Alfred Clough's Tapes

Mr. Alfred Clough - the 'fireman' responsible for the Last Firing
Mr. Alfred Clough (1905-1984)  The 'fireman' responsible for the Last Firing
Photo: Terry Woolliscroft Collection.  Date: August 1978 


The Alfred Clough Tapes          

Lecture for the British Ceramic Society - October 1978          

The 'fireman' responsible for the Last Bottle Oven Firing in The Potteries 1978 was Mr. Alfred Clough, a local master potter and retired pottery manufacturer. On 25 October 1978, Mr. Clough presented an illustrated talk to The Potteries Branch of The British Ceramic Society. An audio recording was made of the event which latest for about 2 hours. The recording was made by Terry Woolliscroft, one of the volunteers who helped to organise the Last Bottle Oven Firing. The recording, on a small cassette recorder, has lain dormant for 40 years. The audio is indistinct in some sections. It is now digitised and uploaded to YouTube in two parts, unedited. There is also an edited version of the lecture complete with images which lasts for just 30 minutes.

Part 1 - Lecture for the British Ceramic Society 1978





Part 2 - Lecture for the British Ceramic Society 1978





The Lecture, edited and with images added - Alfred Clough talks about The Last Bottle Oven Firing in The Potteries 1978






Lecture for The Friends of PMAG and The Friends of Gladstone Pottery Museum - February 1980          

In February 1980 Alfred Clough, the fireman responsible for The Last Bottle Oven Firing in The Potteries in 1978, gave a lecture to a joint meeting of The Friends Stoke-on-Trent City Museum and Art Gallery (now known as The Friends of the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, PMAG) and The Friends of Gladstone Pottery Museum. The meeting took place at The Stoke-on-Trent City Museum and Art Gallery.

Pat Halfpenny, Keeper of Ceramics at City Museum, at that time, gave a brief introduction, followed by The Honourable Hugh Gibson, Chairman of The Friends of Gladstone. Mr Clough then gave an illustrated talk and answered questions at the end. The vote of thanks was given by David Sekers, the Director of Gladstone Pottery Museum at the time of The Last Firing.







Alfred Clough chats with Terry Woolliscroft          

In March 1978, six months before The Last Bottle Oven Firing, Alfred Clough who fired that last coal-fired bottle oven in The Potteries, chatted with Terry Woolliscroft in the front room of his house in Blurton, Stoke-on-Trent.

Over several days, and armed with a can of beer and a tape recorder, he talked about his plans for the final firing; what would be needed to make it a success, how he thought the oven would 'behave' during the firing and his hopes for the outcome.

He talked about how he started work in the pottery industry in 1923, how he designed bottle ovens to make them work best for him and how he grew his business so that at one time he owned 30 factories throughout The Potteries.

The recordings were made using a simple cassette recorder/player and the audio quality is not very good. But they do give a fascinating insight into the North Staffordshire pottery industry in the middle of the 20th Century. The recordings have not been edited other than to join them together into recognisable sessions. They have now been digitised and uploaded to YouTube so that anyone can listen in to what he had to say.

















Who was Alfred Clough?          

Alfred Clough was born in Longton, Stoke-on-Trent on 27 May 1905, the son of a pottery merchant. Alfred grew up immersed in pottery. He learned much about the trade from his father and as a boy spent many hours in various pottery factories, watching what went on. 

In 1923 his father bought him a pottery factory, the Carlton Works in Uttoxeter Road, Longton, and told him to ‘get on with it’. Alfred made a success of his first factory and went on to own over 30 more.

He thought on a big scale. He bought his second factory, the Garfield Works in 1928, and rebuilt the bottle ovens to his own design, vastly increasing their efficiency. He mass produced underglaze printed earthenware, dinner and tea ware for sales outlets such as Woolworths.  

He gradually built his business and began expanding. By 1960 he owned W.H.Grindley, Cartright and Edwards, Barker Bros, and Royal Art Pottery. 

Mr. Clough was the fireman responsible for The Last Bottle Oven Firing, organised by Gladstone Pottery Museum, in 1978.  

Alfred Clough died in 1984.

Mr. Alfred Clough - at the oven, about 24 hours after kindling 
Photo: Terry Woolliscroft Collection.  Date: August 1978
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