Silkstone 17th century glassworks and 18th century pottery, 180m east of All Saints Church


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


Ordnance survey map of Silkstone 17th century glassworks and 18th century pottery, 180m east of All Saints Church
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Barnsley (Metropolitan Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SE 29267 05842

Reasons for Designation

Glass has been produced in England since the Roman period, although field evidence is scarce until the late medieval period. Wood was the main manufacturing fuel up to the early 17th century, so the industry was located in woodland areas, particularly the Weald. From about 1610, production shifted to the coalfields. Glass production requires three major components: silica, alkali and lime, together with colouring material for certain products and decolourisers for clear glass. Lead was also used in the production of certain types of glass during the Roman period and after the 17th century. The manufacturing process involves three stages, fritting, melting and annealing. Fritting was a common practice before the 19th century involving heating the main glass constituents to produce an unmolten material for grinding, melting and annealing. Melting involved the remelting of previously formed glass, and the production of new glass from raw materials. Until the late 19th century, glass was normally melted in pre-fired crucibles of refractory clay, on stone benches called sieges, within the melting furnace. Use of coal as the preferred fuel and automatic bottle-making machinery in the 1880s led to changes to the melting furnaces and the use of larger furnaces, hitherto conical structures over circular furnaces. Regenerative furnaces were developed in the 1860s, and tank furnaces for bulk melting quickly followed. Flat-glass production methods were made obsolete by the Pilkington float-glass system of 1959. The third process is annealing. Because the rapid cooling of molten glass can give rise to internal stresses, glass was treated in furnaces designed to heat the glass to a point where deformation begins, then cooled gradually. In the 19th century conveyors were introduced to take glass through a hot zone into cool air. Features on glass manufacturing sites include various types of furnaces, producer-gas plants for the making of gas from coke at 19th century glassworks, bottle-making machinery, blowing irons or pipes for blowing glass, glass residues and various buildings used as stores or warehouses. A total of 135 glass production sites (representing about 25% of the estimated national archaeological resource for the industry) have been identified as being of national importance. This selection, compiled and assessed though a comprehensive national survey of the glass industry, is designed to represent the industry's chronological depth, technological breadth and regional diversity, and to include all the better preserved glass sites, together with rare individual component features.

Potteries were industrial sites where ceramic wares were formed and fired. Some potteries were small scale enterprises worked by a single potter, while others were much larger concerns. Kilns for firing the clay vessels are usually the most prominent and easily recognised surviving components. These kilns had a firing chamber, a sunken circular or oval pit up to around 3m in diameter, into which the unfired clay wares were placed. Leading from the firing chamber were one or more flues with stokepits containing the fires for firing the pottery and drawing air through the kiln. Situated close to the kilns were pottery waster heaps, workshops, drying sheds, storage buildings, yards and hardstanding, clay pits and drains. Although each pottery produced plain, decorated and/or glazed wares for local or regional markets, the most commonly manufactured items such as cooking pots, jugs and bowls, were similar in form throughout the country.

Excavations at Silkstone glassworks have demonstrated that significant archaeological remains survive. In addition there is good quality documentation providing an insight into both the social and economic aspects of early Yorkshire coal-fired glass production. Together with Bolsterstone 5km to the south it was the most successful of the early glassworks in the region and marked the beginning of what was to become one of South Yorkshire's major heavy industries. As one of few surviving early coal-fired glassworks Silkstone offers great scope for the study of this technology, both of early coal-fired furnaces in the late 17th century and in the development from wood-fired forest glasshouses to the later industrial scale coal-fired operations. Evidence of the later pottery operations also survive and taken together the monument preserves remains of the development of an industrial hamlet through the early stages of the Industrial Revolution.


The monument includes below ground remains of a 17th century glassworks and 18th century pottery. It is located on the east bank of Silkstone Beck in an area now occupied by a garden centre. The monument was the subject of limited excavation in 2002, which revealed evidence of significant surviving remains of glass production.

The monument is in the shape of a rectangular box measuring 30m east to west by 15m north to south with the northern side defined by the northern boundary of the property. At the eastern side the monument is defined by the terrace supporting a greenhouse and at the south eastern side the monument is overlain by the corner of a modern greenhouse and an access ramp.

The site was formerly occupied by a late 18th century rectangular stone building, thought to be associated with the pottery. This structure was mostly levelled in 2003 and only a small lean-to and part of the northern rear wall survive.

The production and manufacture of glass developed in Yorkshire in the 17th century following the change from wood to coal as a fuel source. Glass production started at Silkstone in the 1650s when the glass making Pilmay family moved there from Manchester. The Pilmay's were a French family skilled in glass working who along with other foreign specialists, had been brought to England in the 16th century. In 1698 a probate inventory lists two separate glasshouses at Silkstone, a `green house' for making window and lower quality glass and a `white house' for manufacturing flint or lead crystal glass. In addition the inventory also records the goods within the glasshouses including tools, moulds, crucible clay and raw ingredients such as red lead, manganese and cobalt used for colouring glass. The Silkstone glasshouses produced a range of products ranging from everyday items such as windows and bottles as well as finer wares including coloured glass with white trailed decoration. By 1707 the `green house' had fallen out of use and was being used as a kitchen. Glass was still being produced in 1718 but by 1748 it had ceased production completely. In common with other small scale glass producers in the area the Silkstone works suffered from a lack of investment and an inability to compete with new technologies and large scale specialist production in operation elsewhere.

By 1754 the former glassworks site was in use as a pottery producing simple country earthenware for local markets. An illustration of the pottery from the early 19th century shows the clay preparation area, the workshop and a tall round kiln with at least three flues.

The excavations in 2002 comprised two trenches; one within the western part of the former pottery building and one approximately 1m to the south of the building. Excavation within the building revealed significant amounts of debris from the pottery including pot fragments, wasters and possible kiln fragments. Below this layer of pottery debris there were remains of a glass working floor 0.5m below current ground level which was composed of ash and coal dust and fragments of glass and solidified drips of glass waste. This floor layer extended south below the south wall of the pottery building, however it was laid against the footings of the western wall of the building showing that this part of the wall was contemporary with the glass working floor and formed part of the earlier glassworks structure. This relationship demonstrates that the demolished building was part of the 18th century pottery and was built on top of the earlier glassworks, one wall of which forms the footings for the west wall of the later building. Under the glass working floor were found deposits of building rubble which included burnt sandstone blocks and waste glass interpreted as the debris from a demolished glass furnace and some sandstone fragments from the demolition of an as yet unknown building. Below this building debris at a depth of 1m below the current ground level a further floor level associated with glass working was discovered, this floor extended beneath the glassworks wall.

The second trench south of the demolished building was excavated to depth of 0.5m and revealed similar deposits to the first trench, in addition it exposed the upper part of a stone wall at the southern side of the trench.

The excavations showed at least two phases of glass working on the site, separated by a period of demolition and rebuilding of a furnace and other structures. Although the excavations did not expose the full extent of the glasshouses evidence from elsewhere indicates that glassworks of this period included single glasshouses which took the form of square or rectangular buildings measuring up to 15m by 10m along with associated features such as workshops, stores, fuel and waste dumps.

Immediately to the north and west of the former pottery building, but lying within the western and northern parts of the scheduling, lies the site of a building which was demolished in the 1930s. This is believed to have had 17th century origins and to have been associated with the glassworks as workshops, stores or for domestic use.

A number of features are excluded from the scheduling. These include the above ground remains of the former pottery building, the telegraph pole and the greenhouse and ramp in the south east corner. The ground beneath these features is however 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
Ashurst, D, The History of South Yorkshire Glass, (1992)
Ashurst, D, 'Old West Riding' in The Silkstone Glasshouses, , Vol. VOL 12, (1992), 15-19


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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