Scheduled Monument: Post-medieval pottery kiln 360m NNE of the Castle
Department for Culture, Media and Sport
24 April 2002
Date last amended
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.