S CRACK Pottery fault. S-shaped crack which occasionally appears in the bottom of wheel-thrown pots, resulting from inadequate compression of the bottom, or excessive water left in bottom.  Occur most often in fine-grained, gritless clay bodies.

S HOLE also known as ESS HOLE Potter's name for the ash pit underneath the firemouth in an oven. Also a Potteries dialect word. "S Hole is simply a dialect way of saying ash hole [found in coal fires in domestic premises] rather than a specifically industrial word." Many thanks to Brian Jones for this update 18 March 2016 

SACKED Dialect. Late for work at the potbank. Similar to buzzed and franked.

SADDLE Kiln furniture. Used during firing to support glost pottery in a saggar. Consists of a bar of refractory ceramic with a triangular cross section.

SAFF RUCK (and also Shaff Ruck, Shord Ruck, Shraff Ruck and Shraff Tip) A heap of broken crockery (and other stuff)! Rubbish tip containing waste moulds, saggars and faulty ware such as lump or wasters

Broken saggars in a shord ruck
Gladstone Pottery Museum 2019

SAFFOG A poor person, maybe dirty or dishevelled and wearing cheap or dirty clothes. Probably a word used more by kids in the playground.

"Put simply, a saggar is a robust fireclay box in which fragile ceramic wares are placed for protection during firing. Used in bottle ovens on a potbank"

"A container for pottery during firing to protect items from being damaged by heat, flames, ash and corrosive sulphurous gases"

"One of the essentials in a successful pottery business is a good saggar"

The process of saggar making
Courtesy: Gladstone Pottery Museum, Longton

Saggars played an important role in the coal fired bottle oven. These fire-resistant, thick-sided and robust boxes, made from coarse local fireclay called saggar marl, protected pottery from the intense heat, flames, ash and corrosive gases during the firing process. They were made by hand in various shapes and sizes to contain pottery during the biscuit, glost or sometimes decorating fire in a bottle oven. The word 'saggar' may come from the word 'safeguard'. On a large potbank they were made by a team of men: one or two saggar makers, a frame filler, and a saggar-makers bottom-knocker.

In the "Description of The Country from thirty to forty miles around Manchester" by J AIKIN, MD published in June 1795, the word saggar is described as a corruption of the German word SCHRAGER, 'which signifies cases or supporters.'

SAGGAR - names, shapes and types
Saggars of a particular shape and size have descriptive names. Here are some. There will be others but the names may have been lost as the trade disappeared. (Many thanks to Paul Niblett, long serving volunteer at Gladstone Pottery Museum, Longton, for sending some saggar names which he sourced during conversations with the late Jack Jackson)
  • BANJO - shaped like a ukulele! Perhaps poorly educated potters of the 19th Century couldn't spell or even say the word ukulele, so they plumped for banjo instead. Ideal for glost firing two bungs of dottled muffins. 
  • BIDLE 
  • CUPITE - the height of a cup
  • DISH 
  • DOODLE - half the size of an oval saggar. Peculiar to Alfred Clough's potbank
  • HILLER (ILLA) - low height saggar, for use as a lid for the top saggar in a bung
  • OVAL 
  • PIGGIES - for firing 'boxed cups' (Source: the late Jack Jackson)
  • SALT FIRE - saggars with quite large holes in their sides to allow the fumes from rapidly vaporising salt to pass through to the pottery inside the saggar
  • SKIMMER - low height saggar (lower than a hiller) for use as a lid for the top saggar in a bung
  • TIPPIES - oval shaped saggars

SAGGAR HOLE  sometimes SAGGAR MAKER'S PLACE Ovens department. Saggar makers' shop. Oh dear! A little derogatory don't you think?

SAGGAR MAKER Occupation. Ovens department. Male. Very highly skilled and one of the best paid jobs on a potbank. Other well paid jobs included dish makers and firemen.

Saggar makers. Longton. 1932

SAGGAR MAKERS BOTTOM KNOCKER Occupation. Ovens department. Male. Extinct. This was heavy work. The saggar makers bottom knocker (note: no apostrophe) worked with the frame filler and the saggar maker himself. He knocked and flattened a lump of saggar marl (fireclay with added grog) using a mau (a heavy wooden mallet, shaped like a warming pan, pronounced mo) to make the bottom part of a saggar. He then slid it onto a perforated iron plate called a shord, passed it to the saggar maker and went on to create his next bottom. The saggar maker, who had already made the sides of the saggar, then joined the bottom to them. It took about 3 minutes to knock a good bottom! Saggar making is now extinct in the Staffordshire pottery industry. Watch the movie below to see how it's done. Was done. 

SAGGAR MAKER'S TOOLS  Names of special tools used in saggar making.
  • Bench
  • Cant
  • Drum
  • Frame
  • Grafter
  • Mau' (pronounced mow)
  • Measuring stick
  • Peg
  • Plucker
  • Rib
  • Running under stick
  • Shord
  • Splice
  • Splice
  • Topping stick
  • Topping tool
  • Wheelie

What is a Saggar Makers Bottom Knocker? 
Once, a very important job in a Potteries potbank. But now extinct!
Saggar Makers Bottom Knocker Mug - fine English bone china.
Illustration on one side, description on the other.
Made in Stoke-on-Trent
Available to purchase from the manufacturer

SAGGAR MAKING 1  Click here for a PDF file of this very readable and detailed study of the craft of saggar making by Paul Nicholson. 2011. 
"I’M NOT THE SAGGAR-MAKER, I’M THE SAGGAR-MAKER’S MATE… Saggar Making and Bottom Knocking in Stoke-On-Trent, as a guide to early saggar technology." By Paul T. Nicholson

SAGGAR MAKING 2  Click this link for the page on the Gladstone Pottery Museum History site which describes saggar making in loads of detail  https://gladstonepotterymuseumstory.blogspot.com/p/saggar-making.html 

SAGGAR MARL Type of clay. Coarse grey coloured fireclay found along with coal measures in North Staffordshire. Mixed with grog to add strength. More grog was mixed into the clay used for the bottom clay of the saggar than the side clay, as the bottom needed to be stronger. The proportion of clay to grog varied.

SAGGAR SHOP and SAGGAR HOUSE "There were in excess of 150 different processes in the making of a piece of pottery. Each person who handled each pot on its journey through the potbank had a title to go with the job that they did, Experienced people worked in shops i.e. cup shop, flat shop, casting shop, decorating shop. Not so experienced people worked in houses. Biscuit warehouse, Dipping house, Glost warehouse, Packing house.

But to confuse things there was the Saggar Shop and a Saggar House  the two must never be mixed up. [but both required highly skilled people]

In the saggar shop, the saggars were made. Sometimes called saggar maker's place
In the saggar house, saggars were used, or placed with ware prior to firing."

Many thanks go to Alan Hopwood for this description. March 2016 

Saggar House
Placing ware into saggars before being taken into the kiln
for placing before firing.
Photo: source unknown  Date: unknown

SAGGAR - end of life.  Once a saggar has come to the end of its useful life, and can no longer be used to contain ware during firing, it has to be scrapped.  Some end up in local gardens and are used to construct walling ...

SALT Material. Sodium chloride. Used during the firing process for salt glazing.

SALT FIRE SAGGAR - A saggar. Equipment. A saggar with a particular shape and used for a particular purpose in a bottle oven during firing. Salt fire saggars have quite large holes in their sides to allow the fumes from rapidly vaporising salt to pass through to the pottery inside the saggar. (see photo below)

SALT FIRING  Salt (sodium chloride) is introduced into kiln firebox at high temperature.  The salt vaporises and sodium vapour combines with silica in clay surface forming extremely hard sodium-silicate glaze.

Salt glazing - introducing the salt at peak temperature
Notice the saggar with holes cut in their sides to allow the vapours to circulate
Photo: source unknown  Date: unknown

SALT GLAZE and SALT GLAZING Type of glaze and its process. Transparent and very hard glaze produced by throwing common salt (NaCl) onto the flames in the firing oven at its maximum temperature (about 1320°C) during firing. When the salt vaporises to reactive sodium (Na) a chemical reaction takes place between the salt fumes and the silica in the clay pots, creating a glossy surface coating (glaze) onto the ware. The technique gives dramatic surface textures characteristic of salt-glazing - coarse orange peel or subtle lustre.

"A glazing process carried out in the kiln. The ware is fired up to 1100°C ‑1200°C and salt is then thrown/poured on the fire, where it volatilises. The salt vapours settle on the wares in the kiln and react with the clay to form a sodium aluminosilicate glaze, which is acid and pollution resistant. In the past it was mainly used for sewer pipes and chimney pots but occasionally for tiles and architectural ceramics."

Errington Reay, the last family run pottery licensed 
to produce salt glazed pottery in the UK.
At Bardon Mill,  near Hexham, North East England.


Salt Glaze oven at Errington Reay pottery,
Bardon Mill

Shovelling salt into the hot kiln
Photo: Courtesy Errington Reay, Bardon Mill 
Date: June 2021

A69 in Bardon Mill, Northumberland

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SALT GLAZED STONEWARE  Stoneware is pottery with a glaze of glossy, translucent and slightly orange-peel-like texture. Stoneware is a strong, opaque, vitrified ceramic material, usually brown, buff or greyish-blue in colour, fired at a temperature of at least 1200C. For decorated stoneware products, applied glazes are often used but for utilitarian products such as drain pipes, common salt (sodium chloride) is usually the sole medium of glazing. At the critical stage in the firing, salt is introduced into the kiln, whereupon it vaporises – the sodium combining with silica in the clay body to form a glassy coating of sodium silicate an extremely hard and impermeable glaze. The glaze may be colourless or may be coloured various shades of brown (from iron oxide), blue (from cobalt oxide), or purple (from manganese oxide). The chlorine which is produced during firing passes off in dense vapour. Stoneware with an applied liquid glaze was probably first made in China some two thousand years ago, but the process of salt-glazing appears to have been developed in the Middle Ages in the Rhineland where there are rich deposits of rock-salt.

SAMIAN WARE Type of pottery. Was extensively produced in the North Staffordshire Potteries by the teapot manufacturers. Common red ware, lacking in interest unless relieved by some sort of applied decoration. Similar to Jet and Rockingham, and suitable for the production of teapots and associated products. Slip-banded decorations, in a big variety of colours, are largely resorted to in order to make the Samian wares rather more interesting in appearance.

SAND Material. Discrete particles of quartz. Used during firing. A material use in placing and bedding. Fine sand.

SAND BLAST Process. Warehouse. At Josiah Wedgwood & Sons Ltd., jasper ware, straight from firing in the the kiln, required sandblasting to make its surface smooth and silky to touch.

SANDING Process. Decorating Department. Term used to describe creating a shine on fired-on best gold decoration. Also known as scouring or burnishing.

SANITARYWARE Pottery. Ceramic wares found in the bathroom. Includes WC, washbasin and pedestal, bidet, sinks, urinals etc.

SAPHIRKERAMIK Pottery recipe. New ceramic recipe introduced by Laufen Bathrooms of Switzerland in 2011.  With a name that alludes to the addition of the mineral corundum, a component of sapphire also used in the watch industry as sapphire glass dials, SaphirKeramik is considerably harder and has a greater flex strength than vitreous china - the usual sanitaryware recipe.

SATE Dialect. Seat.

SATIN GLAZE Type of glaze. Semi matt. Sometimes called Satin-Vellum or Vellum Glaze.

SATDEE Dialect. This used to be the day when you went to see your local club playing football, whether you want to or not! The day nestling between Friday and Sunday.

SAWDUST Material used in some pottery recipes. In the fireclay body, it helps to fire the body from within, which is especially helpful with thick sectioned items. It also introduces a controlled amount of porosity to improve the thermal insulation of the fired body. Similar techniques are employed in brick making. Many thanks go to Simon Howard who gave this explanation on Facebook April 2016

SAY Dialect. Where Potters get their feet wet on holiday.

SAYSIDE Dialect. The Seaside. Blackpool is a favourite!

SAY THEE Dialect. 'See you later.'

SAY THEE NECKS WICK Dialect. 'See you next week.'

SCALDING Glaze fault. Glaze falls off the pot before it has fused to the ware during the glost fire.

SCALLOP EDGE Trimmed and sculpted edge of a pot to produce a scalloped or indented 3D decorative effect. Created by hand or machine by cutting away the unwanted clay. Sometimes referred to a indented edge. Some experts refer to indented edge when the shaping is sharp and fine and refer to the scalloped edge when the shaping is more smooth and rounded. It is a subtle difference. See pic.
Many thanks to Ian Davenport for suggesting this definition.

Indented vs Scalloped
Photos: Courtesy Ian Davenport Collection  Date: May 2020

SCALLOPING Process. Potting department (clay end) Creating a scallop edge using a specially made tool which cuts away unwanted clay to produce the decorative effect. 

SCALLOPING HOUSE Potting department.  The room where the scolloping process was carried out.

SCALLOPER Occupation. Clay end. Man or woman who creates a fine sculpted edge to a pot by hand or by using a special device.

Cup scolloper. Spode 2008

SCALES A method of pricing pottery. 20th Century. There were various scales from which the pottery manufacturers priced their products. In the home trade the scales generally employed were the china and earthenware scales adopted by the English China Manufacturers' Association and the Earthenware Manufacturers' Association (Home Trade Section). The home trade scales were fairly simple to operate and were quickly mastered.  However for certain export markets, selling prices were derived from what was known as the "Gross List," which was created in connection with the American trade. This export scale worked differently; there is one basic price for every article and size irrespective of its decorative treatment, the basic price being discounted or subjected to a plusage according to the amount and quality of decoration.

SCOLLOP EDGE A potter's pronunciation of a SCALLOP EDGE

Scollop Edge on Spode Chinese Rose teacup and saucer.
From a Spode brochure of 1959

SCORER A saggar. Equipment. A saggar with a particular shape and used for a particular purpose in a bottle oven during firing. One of many different shapes.

SCOTCH Kiln Furniture. Different shapes of fireclay or refractory bricks used as wedges to support a bung of saggars when being placed in the oven. Scotches come in various sizes - eg, wrister, two-fingers, three-fingers, knuckler, sharps.  

SCOURER Occupation. Ovens department. Biscuit warehouse. See below

SCOURING Process. Biscuit warehouse. After pottery has been biscuit fired it is scoured (brushed) to remove loose sand, alumina, or pulverised flint particles. It is a brushing/cleaning process for biscuit ware before glazing. Scouring was a particularly dangerous occupation in the Potbank. People interviewed in 1856 for the inquiry undertaken by the General Board of Health reported that "…the bad arrangements of the workshops … (are a) frequent cause of bronchitis. The worst cases of this disease were found among young women employed in scouring china, who did not live many years after entering that employment."

Scouring Commission on Employment of Children and Young Persons Report on the Staffordshire Potteries. 

Written in 1841 and Published in 1843

In 1840 the House of Commons set up a commission to inquire into the state of children employed in mines and manufactories. Samuel Scriven visited Stoke-on-Trent from December 1840 onwards to collect evidence. This is one of his interviews of a "scourer" at Messrs. DANIEL AND SONS, China Factory, Stoke

Fanny Wood, aged 33 - “I have been a scourer seven years; always with Mr. Daniel; have two rooms opening into each other; one man and three women are employed here, and no children; we get our ware from the biscuit-oven, and have to scour it; it then goes to the dipping-house. The work does not agree with us very well, because it is so dusty it makes one short of breath ; every one that works in this place suffers more or less with coughs, and we are all stuffed up ; we have known a great many deaths from it ; we come at seven, leave at six ; are paid by the oven; that is like being paid by the piece, and average 8s. per week. William Benley, who stands by me, has been 17 years in the place, and he knows five women who have died from it, and numbers that have been obliged to leave it; he now says he couldn't enumerate the number , there have been so many. My son is just begun work; my husband is a potter, and in the engine-house; can't write.”

Scouring with primitive brushing machines
and dust extraction

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SCOURING Process. Glost Warehouse. Term used to describe creating a shine on fired-on best gold decoration. Also known as sanding or burnishing.

SCRABBLE Not the board game. But dialect, meaning to scramble or get out of the way quickly.

SCRAP Material (excess clay body) removed from the piece or its mould and which does not form the piece.

SCRAP BOX Equipment. Where the cut offs or spoiled clayware are thrown. The box was used to collect all the unfired clay which could be sent back to the sliphouse to be recycled. Similar to scrap tin or bit box

SCRAP CARRIER Occupation. Young men and women employed on a potbank to manually handle the scraps of clay removed from cast, jolleyed or jiggered pottery. The scraps were taken, in makeshift boxes or bowls, to the sliphouse for recycling into fresh clay slip.

SCRAPPING Process. Removal of excess cast body on a cast, jolleyed or jiggered piece in a plaster mould. Not fettling.

SCRAPPING EDGE  Sometimes known as the bitting edge. The edge of a plate mould, shaped for the easy removal of the dried left over scraps of clay remaining on the edge of jiggered flatware.

SCRAPPING TOOL Used in the process of scrapping. May be in many different shapes and sometimes made by the potter himself. Sometimes may be the sahape of a traditional catapult.

SCRAP TIN See scrap box above.

SCRAWL Dialect. Messy scribble. Very bad hand writing. Shoddy really!

SCRAWL Crawl or CRAWLING - A glaze fault.The fired glaze appears patchy. Shrinkage or crawling back of the glaze leaving exposed body after glost firing. Caused by a poor bond between the body and the glaze, usually because of dirt or grease on the biscuit body before dipping. Affected areas can vary in size from a small pinhole to several square centimetres.  It is the result of different angles of contact between the sprayed glaze and the clay body.

SCRAWM Gathering money.

SCRAWMY GIT A mean sort of person gathering money around him. Not spending. Usually despised.

SCREEN Equipment. Sieve or lawn. Fine mesh for removing oversized material.

SCRIBER Engraving tool. Graver.

SCUFT Dialect. Clip about the ear. Slap. Or a scratch to the dried glaze of a pottery piece.

SCULLERY The kitchen.

SCUM Pottery fault. A surface deposit on ware. Soluble salts fired on the surface of the fired piece. Scumming is the formation of dull scum on the glaze surface, caused by gases present in the kiln atmosphere, or sulphates present in the body or in the kiln gases.

SCUMMING The formation of dull scum on the glaze surface caused by gases present in the kiln atmosphere, or sulphates present in the pottery body or in the kiln gases.

SCUTCH Equipment. Used by a bricklayer (and in the context of the potbank, a bottle oven builder).  Specialist design of hammer commonly used for dressing and cleaning bricks. The 'single scutch' version has a hardened square striking face at one end with a single 'comb slot' at the opposite end. Some are known as 'double-ended scutch hammers'. Scutch hammers, in conjunction with 'combs and droves' are used for cutting bricks in the same way as scutch chisels, but they are not as precise in use.

SEAM The joint or joints in a mould. A cast piece will show a seam created by this joint. The skill of the caster is to remove the seam completely using various home made tools and then to smooth the joint completely using a wet sponge.

SEAMRENT Interesting word this is!  It means 'knocked senseless or 'trumped' after major upset.

SECONDARY AIR Part of a bottle oven. During firing. Air which passes over (not through) the firebed and burning gases coming from the coal.  In a gas kiln, secondary air enters burner port around burner-tip.

SECONDARY CLAY Material. Clay which has been transported away from its point of geologic origins by wind or water.  Finer particle-size gives greater plasticity - ball clays, stoneware clays, fireclays, etc.

SECOND MAN The name of the drawer who worked in the middle of the bungs when emptying a fired bottle oven containing saggars.

SECONDS Faulty pottery. A description of the finished yet imperfect piece. Not best or firsts and not thirds or lump! Slightly blemished or faulty and sold at a slight discount.

The description or classification of the quality of pottery ware - the eight (or more) grades of pottery quality:
  • EXTRA BEST - Better than best quality. First first quality? But still not perfect perfect - see BEST.
  • BEST - First quality pottery. Good ware. Sometimes called FIRSTS. But there is no such thing as a perfect pot since every piece will always have some sort of slight blemish - this is the very nature of pottery.
  • BEST SECOND - Not bad enough to be a SECOND and not good enough to be best.
  • SECONDS - Imperfect pottery. Not BEST and not THIRDS or LUMP! Slightly blemished or faulty and sold at a slight discount.
  • WORST SECONDS - Sometimes called WORSER SECONDS. Slightly more imperfect than SECONDS. Then there was a DEGREE WORSER which was worse than WORST SECONDS. Or even WORSER WORSER. But not THIRDS, just yet.
  • THIRDS - This signifies that the ware is well below the usual BEST standard, and not even good enough to fall within the description of SECONDS. But better than LUMP. The ware was/is still marketable, however, and was sold to hawkers or market stall holders for sale on the 'stones'. Badly twisted ware, crooked holloware, nipped ware and whirler plates fall into this category.
  • LUMP - Massively faulty pottery. So bad that it is worse than WORSER SECONDS. Or even THIRDS. This is almost, but not quite, the lowest quality of ware that leaves any potbank, and usually it is ware that has just managed to escape being deliberately smashed. Whilst there may have been possibilities in some china shops of disposing of SECONDS, or even THIRDS the risk of dealing in LUMP is "too great to be incurred lightheartedly." Top-end, high-grade potbanks see to it that LUMP is sent to the shraff tip, "in spite of the fact that enquiries were freely received from the poorer districts or export for mixed grades of lump."  Usually, about 100 years later,  lump re-appears on TV shows as 'rare and valuable.'  That’s irony!
  • PITCHER Worse than lump. To be thrown away. Broken. Useless. But strangely saleable, at a price, in some quarters!
Also note this additional description of faulty pot: CRACK CRACKED and SOUND CRACKED Pottery which was found to be cracked after its glost firing was usually scrapped as useless. It was described as LUMP or PITCHER and usually sent to the shraff tip. However, some entrepreneurs in the industry were able to make money from selling cracked pottery - depending on how cracked it really was! Here, to explain is a quote from Brian Milner. He was one of those entrepreneurs in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. "We used to buy China teacups from Ridgways. These were termed "crack cracked" and "sound cracked". I am not kidding. They were [packed] 40 dozen in a teachest and we used to buy about 12 chests every 2 weeks. We would sound every one of the "crack cracked" and find a lot of sound ones which we used to decorate and we were still able to sell the really cracked to market men."

SEDIMENTARY CLAY Component of pottery body recipe. Ball clay is sedimentary. See secondary clay.

SEDIMENTATION The settling out, on standing, of particles from suspension in a liquid. This can occur when a casting slip or glaze is left overnight.

SEDS Samples taken from the ball mill in the sliphouse. Sediment samples - the grain size of the samples was checked by the rate of particle settling. Thanks go to Alan Rhodes for this one!  October 2019

SEGER CONE Equipment. Pyrometric cone. Device for measuring the heat-work imparted to pottery pieces during the bottle oven firing. Pyramid-shaped. These devices are formulated from different mineral mixtures and numbered accordingly. They are placed in a kiln so they can be viewed during firing and when a cone begins to bend it is closely monitored and the firing is terminated when it reaches a specific position.

Seger Cones to measure 'heat-work'

SEGGY Dialect. Just missed winning the race.

SELECTING Process. In biscuit or glost warehouses. Inspection of the product after a processing stage to look for faults which can either be rectified or not.

SELECTOR Occupation. Biscuit or glost warehouse department. Male or female. Inspector looking for faulty product and putting it aside for classifying into either best or seconds, repairing or lump for scrapping on a shord ruck.  Not to be confused with a sorter.

Glost warehouse selectors with their ware baskets

SEMI-PORCELAIN Type of pottery. A lightweight earthenware, midway in its general characteristics between a full earthenware and a china body. Sometimes not so opaque as ordinary general earthenware, owing to its larger percentage of Cornish stone and because it was more thinly and delicately potted than the norm.

SENNATUCT or SENNA TUCKED Dialect. Sometimes bloated. Sometimes constipated. Sometimes stiff after sitting for a long time in an awkward position. Comes after being a LOZZUCK for too long.

SET or SET-IN Process. Ovens department. To place saggars containing unfired pottery wares into a bottle oven or kiln.  Or, in a loaded kiln, the entire structure of shelves, furniture, and wares.

SETS  Pottery made easy! The composition of table settings in sets was pre-defined by manufacturers in their catalogues.

Spode catalogue page from 1902
Sets composition

SETTER (1) Equipment. Kiln furniture. A type of small saggar. A piece of fired refractory material carefully shaped so that its upper surface matches the lower surface of green flatware pottery it is designed to support during firing. Mainly for firing fine china or bone china.

SETTER (2) Occupation. Ovens department. Similar to a placer but this time for sanitaryware - particularly fireclay. Usually working in a team of two to pick up the heavy glazed clay pieces and set them on the kiln trucks for tunnel firing. Different from a placer who works on his own handling smaller pieces.

SETTER RING Equipment. Kiln furniture. The same as a SETTER (above) but being a ring rather than a full piece are lighter and easier to use.

SETTING (1) Process. Sometimes called placing. Loading an empty bottle oven with saggars full of ware prior to the next firing. Setting would take a couple of days of hot, strenuous and very dusty work. Stacking saggars in bungs.

SETTING (2) The arrangement and contents of ware in the oven when it has been placed. On a potbank the setting consists of the individual pieces of ware plus the saggars and kiln furniture which supports them.

SETTING IN or SET IN The process of placing. The process in the ovens department. Loading the oven with saggars full of ware ready for firing. Also known as PLACING.

SETTING OUT Process. Preparing saggars prior to setting in a bottle oven.

SETTLE (1) Process. Wages payment calculation. Day wage or piecework. Must be completed by Tuesday lunchtime giving time for the making up of wage packets by Thursday afternoon.

SETTLE (1) Armchair or settee or bench.

SETTLING BOOK Equipment. A small notebook used by potters to record the work they have done. A rather precious record since it is from this that the potter's piecework wages are calculated or 'settled.'

SGRAFFITO Process. Decoration. The technique of cutting through a layer of slip revealing a contrasting clay colour below; fine lines were drawn with a stylus, bigger areas with a knife. An old Italian term frequently known as incised.

SHADER Equipment. Decorating end. Potter's name for a small painting brush.  Potters call brushes pencils.  So this is a shader pencil. Camel hair is used when the pencil is used for fine decorative work. Sable is also used. The shader is used in the application of shaded areas of colour when hand-painting pottery. (Many thanks go to Jayne Packer for sending me this word, Oct 2015)

SHAFF RUCK Rubbish tip containing waste moulds, saggars and faulty ware such as lump or wasters. A heap of broken crockery!

SHAG Dialect. Term of endearment. Also SHAGNASTY - with emphasis!

SHAPE (1) The structural design of the pot.

SHAPE (2) Dialect. Lots of four-legged woolly animals found in the countryside.

Where 'shape' may safely graze.

SHAPE BOOK A collection of drawings, sketches or paintings showing the shapes which the potter has created for his firm.

SHARD or SHERD or SHORD  Either a faulty piece beyond repair, beyond seconds and beyond lump. Or a broken sliver of a pot.

SHARD (1) Faulty piece beyond repair, beyond seconds and beyond lump. Also tall building in London. No connection.

SHARD (2)also known as a  PLATE or a BAT. Equipment. Used in the saggar making shop. Large flat metal sheet pierced with holes of about 2" diameter. Used by the saggar maker's bottom knocker to transfer the recently made saggar bottom onto a whirler prior to the saggar maker constructing of the sides of the saggar.

SHARPS Kiln Furniture. Particular shape of fireclay or refractory scotch used as wedges to support a bung of saggars when being placed in the oven. Scotches come in various sizes - eg, wrister, two-fingers, three-fingers, knuckler, sharps.

SHEED Dialect. Spill or distribute or lose. 'Lorry sheed eats lood.'

Some pottery designs were known as 'sheet' patterns.  This is a design which is not specifically engraved to ‘fit’ one particular piece. But sheet patterns are designed to fit many pieces. Perhaps only three or four sheet pattern engravings are required for a whole range of tableware and toilet ware. Sheet patterns are great for covering faults in the biscuit or glost ware.

There are two main types of sheet pattern. The most common is one in which a uniform appearance is given. These sheets are used on their own or as a background to sprays of flowers or birds etc.

The other type of sheet pattern is one which is a complete design in itself and was not intended to be used in combination with any other design. Some of the sheet patterns could be described as Chintz, which was a fashionable term used by collectors in the late 1990s.

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SHELLAC Material. Used in both the clay end and the decorating end. A resinous substance secreted as a protective covering by the lac insect. Used to make varnish, shellac, sealing wax, and dyes. (Many thanks go to Jayne Packer for sending me this word, Oct 2015)

  • SHELLAC for creating the decoration on the glost piece.  Over glaze. Applied to give the glaze a 'lustre' after a firing to create a mother of pearl effect. Applied with a wide flat brush similar to those used for varnishing.  The process is generally hated by the people employed to apply the shellac since it stank, it was sticky, gummy and messy. Used at Masons Ironstone factory in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent.
  • SHELLAC for creating decoration in the clay piece. A simple decoration method where the shellac is used as a 'resist' prior to etching the clay piece with water to make a textured surface. Best explained in full by this YouTube video: 

SHERDS Faulty pieces which are beyond repair, beyond seconds and beyond lump. See shord.

SHINING BLACK A strong onglaze black. (Spode?)

SHINO GLAZE Not usually found on a potbank!  Generic term for a family of glazes, giving a range of colours from milky white to orange, sometimes with charcoal grey spotting, known as "carbon trap" which is the trapping of carbon in the glaze during the firing process.

SHINO POTTERY Not on a potbank!  Japanese pottery made with the Shino glaze.

SHIVER Equipment. Slicing tool used in saggar making. (pronounced shy-ver)

SHIVERING Glaze fault. Also called peeling. After firing pieces of glaze flake off the rim of the piece. Some body may also be attached to the glaze piece that cracks off. Caused by mis-match of glaze and body thermal expansion. Excessive glaze-compression causes the small razor-sharp chips of glaze to pop off along outer edges, corners, and rims.  All wares showing shivering must be destroyed. The cure is to slightly increase flux and/or decrease silica in glaze.

SHOARDS Equipment Clay end. Used to support clayware or to keep clays separated in the clay pens. Many thanks to David Broadhurst for suggesting this word. March 2016

SHOON Dialect word. Shoes!

SHOP Work room. Workshop. Part of a potbank. Not a display area for selling goods but a workshop for production.  "There were in excess of 150 different processes in the making of a piece of pottery. Each person who handled each pot on its journey through the potbank had a title to go with the job that they did, Experienced people worked in shops i.e. cup shop, flat shop, casting shop, decorating shop. Not so experienced people worked in houses. Biscuit warehouse, Dipping house, Glost warehouse. Packing house and to confuse things a bit, there was the Saggar shop and a Saggar House the two must never be mixed up. Again in the shop, the saggars were made, and in the house they were used."  (Many thanks go to Alan Hopwood for this description. March 2016)

SHORD Faulty ware. Pieces which are beyond repair, beyond seconds and beyond lump.

SHORD Equipment. Found in the saggar makers shop, which was also known as the 'saggar hole'. "Flat drying frame (sideless tray) with holes in it. The saggar base is put onto it after being knocked out, and kept on there while the sides of the saggar are added, and until dry." Shords came in various sizes and shapes to accommodate differing types of saggar:
  • Triangular with rounded corners. 
  • Square
  • Circular
  • Oval 
All had holes in them. The local Stoke-on-Trent firm of Edwards and Jones, Globe Engineering Works, Longton, is known to have manufactured shords. (Many thanks to Paul Niblett, long serving volunteer at Gladstone Pottery Museum, Longton, for some of this information. March 2020)

Saggar makers' shords
Gladstone Pottery Museum, Longton
Photo: Terry Woolliscroft Collection Date: 2019

SHORD RUCK Potter's rubbish tip containing waste moulds, saggars and faulty ware such as lump or wasters. A heap of broken crockery!

Also known as: 
  • or simply just SHORDS

Many thanks go to Elizabeth Carver who reminisced about shords
The word "brought to mind an old saying my Dad used when he was fobbing us children off when we asked where he was going: ‘Up shords back o’ Josses, wipin sweat off dead osses’.  Later on when I asked about the shords, he said his Dad (who was a cod placer) used to call the shordruck the shords for short."
Elizabeth Carver September 2023

SHORT Pottery body fault. Clay fired at too low temperature resulting in high porosity. If bone china is short fired it looses its translucency. Same as easy fired. May be biscuit or glost.

SHORT Glaze fault. Thin or missing glaze. In the sanitaryware industry the glaze surface is thin enough to be able to see the vitreous china body through it.  It can also give a rough finish, which may make cleaning difficult.  Short glaze faults are normally found at final inspection (sometimes called selection).  The piece can then be given another coating of spray glaze on the thin area and then refired.  Short glaze problems shouldn't reach the customer. Short glaze is allowed on unseen areas of the pot, such as the back of a toilet cistern.  It doesn’t affect the durability of the product.

SHORT Clay with insufficient plasticity which tends to break up or fragment during forming.

SHORT PROJECTION Sanitaryware. Some sanitaryware is designed especially for use in small bathrooms.  The product is designed to save as much space as possible by not projecting as far as normal into the room.  A short projection washbasin is very narrow from front to back. Likewise the short projection WC is considerably shorter normal from the wall to the front rim.

SHOTTIES Dialect. Glass marbles. A game for two or more.  The marbles themselves are usually glass but those made from albaster were sometimes available and were called stonies.  Some kids were able to get the steel balls out of ball bearings and these types of shotties were called ironies. The words glassies and  milkies were also used in reference to the materials from which the shotties were madeSee alleys, also allies.

Glass shotties

Kids losing their marbles

"In marbles there were sayings like  "keep your nunk." That meant you hadn't got your hand on the floor when you were taking a shot with your marble. Or "you're fobbing" when you try to take your shot not from where you were supposed to be - trying to get closer to your opponents ally."   Many thanks go to Ken Salt for this information - December 2020

SHOULDER Part of a bottle oven. The point at which the sides of the interior of a bottle oven become the crown.

SHOULDER HOLES Part of a bottle oven. Also called clearing holes on some potbanks. Holes in the crown which are permanently open and positioned above the bags to allow the escape of burnt gases and smoke. 

SHOULDERING Glaze fault. During firing, if a crank full of flatware slips, then it can slip off its pins and slide to the crank posts, causing shouldering.

SHRAFF Rubbish. Waste moulds, saggars and ware.


SHRAFF TIP Tip containing waste moulds, saggars and faulty ware. Shord ruck. A heap of broken crockery!

A Potteries shraff tip
at the junction of High Street and Summerbank Rd, Tunstall
Photo: courtesy Bert Bentley Collection  Date: 1960s

SHRAGGER Another name for saggar. Not common, though - an old word, very early. In the "Description of The Country from thirty to forty miles around Manchester" by J AIKIN, MD published in June 1795 the word saggar is a corruption of the German word SCHRAGER "which signifies cases or suporters."


All clays shrink. But not all clays are created equal. Different clay bodies experience different amounts of shrinkage. It depends upon the clay's particle size and on how many and what type of impurities are present in the clay body.

Shrinkage of a toilet during manufacture
Unfired on left. Fired on right

Shrinking during drying When a clay is wet and very pliable, it contains a great deal of water. The clay particles ride within the water, which is what makes clay plastic, or easily workable. As the clay dries the water evaporates, escaping from those spaces in between particles. The particles move closer together, resulting in the entire pot shrinking.How much the clay shrinks depends on the characteristics of the clay. Highly plastic wet clays have a very fine particle size and will shrink more. On the other hand, clays with large particles will shrink less. Also, clay bodies that include non-plastic additives, such as grog or sand, will shrink less. Shrinkage due to drying is generally between 4% and 10%.

Shrinkage during firing When clay is fired at a high enough temperature, it begins to gradually vitrify. This process of melting and fusing also compacts the clay body. The clay shrinks as the particle sizes slowly decrease as they fuse. In addition, the particles also compress into a tighter, more dense configuration within the glassy material that fills up all the nooks and crannies. The amount of shrinkage due to vitrification is very dependent on which type of clay is involved. Refractory clay bodies may have a very low degree of shrinkage at this stage, while highly vitreous clay bodies such as a high-fire porcelain may shrink up to 10%.

SHY TUP Dialect. If you can't be heard - shout up!

SIDE CLAY Type of saggar marl. Used for the sides of a saggar. The bottom of a saggar was made with saggar marl containing more grog to give it greater strength.

SIDE WARE Small items of clay pottery pieces which can be used to fill any spare space in saggars prior to firing. Helps to get the maximum oven fill.

SIEVE Equipment. Lawn or screen. Sometimes sieves have three or more decks arranged in tiers over each other. the top sieve may be of silk or brass with 100 meshes to the inch. The second would be finer with 120 meshes to the inch and the third and final sieve would be 130 and 160. Slip is pumped from the ark and passed over the sieves which are kept moving or shaking to keep the slip flowing through them. they need regular cleaning to remove the oversized materials.

SIFTER Equipment. A sieve.

SIGHT HOLES Part of a bottle oven. Small holes (the size of the end of a building brick) in the wall of the bottle oven just above the regulator hole above the firemouth to allow the fireman to see inside during firing. Sometimes called SPY HOLES.  Allows viewing of the condition of the fire in the bag (which itself can have a hole in its far side to allow viewing straight through into the oven beyond.) Sometimes covered with a metal slide or a brick end, or even a bowl of lobby.

SILICA Component of pottery body recipe.  The primary glass-former in clays and glazes.

SILICA SAND Component of pottery body recipe. Lots found in Cheshire. England.

SILICON CARBIDE  Material. Extremely hard, refractory material used to form kiln shelves. Highly resistant to corrosive atmospheres, and therefore suitable for salt, soda, and wood firing. Silicon carbide kiln shelves conduct electricity, and should never be used in electric kilns.

SILICON CHINA Particular pottery recipe developed and produced by Booths of Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent to imitate porcelain. Unlike porcelain, however, it was opaque.

SILICOSIS. Disease. Potters Rot. Potters occupational lung disease caused by inhalation of crystalline silica dust. Flint dust is the worst. Marked by inflammation and scarring in forms of nodular lesions in the upper lobes of the lungs. POTTERS ROT - Pottery workers were known to die in their forties because of potter's rot. Silicosis is a form of pneumoconiosis caused by inhaling clay dusts containing tiny particles of silica, quartz, or slate, and characterised by shortness of breath and fibrotic changes in the tissues of the lungs. Today the conditions in pottery factories are controlled by Regulations designed to prevent potters rot.

SILK SCREEN Equipment. Silk cloth or metal wire mesh stretched over a metal frame. Used for making prints of a decorative design onto duplex paper for lithography decoration.

SILVER OVERLAY Form of decoration. An electroplated coating of silver on the non-conductive glazed surface of a pot.

SINK Not a domestic Washbasin or a Lavatory but the name of a large fireclay vessel used in kitchens, hospitals, commercial premises or laundries. Traditionally, sinks were given names depending on their design  The popular Belfast Sink was manufactured in a number of sizes, but always rectangular and with relatively high walls.  The Belfast sink has an overflow. The name used in the Twyford Factory in Cliffe Vale for a Belfast Sink was Jomuk.  Interestingly the London Sink is the same shape as the Belfast but it has no overflow.

Sink names include:
  • Adamant
  • Alton
  • Belfast
  • Beresford Combined Butlers Sink
  • Birmingham Hospital
  • Brentford Combined Hospital Sink and Hopper
  • Brookwood
  • Cleaners
  • Cliffe Vale
  • Combination
  • Croydon
  • Durham Surgical
  • Edinburgh Combined Housemaid and Slop Hopper with Loose Back
  • Hartshill
  • Harrogate - including the "Duplo Fireclay Lavatory Range"
  • Housemaids
  • Hospital slop, bed pan and scalding combined
  • Improved hospital
  • Ideal Combination Sink
  • Kallio Scullery Sink
  • Keele  Combined Housemaid Sink, Slop Hopper and Lavatory Basin 
  • Laboratory sinks in various designs
  • Laundry
  • London
  • Middlesex
  • Norfolk Combined Sink and Lavatory
  • Osborne Hospital Sink
  • Post Office
  • Rivulet
  • Royal
  • Ruchill Combined Bedpan and Urinal Bottle Sink
  • Stafford Combined
  • Stockport Surgical
  • Trentham


SITTER UP Occupation. Sometimes called just SITTER. The bottle oven fireman's assistant, maybe the fireman's apprentice. He kindles, cajolesguards, tenders and baits the oven while the fireman takes a break during the firing cycle. The sitter up will get the oven up to a high temperature after about 20 hours of firing then the fireman will take over to finalise the firing. The sitter up would be less skilled and paid much less than the fireman. "The tops of the ovens should always lead the bottoms, but not an unreasonable length of time. No mouths should be unduly let down, necessitating an unusually heavy baiting, sometimes this occurs through negligence of the sitter up, and thereby a reducing atmosphere is created." From:  PRACTICAL TREATISE ON THE MANUFACTURE OF POTTERY by John Gater, Consultant Potter, 1921

SIX TOWNS The Potteries of Stoke-on-Trent.  Not the Five Towns popularised by Arnold Bennett. This rhyme sorts it out:  "Tunstall, Burslem, Hanley, Stoke - Fenton, Longton, through the smoke!"
  • Tunstall – most northern town in the city and where historians found that iron was produced as far back as 1280. The town stands on a ridge surrounded by old tile making and brickmaking sites.
  • Burslem – known as the mother town of Stoke-on-Trent, Burslem is packed with architecturally interesting and important buildings and is known for its vibrant nightlife including the legendary Leopard pub.
  • Hanley – the main shopping area in the city and home to Stoke-on-Trent’s cultural quarter which host a number of great theatres and art venues, holding the world’s greatest collection of Staffordshire ceramics and the Staffordshire Hoard, a treasure trove of Anglo-Saxon gold.
  • Stoke – the town that’s home to the train station and famously known for its pottery history and as the birthplace of 'fine bone china'.
  • Fenton – once a rural area dotted with farms and small holdings, it become rapidly populated during the massive development of the potteries. Home to a splendid Victorian town hall which is being championed for community use as a arts venue and Fenton Manor which hosts international performance events including an annual beer festival.
  • Longton – known locally as the ‘neck end’ of the city, the town has a long history of working in the heart of the Pottery industry. Home to the excellent Gladstone Pottery Museum and CoRE, a former Potbank which has been converted into an exciting events space.

SIZE Material use in the mouldmaking and transferring processes. A soft soap and water mixture is used as the size. In mouldmaking it is brushed and sponged onto the master case to allow the newly poured set mould to be released. In transfer printing size is used to cover the special transfer tissue paper. Also, in the decorating shops boiled linseed oil is used as a size. Nothing to do with dimensions!

The  pottery industry had a peculiar system for describing the sizes of its products. To the uninitiated, it was complicated, messy, inconsistent and arbitrary. To those in the know, a manufacturer and his workers, it was easy to understand but skewed to the benefit of the boss.

FLATWARE: The nominal Trade sizes (measured in inches or " ) of flatware, such as plates and dishes, differ from the Actual sizes. For example:
  • An 8" Trade plate measures 9"Actual
  • A 10" Trade plate measures 10.5" Actual - sometimes more. 
  • A 16" Trade oval meat dish would truly measure 18" Actual and the whole nest of dishes will be greater in Actual size than the nominal Trade size.

HOLLOWARE: The sizing of holloware is more difficult than for flatware. But, put simply, the larger the size number the smaller the actual size of pot, and the smaller the size number the larger the actual size of pot.
  •  Jugs. teapots, pudding owls and the like were described under trade terms such as 24s, 30s and 36s, each gradation occurring in spans of sixes. 
  • The full range of Trade Sizes was 
    • 6s, 12s, 18s, 24s, 30s, 36s, 42s, 48s, 54s, and 60s.  
  • The underlying principle of this arrangement appears to have come down through the generations, and the apparent inconsistencies are accounted for by the fact that originally, pottery was sold by the basket, in what were known as "warehouse dozens". 
  • The large size jug or teapot or bowl would be twelve to the dozen, and called a 12s; the next smaller size would be eighteen to the dozen, and called an 18s; the pint size would be twenty-four to the dozen, and called a 24s and so on down or up the scale. 
To add to the confusion, one manufacturer's sizes do not necessarily conform with those of other manufacturers; the shapes may be modelled to bigger or smaller capacities. 

As the industry developed, sizing was related to the number of pieces which could be accommodated on a single standard size ware board.

During the early 20th Century the system was changed and articles were sold in dozens of twelve, yet the old method of describing the sizes persisted well into the 1990s.

Decoration. The application of gold to ware without firing it, by fixing it with oil or japanner's size.

SKILLY Workhouse food. Meal and water. 'Tasted disgusting.'

SKIMMER Kiln Furniture. Part of a bottle oven. Different shapes of bricks used as wedges to support a bung of saggars.

SKIMMER A saggar. Equipment. A saggar with a particular shape and used for a particular purpose in a bottle oven during firing. Lower in height than a hiller but for the same use. A shallow saggar with very low sides and a full base to cap the top of a pile or bung (a stack) of several saggars. A lid. Sometimes skimmers were turned upside down and used to stand on, like steps, in the oven.

SKIMMER The name of the drawer who took saggars off the tops of bungs when the fired oven was being drawn..

SKITTERIN Dialect. A light layer of snow.

SLAB A very large tile. These could be used for table tops, architectural panels, fireplaces, garden planters, etc., particularly in the 19th century.  See Spode ABC  Click here>

SLAB BUILT Slab ware is slab built. See immediately below.

SLAB WARE Type of pottery created by sticking together small slabs of soft clay to create the design. After thorough drying and firing the resulting piece is sculptural.

SLAG Derogatory name for a female who is regarded as rather naughty.

SLAG Also called cinder. The fused and vitrified matter separated during the reduction of a metal from its ore.

SLAG HEAP Huge pyramid-shaped mound of waste materials coming from either the steel making process (for instance at Shelton Bar steelworks, Stoke) or from coal mining waste.

SLAKE  Soaking dry unfired clay in water to return it to slip.

SLANG as in a 'slang of clay.' A lump of soft clay, of particular weight and dimensions, torn off a bigger piece. The slang was used during cup making  or jolleying. From:  PRACTICAL TREATISE ON THE MANUFACTURE OF POTTERY by John Gater, Consultant Potter, 1921

SLAPE Dialect. Meaning sleep. Hungover? "Goo slape eat off, wut?"

SLAPPING ProcessAnother (old) name for wedging. 'Beating [clay] with mallets, turning it, and beating it again with small spades, or paddles, as the workmen call them. After this it undergoes a process called slapping. It is removed in the state of large lumps to a convenient bench or table where a man having cut across it with a brass wire unites it again by slapping one of the halves down upon the other with all his force. [to remove air]"  Full description on line 'Chemical Essays' by Samuel Parkes Volume 3, 1815, page 279.

SLAT EAT DINE Dialect. Throw it down, vigorously when you're 'inna mick'. And  SLATTIN EAT DINE Raining hard 'Eats slattin dine' means its raining hard.

SLATTIN see immediately above.

SLIDE OFF Decoration process. Litho shop. The decorative pattern is printed onto a litho paper and covered with a plastic medium. The paper is then soaked in water prior to use so that the gum on the special litho paper dissolves allowing the plastic medium to float off carrying the decoration with it. The plastic with it pattern is then applied to the piece. The medium burns away during firing. Also known as Lithography.

SLIP Liquid clay, the consistency of creamy custard. Clay and other materials mixed with water to create a suspension. Approx 3 parts clay to 1 part water. Used in the production of pots. Normally a deflocculant such as sodium silicate is added to disperse the particles and hence allow a much higher solids content or pint weight. The addition of a defloculant allows the water content to be kept to a minimum which reduces the amount of shrinkage when slipcasting. Large quantities are mixed a blunger. (Slip by name and slip by nature).

SLIP CASTING Process. Potting department. The process by which some types or styles of pottery products are created. Casting slip is poured into a Plaster of Paris mould until full. The porous plaster immediately begins to absorb water from the slip and a skin of plastic clay builds up on the surface of the mould. The skin gets thicker as the slip is left in the mould. The absorption of water by the mould causes the level of casting slip at the head of the mould to drop. The mould is sometimes topped up occasionally during the casting process. Once the cast has reached the desired thickness, the liquid casting slip in the mould is poured out, leaving only the build up of clay particles against the mould face. After a time, as the clay dries, it draws away from the mould face and becomes firm enough to support itself and can be released from the mould. The mould is opened or in the case of a one piece mould tipped gently upside down to release the cast. The cast piece is then set aside and when leather hard or cheese hard is ready to be fettled and sponged.

SLIP DECORATION A method that is used to cover one pottery body with another, usually of a different colour, either to mask an uninteresting base or to provide a decoration in relief. The overlying slip is sometimes blown on to the ware by means of the mouth through a quill, or squeezed on to the ware by means of a bulb. Some of this work is done on the lathe, and portions of the applied slip turned off as desired similar to wood turning.

SLIP HOUSE Department in the potbank. Where the components of the pottery recipe are prepared and blended together to create the pottery body.

SLIPUS Dialect. Slip house in the clay end where slip is created.

SLIP KILN Equipment. For de-watering slip. A large, shallow, brick tank is heated from below by fire to drive off the excess water from the clay slip contained in it. The process 'de-waters' the slip to make it 'plastic.' J.W.Mellor, D.Sc,  in his book 'Collected Papers from the County Pottery Laboratory, Staffordshire, 1905 states that 'slip which has been dried in the old-fashioned slip kilns furnishes more plastic materials than when slip is dried in the modern filter press.'

SLIP MAKER Occupation. Clay End. Person, most usually a man since it's heavy work, responsible for measuring out the ingredients according to a clay body recipe to make the pottery slip.

SLIP MEET Pottery fault. Sometimes found on vitreous china sanitaryware and bone china. It only shows after firing (once fire for sanitaryware). In the dried clay state it doesn't show at all, but if it did, normal wet sponging of the piece would appear to take away the effect, only to return during firing. It can look like a very shallow ridge. On sanitaryware it is sometimes found on the front rim of WC pans and washbasins. (See photo)  Slip meet can result in a bulge, bump or ridge, or sometimes a crack. The "slip meet"' is the point at which slip filling different parts of the mould meet and at that point, there will be a different orientation of clay particles within the two areas of cast. In some circumstances the misalignment of particles can be so extreme as to result in a cracking on firing, however, more often, the slip meet is seen as a bump or raised area. Slip meet is most commonly found on the rim of mechanically cast basins. On bone china the effect is similar resulting 

Slip meet on a vitreous china washbasin casing a 'bump'
Photo: Terry Woolliscroft Collection

SLIPT Perhaps on ice or on spilt slip on the factory floor!

SLIP RESIST  Decorating technique. Resist materials (such as wax or grease) applied to the biscuit or clay surface to prevent applied slip from adhering to some areas.

SLIP TRAILING Process. Decoration. Trailing a clay slip onto the surface of a preformed pot to create decoration. The slip is a different colour from the original pot to form the pattern.

Slip trailed slipware
Gladstone Pottery Museum, created by David Rooke 1975

SLIPWARE Decoration. Pottery identified by the way it has been decorated.  Slip is dipped, painted, piped or splashed onto the 'green' clay pottery body surface to create the decoration.

SLIT FAR YET?  Dialect. "Have you lit the fire yet?"

SLOP Suspension (mixture) of non-plastic materials (not clay) in water. eg. slop china stone.

SLOP Potters protective clothing or overall. usually white.  In the early days slops were made from cotton.  In today's factories the material used in Terylene, which doesn't hold dust.

SLOP BONE A suspension of finely ground calcined animal bone in water.

SLOPPING UP Process. Mixing various materials in water.

SLOP PECK Measurement of volume. The volume of slip that contains 20 pounds of dry material.

SLOPS-STERN Dialect. Sink.


SLOPPY PAYS  Dialect. 'Sloppy peas'  Mushy Peas.

Fish, chips and sloppy peas. Excellent Friday dinner for a potter

SLOSH BOY Occupation. Apprentice mouldmaker whose main job it was to empty all the buckets and tubs used in the mouldmaking shop. All the dirty jobs!

SLOW TRICE Dialect. The slaughter house. Oh!

SLURRY Material. Congealed slip. Sometimes called 'Monkey Muck.'  Very thick clay slip used for joining clay pieces during the making process to create the finished piece.

SMACK Not what you're thinking!  It's food. A deep fried potato fritter. A bit like a big, flat, chip.

SMALTS  Material. The double silicate of cobalt and potassium and in a workable form of the element. Blue colour.

SMEAR GLAZE Type of glaze. Very thin glaze deposit on the surface of pottery created by the smearing of glaze on the inside of the saggar in which the biscuit piece is fired. The glaze vaporises on firing and settles on the biscuit pottery. An advance on salt glazing and can be mistaken for it.

Josiah Wedgwood smear glazed teapot

Also a SMEAR GLAZE definition from Spode Exhibition Online:  In the early 19th century potters devised a new glazing technique. By coating stoneware with a "smear" of glaze so thin it did not obscure surface decoration, they were able to produce wares with ornate relief designs that remained sharp while reflecting a soft, attractive sheen. Neo-classical ornament remained a popular style, but producers supplemented it with a range of English hunting scenes.  Spode was one of the foremost manufacturers more here

SMOKE Product of burning coal. Stoke-on-Trent was once described as the smokiest city on the world - smoke being created in vast volumes when the bottle ovens were in full use. The Clean Air Act of 1952/53 started the big clean up of this filthy Stoke air but it was not until 1978 when the last oven was fired in The Potteries, and this was the special event organised by The Gladstone Pottery Museum. more here>

Dark smoke is partially burned particles of fuel, the result of incomplete  combustion. It can be dangerous because small particles are absorbed into the lungs.  White smoke is mainly tiny water droplets, generated when vapour released during combustion condenses in cool air. Generally,  dark smoke is clearly visible against a light sky but difficult to see at night or against a dark background, white smoke is visible in darkness when illuminated but will be more difficult to see against a light sky background. Smoke is commonly measured in terms of its apparent density in relation to a scale of known  greyness. The scale was developed by Professor Maximilian Ringelmann of La Station d'Essais de Machines in Paris in 1888. It has a 5 levels of density inferred from a grid of black lines on a white surface which, if viewed from a distance, merge into known shades of grey.

Bottle Ovens and Smoke, Longton
Photo: source unknown Date: unknown

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SMOKE HOLE Part of a bottle oven. Small (3 inch square) holes in the crown of the bottle oven. Without dampers. Found equidistant between the shoulder holes and the central crown damper.

SMOKE-ON-TRENT Derogatory!  An alternative name for the Potteries of Stoke-on-Trent.
  • Richard Crossman - in the mid 1960s after he paid a visit to the Potteries, UK Cabinet Minister for Housing in Harold Wilson's government, Richard Crossman, concluded that the city "should be evacuated."
  • Pevsner's Buildings of Staffordshire entry starts with "the Five Towns are an urban tragedy".  Pevsner continued "this is a great loss; for their odd shapes were one of the distinguishing features of the Five Towns and used to determine their character – kilns bottle shaped, kilns conical, kilns like chimneys with swollen bases. They have a way of turning up in views with parish churches and town halls as their neighbours. As for the surviving offices and warehouses, some are quite handsome". 
  • Henry Thorold in the Shell Guide was rather more balanced in saying "architecturally the six towns are disappointing, scenically they are interesting and atmospherically they are compelling" 
  • J B Priestley was right when he wrote "what distinguishes this district … is its universal littleness. Everything there is diminutive. Even the landscape fits in for although there are hills, they are little ones. The River Trent here is just a stream, not the broad river of Nottingham’s Trent Bridge. It scarcely impinges on the topography The Trent and Mersey and Caldon canals make a much bigger impression." Priestley was hugely impressed with the pottery and ceramics industry. "They are unique in their work, an industry which is still a craft, and one of the oldest in the world."

Bottle ovens and their smoke
Photo: unknown source  Date: unknown

SMUT Particles of soot created during the firing process which drop gently through the air and land on your recently washed clothes! Because smuts are greasy they create a horrible black mark. Annoyingly common on firing days. Can be 'the size of golf balls!'

SNAPPIN also SNAP Dialect. Food. Potter's food is, without any doubt, Oatcakes and Cheese together, perhaps, with a little ketchup.

SNAPPIN TARM  Dinner time.

SNAPED Dialect. Same as sneeped ... Offended. Snubbed. Upset. 'Proper dished' by the remark.

SNAP TIN or SNAPPIN TIN Where you keep your snappin! (Obvs!)

Miner's snap tin
Photo: Courtesy Science Museum

SNEEPED or SNEAPED Dialect. Offended. Snubbed. Upset. 'Proper dished' by the remark.

SNEEP or SNEAP Dialect. To snub.

SNIDE Dialect. Two-faced and a generally nasty character in a person who is bent on causing you trouble.

SNIDE Overrun with vermin.

SNIP Lip of a jug.


SNOTTY Bad tempered.

SNOW OUT Dialect. Nothing at all to do with the weather. Part of a greeting - "do you know anything?"  Many thanks to David Broadhurst for suggesting this term for inclusion March 2016

SODA FIRING Process.  Similar to Salt Glazing but intended to be less toxic. Vapor-glazing. Gives slightly less gloss and orange-peel than salt glazing. Instead of salt, soda ash (sodium carbonate) in water solution is sprayed into kiln at maturing temperature, and sodium vapor combines with silica in clay to form sodium-silicate glaze.

SODA GLAZE This type of glaze is produced when sodium compounds (sodium carbonate, sodium bicarbonate, sodium chloride or a combination of them ) are introduced into the hot kiln atmosphere at the height of the fire at around 1300 C. The compounds break down to release sodium vapour into the kiln which readily combine with the silica and alumina present in the clay body to form a a rich patina of surface texture and colour - the glaze. The process may involve mixing sodium bicarbonate with water, which is then sprayed into the kiln during the firing at high temperature. The resulting vapour is drawn through the kiln chamber where it reacts with the silica and alumina present in the clay creating the glaze.

SOAK, SOAKING TIME and SOAKING PERIOD Part of the firing process. The period when the fire has reached its top temperature and during which that temperature is maintained for a time to allow any stresses in the clay piece to release.  ALSO  During firing or cooling, the act of holding the kiln at a steady temperature for a period of time to allow proper formation or maturation of certain clay and glaze effects.

SOAKIES Bread and milk.

SOAPSTONE Material. Steatite. A substitute for China Stone.

1. Component of pottery body recipe. Used as a deflocculant in clay slip preparation by neutralising the charges of particles in the slip, allowing for more even suspension and thinning.
2. Also used to create a crackled texture or pattern on the surface of a clay piece before firing.

SOFT SOAP Material. Mould making or transferring shop. Used with water as size or releasing agent.

SOFT CLOSING MECHANISM Sanitaryware.  This is the term given to some toilet seats which have a special hinge mechanism which slows the movement of the seat as it closes. The mechanism is hidden within the seat hinge.  The seat will not close with a sudden thud but will gently fall into place, unaided.

SOFT PASTE PORCELAIN Type of ceramic with a particular recipe and requiring particular firing conditions. Made from a clay body recipe containing a glassy frit and fluxing agent which allows it to vitrify at at lower temperatures than hard paste porcelain. Soft and granular body. The glaze is usually clear but sometimes gathers into pools. No particular recipe but the body is made from Frit, China Stone, other ingredients. Biscuit firing at 1200°C to 1300°C. Glost firing at 1050°C to 1150°C.

SOG Dialect. A hard slap or punch.

SOLID CASTING Process. Clay end. Used in the casting of large pottery pieces (eg: sanitaryware). The plaster mould, used for casting, has a solid inner plaster core so that when clay slip is poured into the mould it fills the space between the core and the mould. No slip is wasted. When the plaster has done its job and sucked water out of the slip to make it stiff and workable the core can be removed before the cast pot can be removed.

SOLUBLE SALTS Sulphates of Ca, Mg, and Ni which migrate to the surface of the clay as it dries. Creates a problem called scumming.

SOOT Pronounced in The Potteries as 'suit' not 'sut'. Found in chimneys after a coal fire. Lots of it around in the days of coal fired bottle ovens!

SORTER Occupation. Warehouse, glost. Woman (not usually a man, except their boss) employed to chip off the tiny bits of glaze which were stuck to the places where the piece had been supported on kiln furniture, in the kiln. Uses a specially made sorting tool. The William Bolton Company manufactured a 'machine sorter' called a Ginetting Machine. Not to be confused with a selector.who works in the same warehouse but who inspects products and classifies them into best, seconds, or lump.

Sorting Warehouse at Spode Factory - probably 1950s
Tower Pattern on the left. Italian pattern on the right.
Image courtesy of Transferware Collectors Club more>

SORTING Process. Glost Warehouse. Removal of stuck-on pips. Knocking the pip or stilt marks off the back of flatware (plates, soup plates and saucers)after it has been fired.

SORTING TOOL Equipment. Glost warehouse. Made from iron or steel about 1/8 inch thick, 1 inch broad, and from 10 to 12 inches long, and sharpened at each end. They are usually kept well ground and quite clean, and never allowed to get rusty, as in the latter case, they may cause ugly marks on the ware. They are used for cleaning or chipping off any little rough bits of glaze or pieces of saddles or stilts that may have stuck to the glaze. This is important, not only on account of the appearance of the piece, but also because these little bits of glaze, sticking out from the ware, are as sharp as razors, and pieces that have not been sorted should be rather carefully handled if cut fingers are to be avoided.

SOUND CRACKED and CRACK CRACKED Faulty pottery. Pottery which was found to be cracked after its glost firing was usually scrapped as useless. It was described as LUMP or PITCHER and usually sent to the shraff tip. However, some entrepreneurs in the industry were able to make money from selling cracked pottery - depending on how cracked it really was! Here, to explain is a quote from Brian Milner of Longton's Phoenix Works. He was one of those entrepreneurs in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. "We used to buy china teacups from Ridgways. These were termed "crack cracked" and "sound cracked". I am not kidding. They were [packed] 40 dozen in a teachest and we used to buy about 12 chests every 2 weeks. We would sound every one of the "crack cracked" and find a lot of sound ones which we used to decorate and we were still able to sell the really cracked to market men."

SOURING Process. Like ageing, the storing of clay for a considerable period to allow it to homogenise. Moisture content will even out through the mass during ageing and plasticity is improved. Some potters will sour their clay straight from being freshly dug and before further processing. Some would sour their clay after pugging to let it rest before potting.

SPACER Equipment. Tapered section of a pug mill which joins the barrel to the die. Clay is compressed as it is forced through the spacer before it is extruded through the die.

SPALLING Pottery fault. Cracking of ceramic ware.  In bad cases corners can fall off. Mainly caused by thermal shock, perhaps if the oven door is opened too soon after firing, allowing a blast of cold air to impinge on the pottery inside.

SPANGLING Pottery fault. Found in vitreous china  sanitaryware. Spangling appears as tiny pinpricks in the glaze surface and is often only seen when lit from a certain angle  Spangling (sometimes called breathing) is caused by gas escaping to the glaze surface during firing and is most common in the bowls of vitreous china washbasins. It appears as tiny pin-pricks (pinholes) in the glaze surface and is often only apparent when illuminated from a certain angle.

SPARROW BANK A potbank where sometimes the wages are not forthcoming on payday, Saturday.

SPARROWED Dialect. Hard up. Probably due to the Sparrow Bank.

SPATTLING Splashing. A good example may be the spattling which occurs when  the vibration or shaking of a lawn (a sieve to extract oversized contaminants in clay slip before further processing) is a tad too vigorous. Enclosing the lawn is a wooden structure would stop spattling.

SPECK Pottery body or glaze fault. Caused by small particles of iron or refractory dust on the biscuit or glazed pot. In a biscuit firing "There can be no doubt that specking occurs when the temperature is suddenly raised when the oven has attained a dull red heat and through the prevalence of a reducing atmosphere in the oven. The freer an oven be kept from impurities the better. Closing up too early in the firing will certainly conduce to specking."  From:  PRACTICAL TREATISE ON THE MANUFACTURE OF POTTERY by John Gater, Consultant Potter, 1921

SPIT OUT Glaze fault. Shows as tiny craters in the glaze of porous (non-vitreous) pottery. Feels rough to touch; like the surface of very rough sandpaper. Caused by the release of steam which bursts through the softened glaze at high temperature during a glost, or more usually, a decorating fire. Porous but glazed pottery such as earthenware may absorb moisture when it is in stock, awaiting its next process. During firing this moisture quickly turns to steam and has to escape. It then bursts through the glaze creating the tiny craters. Ugly. Renders the pot a seconds or even lump.

SPLIT Pottery fault. Similar to a firecrackbut more dramatic!

SPODE Pottery Manufacturer. Stoke-on-Trent.
Described by Michael Horden in this film as "The very essence of civilised living."  10 minute film

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SPOIL HEAP Waste from coal mining. Coal was an essential material in the Potteries until the arrival of the Clean Air Acts which saw the end of the traditional coal fired bottle oven in the area.

Chatterley Whitfield Colliery spoil heap
Photo: Source unknown  Date: unknown

SPONGE Equipment.  Used in many areas of a potbank.  Potters prefer to use natural sponges but they are so expensive that imitation natural sponges became to be used, towards the end of the 20th Century.

SPONGER 1 Occupation. Potting department. Clay end. The person, male or female, employed specifically to remove seams and wet clay which had been created during the potting process. Maybe the sponger did nothing but remove the soft clay slip that was used by a cup handler when he or she put handles onto cups.

SPONGER 2 Occupation. Decoration department. The person, usually female who applies sponged decoration to the piece.

SPONGING Process. Potting department. Using a damp (or even wet) sponge to smooth down the seams and imperfections created during casting a pot in a mould.

SPONGE DECORATION Process.  Decorating department.  Type of decoration using small sponges, sometimes cut into simple shapes and dipped in coloured enamels, or glaze or slip and then dabbed onto the surface of the pot. Also see CUT SPONGE DECORATION 

Sponged decoration

SPONGE STICK Equipment. Potter's tool. Clay end. Same as diddler. Stick with a small sponge fastened to one end. Used mainly to sponge smooth the recently cast spouts and handles of clay pots. May be peculiar to Enoch Wedgwood 1980s. Beware of the wrong end of the stick.

SPON NEW Dialect. Fresh out of the packaging! Previously unused and untouched. Pristine.

SPOT CHECKER Occupation. Usually in warehouses. Also know as checkers whose role in the potbank is to inspect and constantly check that the work, and the product, is up to the standard laid down by the management.

SPOTTED Particular type of decoration to flatware and holloware. Not beaded. Probably smaller than beaded. Maybe in colour or gold.

SPREADER Equipment. Clay end. Potting department. The machine that spreads a ball of soft clay into a disc or bat of clay of the required thickness on a rotating plaster block. The disc of clay is then used to make flatware on a jigger. 'In the old days batting out was done by hand, and the invention of this machine has been of very distinct advantage to the pottery industry.' (Pottery by Charles J Noke and Harold J Plant, 1927).

SPRAY BOOTH  Equipment. Open-fronted enclosure with an exhaust fan at the rear. The fan creates a draught which sucks over-spray and other toxic dust or fumes created during the process.

SPRIG Decoration applied in relief to the surface of a clay pot before firing. Sometimes called classical relief

SPRIG MOULD Equipment. Potting department. Small shallow mould from which a sprig is taken and applied to a clay piece as decoration or ornament, in the clay state.  The shallow mould may be made from Plaster of Paris or from fired biscuit ware of a particular recipe, which is highly porous.

Sprig Mould. A leaf for a Spode piece

SPRIGGED WARE Ware with sprigging used as embossed decoration. Sprigging or sprigged decoration or ornamentation is an embossed clay decoration on pottery, usually small press-moulded clay shapes are applied to leather hard green ware.  When fired the biscuit pot has the sprigged decoration firmly attached.  See Spode History here>  http://spodehistory.blogspot.co.uk/p/sprigged-stoneware.html 

SPRIGGING Process. The process of applying relief ornamentation to form a bas-relief. Potting department. Clay end. Application of pre-moulded sprigs to the surface of the clay pot. The clay body for the sprig is pushed into the small mould, the back scraped flat, then the clay sprig is released carefully. The green clay piece is then wetted lightly with a brush, and the sprig is pressed lightly with cloth pad onto the surface of the pot.

Wedgwood figure making -
removing clay sprig from the mould
using a waggler

Wedgwood figure making -
 removing clay sprig from the mould
using a waggler


SPRINGER Part of an enamel decorating kiln. The point at which the arched roof starts to curve over from the main upright walls.

SPRITE Dialect. Vegetable. Looks like a very small cabbage. Lots eaten at Christmas with turkey. Loved or hated and often blamed for borborygmi  and flatulence after the meal.

SPRITTLE Equipment (but for catering not potting!)  Thin and wide wooden bat used to remove oatcakes from the griddle.

SPRUNG HANDLE Pottery fault. A handle should be attached to the clay pot when both the handle and the piece are of similar hardness (dryness). If not, uneven shrinkage occurs between the handle and the pot which causes stresses in the joint and the handle can spring off (flirt off) or crack during firing.

SPUD Equipment. Printing shop. Decorating end. Palette knife or scraper (shaped rather like a wallpaper or paint removing scraper) used to apply warmed ceramic colour (the consistency of Marmite) to a flat, engraved copper plate.

SPUD A potato!

SPUG Dialect. Sparrow (not very common)

SPUR Kiln furniture. Equipment. A refractory support to separate plates within the saggar during firing. Spurs leave small marks in the glazed surface. (Also see: Stilts)

SPY HOLE Part of a bottle oven. Sometimes called a SIGHT HOLE. Small opening just above the regulator hole above the firemouth in a bottle oven. Allows viewing of the condition of the fire in the bag (which itself can have a hole in its far side to allow viewing straight through into the oven beyond.) Sometimes covered with a metal slide or a brick end, or even a bowl of lobby.

SQITCH Couch grass. European perennial grass (Agropyron repens) that spreads rapidly by its underground stems and is a troublesome weed.

SQUARE A saggar. Equipment. A saggar with a particular shape and used for a particular purpose in a bottle oven during firing. One of many different shapes.

SQUEEGEE A T-shaped implement having a crosspiece edged with rubber or leather that is drawn across a surface to remove water, as in washing windows.

SQUEEZE BOX Equipment. For making handles.

STACK The chimney of the bottle oven.

STACK OVEN - sometimes known as CONE OVEN.  Type of bottle oven. These are bottle ovens with their chimney stacks built directly onto the shoulders of the oven itself. This is the form developed when a series or row of ovens are grouped together under one roof, the stacks rising through the roof of the building. These ovens are solid and compact but they tended to be more difficult to repair and took a longer time to cool down. More here>

STAFFYSHER Staffordshire

STAGE A temporary construction using planks of wood (or, even, potters ware boards) placed on top of a stepped arrangement of saggars at the entrance, and inside, a bottle oven.  The staging was used to make it easier for the bottle oven to be emptied after firing. Placers and odd men would clamber up the staging and use its stepped 'shelves' to pass the saggars containing fired ware out of the oven.

STAGING A temporary construction using planks of wood (or ware boards) in a stepped arrangement on top of saggars at the entrance, and inside, an oven. The staging was used in the oven during drawing. Drawers would clamber up the staging and use its stepped shelves.

STAIN Ceramic pigment used to colour the body on firing. The colorant is fritted in order to eliminate solubility problems and give greater stability in firing and truer color before firing.  Mixture of ceramic stains or pure coloring oxides (sometimes with a little flux) in water suspension, which can for overglaze brushwork, or as a patina on unglazed clay.


STAMPING Decoration Department. The application of a gold or coloured pattern or backstamp to the ware by means of a rubber stamp. By hand or by machine.

STAPLING also called riveting. Old method of repairing cracks or breaks in pottery.

STARVED Dialect. Not hungry, but cold. May have originated from the firing of bottle ovens - "When mouths are burning down, quarries should be on or doors closed, so that the flues do not chill, nor the bags turn, otherwise the oven would be 'starved' as it is termed. When the baiting is burning down, it is then that the heat is working up the middle flues, and is thus ensuring the temperature of the centre of the oven." From PRACTICAL TREATISE ON THE MANUFACTURE OF POTTERY by John Gater, Consultant Potter, 1921

STATUARY PORCELAIN (sometimes called STATUARY WARE) is unglazed porcelain now known as Parian. Developed during the 1830s specifically for producing busts and statuettes. The name 'Parian' comes from Paros, a Greek island renowned for its fine-textured marble.

STAVE Rung of a ladder.

STAY ON THE BRICKS A phrase which worried mothers used to encourage their playful children to stay on the pavement and not wander onto the road and into danger. Of course the phrase was used when pavement were made of bricks. 


STEAM ENGINE  The power house for a "modern" potbank.  The Spode Factory in Stoke installed a modern, brand new steam engine from Boulton & Watt, in 1802. Gladstone Pottery Museum has a steam engine clanking away in the engine house (although it is no longer powered by steam) and in 2015/6 The Middleport Pottery of Burgess and Leigh began restoring its steam engine.

Steam Engine still in practical use in December 1974
 at Burgess and Leigh, Middleport Pottery, Stoke-on-Trent.
The engine gave power to the slip house.
Photo taken by the author of  Potbank Dictionary
Terry Woolliscroft Collection

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STEEKLER  Part of a bottle oven. Also known as a STICKLER  and sometimes, and more rarely, called a CLEAT. During the building of the oven, the bricklayer would turn a brick(s) through 90 degrees to make its short end project by half the brick's length (4.5 inches) into the interior of the oven. He did this at regular intervals and heights in the arches, between the bags. The resultant projections, called steeklers, sticklers, or cleats enabled the oven placers to ensure that each bung of saggars was kept as vertical and as rigid as possible. Scotches were used between the bung and the projecting bricks to make the bung rigid and less prone to collapse during firing.

Steeklers, (sticklers or cleats) and scotches
Photo: Terry Woolliscroft Collection  Date: Last Bottle Oven Firing 1978


STEEN, or STEAN An earthenware vessel, used for liquids, later for bread, meat, fish, etc., having two handles or ears.

STENCIL Equipment. Used in decoration. May be cardboard, stiff paper or zinc. A design is cut into the material before it is placed onto the surface if the ware. Colour is then applied through the cut-outs by means of brushes or aerograph. 

STENCIL Decoration.  Applying a decoration using a sponge, a spray or a brush through a stencil having the decoration cut into it.

STENCILLING OUT Process. Decorating end. Used during the decorative 'ground laying' process. Expensive, complicated and highly skilled. If the piece is not to be coloured all over with groundlay (since designers would prefer some areas to either have the white of the pot showing through or they require some areas of the pot to be covered with a different colour, or gold.) the white areas have to be covered over first with a resist. The areas not to be covered with a groundlay are therefore painted with a water soluble medium through a stencil. After goundlaying, the water soluble medium is washed off to reveal the white pot which can then be painted with either gold or the different colour. (Difficult to describe!)

STEP WHIRLER Similar to 'whirler' but similarities and differences unknown.

STICKING UP Process. Sticking various parts of the clay piece together using either plain water or raw slip as the 'glue'. During firing the separate pieces 'weld' togther to form one whole item.

STICKER UP Occupation. Clay end. See immediately above.

STICKLER Part of a bottle oven. Also known as a STEEKLER and sometimes, and more rarely, called a CLEAT. During the building of the oven, the bricklayer would turn a brick(s) through 90 degrees to make its short end project by half the brick's length (4.5 inches) into the interior of the oven. He did this at regular intervals and heights in the arches, between the bags. The resultant projections, called sticklers, steeklers or cleats enabled the oven placers to ensure that each bung of saggars was kept as vertical and as rigid as possible. Scotches were used between the bung and the projecting bricks to make the bung rigid and less prone to collapse during firing.

Sticklers (steeklers or cleats) and scotches
Photo: Terry Woolliscroft Collection  Date: Last Bottle Oven Firing 1978

STIFF Dialect. Used when describing a rather plump or overweight person. "a bit on the stiff side"

STILLAGE Equipment. Storage rack. Usually made by the potbank's joiner to suit a particular need in the potting or decorating departments. Stillages were also constructed in the warehouses until the development of prefabricated metal racking systems.

Stillage in a mould store

STILT Equipment. Kiln Furniture. Refractory. Used during a glost fire to separate pieces of glazed ware to prevent the pieces sticking together during the fire when the glaze melts into glass. There were various designs of stilts produced but all had the finest of fine points so that the finished ware was marked as little as possible. Stilt manufacturers in the Potteries were represented by "Stilt and Spur Manufacturers' Association".  Here are names of some different types of stilts:
  • Stilt
  • Wedge stilts
  • Soap stilts
  • New Bowl stilts
  • Old bowl stilts

Type of stilt

"Working as a kiln man all stilt, thimble and pin marks were on the under sides of the various designs and styles of pottery wares so as not to mar the beauty of all glazed surfaces which are visible in use. Where the pins had made contact with the fused glaze on firing there were left very small nodules of very sharp bits of stilts, pins, and thimbles plus glass on the bottoms of the wares. These were ground and chiseled off by the glost warehouse women as they did their various jobs of work". Description by Alan Hopwood - on the web 2022

STILT CLAY Material. Clay recipe in the 1820s was:
16 pail full Black Clay Slip
2 pail full Flint

STILT MAKER Occupation. Ovens department. Person who uses stilt clay in a stilt press to make stilts

STILT PICKER Occupation. Ovens department. Person who sorts out used stilts into reusable stilts or those which need throwing away, on the shraff tip or shord ruck.

STILT PRESS Equipment.  A machine used in a specialist kiln furniture workshop for pressing  refractory clay dust into metal dies to create stilts.

STIPPLED Type of applied decoration. See below.

STIPPLING Process. Decoration.  A form of decoration in which colour is applied to the pot using brushes or sponges to give a mottled or stippled effect.

STIPPLE PUNCHING Process. Decorating department. Part of the engraving process. Very close work needing good eyes and good lighting. Creating a subtle tone by punching many small dots, close together, onto an engraved copper plate using an engravers tool called a punch.  The depth and closeness of the dots creates different light or and dark effects. The copper plate is used for transfer printing. Sometimes just called 'punching.'

STIPPLER Occupation. Decorating department. Applying coloured decoration using sponges or brushes. Not to be confused with an engraver who has engraved a copper plate using the stipple punching technique.

STIRRED OUT Dialect, as in "Ast stirred out?"  Part of a Stokie's greeting meaning "have you heard anything." A Potter will know. Similar to SNOW OUT or WHAT SNOW Many thanks to David Broadhurst for suggesting this term for inclusion March 2016

STRING WHEEL Equipment. Also known as a throwing wheel, potter's wheel or great wheel. Clay end - potting department.  A horizontal revolving disc on which wet clay is shaped into pots or other round ceramic objects. The machine used in the shaping of round clay pots before they are fired. The wheel may also be used during the process of fettling (trimming) the excess body from dried ware and for applying incised decoration or rings of colour.

STRUG A one off. Not normal.

STOKE CHINA Type of pottery with a particular recipe and requiring particular firing conditions. Peculiar to the Spode Factory. Bone china.

STOKIE Someone with slip, not blood, pumping through their veins. A person brought up in The Potteries. Not necessarily a potter but definitely a native of the area.


STONE Component of pottery body recipe. Known by various names such as Cornish Stone, China Stone, Gowan, Graven, DF Stone and other less well known. Contains feldspar, quartz, kaolinite, mica and a small amount of flourspar. Found in the same places as China Clay (Kaolinite). Used in pottery body recipes including Bone China. 

STONE CHINA Type of pottery with a particular recipe and requiring particular firing conditions. Peculiar to the Spode Factory.  Hard, dense and opaque feldspathic pottery.

STONEWARE Type of pottery with a particular recipe and requiring particular firing conditions. Hard, vitreous, non-translucent. Usually fired above 1200°C. This clay body is now commonly used by craft and studio potters. It has a relatively high biscuit firing temperature of 1250°C -1300°C and is available in a range of colours and textures, from white to buff. By glazing with a reactive type coloured glaze a range of effects and colours can be achieved.  Most often buff coloured and containing a highly plastic ball clay which is naturally vitrifying at usual firing temperatures. Josiah Wedgwood created his Jasper ware which is stoneware and he coloured the body - his most famous colour being Wedgwood Blue. Stoneware will not absorb water. It is fired at higher temperatures than earthenware so that the body vitrifies.

STONNIES Shotties. Marbles.

STOON JED Dialect. Completely and utterly lifeless.

STOPPING Material used during the process. Used to fill in fault holes in fired ware prior to re-firing. The material (as you can see in the definition below) may also be resin based and therefore would not be refired. The person who repairs the holes using stopping is a stopper!

STOPPING Process.  Filling a crack in a fired piece using a mixture of pre-fired body, ground to a fine particle size, and mixed with a resin which sets hard and seals the crack. Doesn't need refiring.

STOPPING FLUX Material used during the process. See stopping

STOPPING SLIP Material used during the process. See stopping

STOUKING Process. Clay end. Applying handles to jugs and cups. From Dr. Plot, the first historian of the Pottery Industry. He visited Burslem in 1676.

STOUKER Another word for handler. An old word - Page 99 of Metyard Life and works of Wedgwood Vol 1 1865

STOVE or STOVE POT Equipment. Decorating department. Hot print shop. Used to warm up colour for use by printers in engraved copper plates.

STRAIGHT BATTER Particular shape of the chimney of a bottle oven. Perfectly conical. A simple cone shape compared with a church batter which is more curvy.

STRAW Packing material. Used in the packing shed. Many fires have originated in the packing shed. Packing straw has to be wheat and oat straw.  But not barley straw which is unsuitable.

Packing pottery into casks
using straw as the packing medium

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STRAW WRAPPED Process. Method of packing. Warehouse and despatch. Applicable to very large pieces of pottery, for instance sanitaryware. Sanitary earthenware, when shipped in bulk (two-ton lots or more) in the 1920s and 30s was often sent wrapped in straw, without wooden cases or other protection. This style of packing, known as “Straw Wrapped," consisted of enveloping the article in straw secured in position by cord. The main advantage of Straw Wrapping was that the cost was only about half that of wooden cases or crates, and where freight was paid on a measurement/volume basis there was also a substantial saving in cost of transport.

STRAW BANDED Process. Method of packing. Warehouse and despatch. Similar to 'Straw Wrapped' (above) except that before being wrapped around the article the straw is first twisted into the form of a rope. Straw Banding is usually confined to Kitchen Sinks, as with other classes of goods the cost is more expensive than Straw Wrapping.

STRAW - LOOSE IN STRAW Process. Method of packing.  Warehouse and despatch. As with 'Straw Wrapped goods, this method of packing is only suitable for Sanitary Earthenware shipped in bulk (two - ton lots and upwards). The ware is stowed on board in loose straw, but in the case of WC. Basins the projecting parts, such as inlet nozzle and trap, are protected with straw tied on with cord.

STRAWED CASES and CRATES Process. Method of packing. Warehouse and despatch.

Potbank Dictionary
1910 Vehicles leaving Twyfords factory stacked with crates and cases

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STRIKING Decorating fault. Enamel colour lifts from the surface of the fired piece and becomes detached. Caused by poor hardening off.

STRIKING Process. Setting up the first mould and its profile tool on a jigger ready for a prolonged run.

STRIKING Having a row with the boss.

STRIPPER Occupation. Usually a girl who removes dry ware from the mould. A stripper may also be occupied in the decorating end - more precisely in the printing shop where she would strip printing tissue from the printed pot leaving the printers colour ink in the shape of a pattern, behind.

STROKE Particular type of decoration to the edge of flatware or holloware.

STRUG Dialect. Stranger or peculiar thing. Out of the ordinary.

STUCK WARE Pottery fault - a glaze fault. Somewhat, but not entirely, similar to plucked. Created by bad glost placing. If dipped, yet unfired, pieces are allowed to touch each other during placing they will remain stuck together during firing. The glaze will flow around the touching parts and when cool the two pieces will become inseparable without damaging the pieces.

stuck ware - pottery fault
Stuck ware

STUDIO POTTERY Pots produced by individual makers usually trained in art school rather than learning as artisan potters in a family business. Studio pottery is a practice dating from the early 20th century and makers normally sign their work. Studio pottery maybe useful vessels or figurative pieces.

DEFINITION from The Potteries Museum , Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent : "Studio Pottery is pottery made by professional and amateur artists working alone or in small groups making unique items or short series of objects. Studio Potters can be referred to as ceramic artists, ceramists, ceramicists, or as artists who use clay as the medium. Not all studio pottery is designed to be functional and can be purely sculptural."

STUFFING Small articles used to take up the spaces and fill any large hollow articles during packing.

STUMPER Equipment. Printing shop. A particularly hard bristle brush. Sometimes known as a ‘hard flannel boss’associated traditional tissue printing

STUPID Equipment. Extrusion machine. Clay forced through a die. A paticular type of pug mill.

STUPID (2) Daft. 'Puddle yedded tup.' See thick.

SUCKING Glaze fault. created when glazed ware is fired in saggars which are not themselves glazed inside.

SUFF Dialect. Drain.

SUMMER TOE FULL Dialect. Something awful.

SUN PAN / SUN KILN  A shallow flat tank in which slip is allowed to 'dewater' and dry by evaporation (in the sun) until it become of a plastic consistency (or leather hard) to allow further processing. (See page 98 Life and Works of Wedgwood - Vol 1 Metyard)

SULPHURING Glaze fault. A surface bloom or dulling of the fired glaze resulting from attack by sulphur compound gases in the kiln during firing. The sulphur emanates from the coal. D

SUPPERIN Dialect. Bit of a do in the evening. A meal or dinner. Supper. Similar to a 'dinnerin' but not so much snappin.

SURRY or SURRIE or SIRRIE  Dialect. Son. Friend. Mate. Chum. Sir.

SUT Dialect. Sit or sat.  "There we wus sut with er fate in the wayter atein us mate."

SUT Dialect for 'posh' soot. Found in bottle ovens here>

SWAN NECK Equipment. Ovens department. Particular shape of crank. Made from refractory body and used to support items of pottery (including sanitaryware) in the kiln during firing. Many thanks to David Broadhurst for suggesting this. March 2016.

SWOBSY Dialect. Big, fat person. Obese.  More than 'stiff'.

SYLVAC Pottery manufacturer. Trade or brand name.

Sylvac rabbit - unbroken.
See 'unbreakable pottery'

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