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Monument record MDR6973 - Sharpe's Pottery, West Street, Swadlincote

Type and Period (2)

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Full Description

'Potteries' is marked in the SK 296 195 area on the 1836 OS map. (1) On the 1888 OS map 'Potteries' shown along the south side of West Street and Market Place. (2) The same buildings are shown, but not named, on later maps. (3-4) Pottery buildings, including one kiln, still standing in 1995, but are disused. A sign announces a proposed retail/office conversion. (5, 6) A single bottle kiln still survived in 1974. This remaining kiln, at the former pottery, was the last remaining bottle kiln of traditional design to survive. Originally one of a pair, the kiln had been capped and rendered and the kiln interior removed. The adjacent kiln was demolished and part of its outline survived in the repaired wall of the building of which it was once a part. (7) In about 1790 William Sharpe moved from Worthington, Leicestershire. He built a small pottery with two kilns. His eldest son, William Sharpe, took over in 1821 and became the leading potter in the district, marking his wares. He died in 1838 and his brothers took control. They established business arrangement with America which lasted for many years. The firm continued through the 1914 and 1939 wars, extending their range into sanitary ware and selling abroad. However from the 1950s there was increasing competition from more modern firms in Stoke-on-Trent and elsewhere which finally led to the closure of the Swadlincote works in 1967. One or two buildings and an old bottle oven survived in 1980. The first wares produced by the pottery would have been yellow ironstone. All types of wares were shipped to America, including yellow wares, dishes, milk pans, Rockingham teapots, mottled and black lustre wares and blue printed earthenware. In 1862 Sharpes exhibited at the International Exhibition in London, offering Derbyshire can and Rockingham wares; they also offered Patent Closet Basins etc, and from then onward seemed to concentrate on sanitary earthenware. (8) The Sharpe's works was established in 1821 by Thomas Sharpe with the help of his father, William, a local tenant farmer. The pottery prospered and was expanded in 1832, finding a significant trade in North America. Following Thomas's death in 1838 the business was carried on under the style of Sharpe Bros & Company. The business grew and rapidly expanded from two kilns to four kilns and was so successful that in 1851 they exhibited at the Great Exhibition in London and were awarded an Honorary Mention. In the 1930s there were six coal-fired bottle kilns in operation, the three nearest to the office on West Street for initial 'biscuit' firing and the three nearest Alexandra Road for firing the glaze onto biscuit ware. However, the firm closed in 1968 with the loss of 24 jobs. Shortly after closure part of the works was seriously damaged by fire and was afterwards demolished. Some surviving buildings remained vacant, others were tenanted. In 1999 a conservation plan was produced to secure the future of the surviving buildings, several of which were listed. (9) An archaeological assessment was carried out in March 1999, prior to the conversion of surviving buildings into a centre for local community groups. As part of this assessment, plans and elevations of the buildings were produced and photographs taken. The assessment also includes a written account summarising the plan, form, function, age and development of the buildings. (10) Two trenches were excavated within a kiln hovel at Sharpe's Pottery, Swadlincote in May 1999. The excavations confirmed that it was used for the production of pottery before the demolition of the inner kiln structure and the subsequent reuse of the hovel as a warehouse, possibly in the mid-19th century. Remains were located immediately below the existing floor and comprised the scorched sub-base of the kiln, together with the lower parts of three stokeholes; the floor and foundations of the structure had been removed. Large quantities of pottery had been used to provide the base of the existing floor which extended over the demolished kiln. (11) An archaeological watching brief was carried out at the site in 2009 by the University of Leicester Archaeological Services. A small kiln was uncovered along with one of the original warehouse walls. Also recovered were examples of kiln furniture called saggers and vast quantities of pottery and sanitary wares. (12) In 2009, Stoke-on-Trent Archaeology undertook excavations prior to and during the construction of a café extension. A 19th century pottery kiln was discovered, though the precise function of the kiln was not determined from the archaeology alone, but could be supported from other sources and evidence available. It was revealed that the kiln was circular, multi-flued, up-draught type with a separate hovel that was probably used to fire earthenwares. The kiln's firing chamber utilized a foundation design that had been observed in kilns at other potting centres, both regional and national. The remains indicated that, prior to its demolition in the closing years of the 19th century, the kiln had undergone repairs and possible rebuilding. (13)

Sources/Archives (13)

  • <1> Map: Ordnance Survey (OS). 1836. One Inch First Edition map, sheet 71 first issued 1836, later revisions (David and Charles reprint sheet 35). 1inch : 1mile.
  • <2> Map: Ordnance Survey (OS). 1888. OS County Series 1:10560, sheet: Derbyshire LX NW, surveyed 1881-1882, published 1888. 1:10560.
  • <3> Map: Ordnance Survey (OS). 1902. OS County Series 1:10560, sheet: Derbyshire LX NW/Staffordshire XLVIIA NW, second edition 1902, revised 1899-1900. 1:10560.
  • <4> Map: Ordnance Survey (OS). 1976. 1:10000.
  • <5> Index: RCHME (Royal Commission on the Historic Monuments of England). 1995. New National Forest Project: 921525. 921525. pp 213-4.
  • <6> Monograph: RCHME (Royal Commission on the Historic Monuments of England). 1995. New National Forest Survey: 921539. 921539. pp 242-3.
  • <7> Index: Council for British Archaeology (CBA). CBA Industrial Archaeology Report Card. Pottery works, Alexandra Roughly dressed.
  • <8> Article in serial: Brown, R. 1994. 'Potteries of Derbyshire', Journal of the Northern Ceramic Society. Vol. 11, pp 95-153. Site 50, pp 138-141.
  • <9> Unpublished document: Heath, P. 1999. Sharpe's Pottery, Swadlincote, Conservation Plan.
  • <10> Unpublished document: Meeson, B. 1999. Sharpe's Pottery, Swadlincote: An Archaeological Assessment.
  • <11> Unpublished document: Parry, S & Hayward, S (Northamptonshire Archaeology). 1999. Archaeological Evaluation at Sharpes Pottery, Swadlincote, Derbyshire.
  • <12> Unpublished document: Jones, G (ULAS). 2005. An archaeological watching brief during ground level floor reduction at Sharpe's Industrial Estate, Swadlincote, Derbyshire.
  • <13> Article in serial: Goodwin, J (Stoke-on-Trent Archaeology). 2012. 'The excavation of a 19th century pottery kiln at Sharpe's Pottery, Swadlincote', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Vol. 132, pages 146-155.



Grid reference Centred SK 29886 19526 (128m by 133m)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (5)

  • EDR2814
  • EDR2815
  • EDR2684
  • EDR2599
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Record last edited

Jan 28 2024 5:05PM

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