Minton Hollins & Co. Tile Factory

Slip kiln flues. © Copyright ARS Ltd 2021
Kiln Base. © Copyright ARS Ltd 2021
Kiln base and floor. © Copyright ARS Ltd 2021
Encaustic tiles from the site. © Copyright ARS Ltd 2021

Archaeological Research Services Ltd was commissioned by JEDS Investments Ltd to undertake evaluation trenching on the site of the ‘Minton Hollins & Co.’ tile factory over the footprint of the former factory buildings ahead of an application for redevelopment.

Thomas Minton established his first factory in 1796, producing and popularising blue transfer-printed wares before diversifying to include earthenwares, bone china and porcelain. Thomas was succeeded by his son Herbert Minton in 1836, who continued to produce the factory’s staple products but also enlisted the services of artists and skilled artisans experimenting in the production of highly decorative encaustic tiles, where the decoration is a product of the constituent clays rather than glazes. Encaustic tiles produced by the company can still be found in many places, including the United States Capitol Building and Smithsonian Institute. A new Minton Hollins tile factory was established at Shelton Old Road, Stoke-on-Trent in 1870, which was significantly expanded in the late-19th and early 20th centuries as production evolved to include plain, painted and majolica (tin-glazed) tiles alongside encaustic types.

Archaeological investigations took place in 2015 and again in 2020 to target the locations of the tile kilns and parts of the slip house. Two kiln bases found during the excavations represent up-draught bottle kilns for the glost firing of tiles (the firing where the glaze becomes fused to the tile). Only a quarter of the first kiln base had survived later truncation or redesign, however the full 7.5m circumference of the second kiln, with evidence of 10 ash-pits built-in to its design, was also discovered.

In the slip house a number of flues were revealed, including long, barrel-vaulted heating chambers and narrow multiple-channelled medfeathers that would have been positioned beneath evaporation tanks containing slip. The flues would have formed the central portion of long linear slip-kilns between the fire mouths at one end, and a chimney at the other which would draw hot air from one end to the other. There are not many examples of slip-kiln flues that have been excavated in Stoke-on-Trent, so the records from this excavation represent an important addition to the investigation of 19th century ceramic production sites.

Archaeological Research Services Ltd