Post-medieval pottery kiln 360m NNE of the Castle


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


Ordnance survey map of Post-medieval pottery kiln 360m NNE of the Castle
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

West Somerset (District Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
SS 99226 43862

Reasons for Designation

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


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

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


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


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


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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