type and is rubble-built of local stone, comprising a
substructure, ware chamber, and straight-sided conical chimney; it was
fired from two opposing coal-fired fire-boxes. The kiln is 4.3m in
diameter and about 4.5m in total height, the upper 1.5m being the height
of the conical corbelled roof. This roof is much restored with matched
hand made bricks and with an opening at the apex for the venting of smoke
but capped with lead in modern times. Evenly spaced around the
circumference of the building and just below the level of the corbelled
roof, are four brick-lined apertures each about 0.6m wide and 0.7m high
which could be blocked or opened dependant upon the temperature required
for the controlled firing of the kiln. Entrance into the kiln was by way
of an arched brick-framed doorway, about 0.7m wide, on its south side with
the sill cut away to create a full height of 1.7m. The kiln was loaded
through this doorway at ground level and the doorway bricked up before
firing. The heat from two opposing arched fire-boxes entered the kiln
through brick-lined apertures which have subsequently been blocked.
The original floor of the kiln has been removed but a substructure of
three roughly circular and concentric flues of brick survive; these served
to distribute the heat under the floor of the ware chamber where the
pottery was stacked for firing. An updraft was created during firing by
pierced brick voussoirs within an internal domed brick ceiling through
which smoke and heat exited to the chimney above. Traces of the flashing
indicating the roof lines of the two furnace houses, which sheltered the
fire-boxes on either side of the kiln, may be seen on the exterior walls.
Documentary research by David Dawson and Oliver Kent has demonstrated that
the kiln was erected some time in the years just before 1768, perhaps as
early as 1760, on land which formed part of the Dunster Castle estate of
the Luttrell family. This land was known as the `park', a reference to the
old deer park of Dunster Castle. The kiln certainly appears in an oil
painting by William Fowles dated 1768 which hangs in Dunster Castle thus
demonstrating its existence by that date. Although the kiln was used by a
succession of potters it is uncertain how long it remained in active
production. An advertisement for the sale of the pottery is dated 1775.
Dawson and Kent recovered underfired and overfired red earthenware wasters
from an excavation of the substructure and this would appear to represent
the type of pottery being produced at the kiln. Broken sherds of
post-medieval pottery produced elsewhere had been used to block the west
fire-box suggesting that production had not lasted for very long, if
indeed at all, beyond 1775.
The modern cast iron grill located in the doorway of the building is
excluded from the scheduling, although the wall to which it is attached is

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Pottery kilns contain and control heat in order to fire pottery. This
requires an effective structure which both retains heat but which also
keeps it away from direct contact with the unfired contents. Small scale
purpose-built pottery kilns for the firing of domestic pottery have been
recorded across England from at least the Roman period with examples known
in south east England from the late prehistoric period. The best known
type of kiln is the circular updraft kiln which was popular throughout the
medieval and the early post-medieval periods and later. Such kilns were
heated by one, two, or sometimes multiple, fire-boxes, the resultant heat
being channelled beneath the stacked wares waiting to be fired.
Apertures placed in the side walls of the kiln allowed the inside
temperature to be monitored and adjusted by means of shutters. Venting,
usually through a chimney in the centre of the roof, allowed the smoke and
any unwanted heat to disperse.
The pottery kiln at Dunster, which has good documentary evidence to
suggest that it was constructed in the 1760s, survives well, displaying
many of the features of an updraft kiln of the early post-medieval period.
Restoration of the kiln has largely centred upon the roof and this has
enabled the building to survive still standing as a very rare example of
its type, perhaps one of the best in the country.
Excavation of the substructure of the kiln has provided important evidence
of how the structure operated and the recovery of waste sherds of pottery
has given a clear indication of the type of wares being produced. The kiln
is on public display within the grounds of the National Trust property of
Dunster Castle and it thus provides a visual amenity and a reminder of the
way in which domestic pottery could be made available locally in the
centuries prior to the Industrial Revolution and the advent of mass
produced pottery.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Binding, H, Discovering Dunster, (1988), 62-64
Coleman-Smith, , Pearson, , Excavations in the Donyatt Potteries, (1988), 77-96
Dawson, D, Kent, O, 'Post-Medieval Archaeology' in The mid 18th century kiln of 'The Pottery in the Park', Dunster, ()
Oil painting in Dunster Castle, Fowles, W, Panoramic view of Dunster from the south east, (1768)

Source: Historic England

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