All of the team at Sharpe’s Pottery Museum are proud to be celebrating the 200th anniversary of the establishment of Sharpe’s Pottery. Although now a Museum, the original Grade II listed buildings were home to one of the most successful manufacturers of sanitary ware and pottery in the country; made here in Swadlincote and sold throughout the world by the Sharpe’s family.

As part of our celebrations we are taking part in the Heritage Open Day events being held from 10th to 19th September, including Object Handling and Guided Tours. In the spirit of sharing our heritage and making it accessible for all, here are some lesser known facts that you might not know about Sharpe’s Pottery!

Special Clay Pipes

  • Swadlincote is one of only six places in Britain that has fire-clay strata in the coal measures containing a high alumina content (aluminium oxide), this enables the clay to be made into pipes particularly suited to salt glazing.
  • The salt glazed pipes are highly resistant to sewage.
  • The Public Health Act of 1875 created a huge demand for locally produced pipes.
  • Sharpe’s Pottery Museum has a unique collection of pipes and associated sanitary ware that made the Sharpe’s family as well as other local potteries so successful.
  • Some of these pipes are still performing their vital function over one hundred years later under the Houses of Parliament!

Sharpe’s Pottery Kiln Hovel

  • It was made in 1821, two hundred years ago. It didn’t always look like it does today. The kiln hovel is the outer ‘bottle shaped’  brick layer, but inside there would have been a big kiln, sometimes called an oven, which was placed in the middle of the floor. It was enormous as all the pottery including sanitary ware had to be  fired in the kiln.
  • Sharpe’s became so successful that other kilns were built and this one wasn’t needed anymore. However, the kiln hovel couldn’t be demolished because two buildings were leaning on it. Instead the kiln was taken out, windows and doors were added and this is how it looks today.

The Secret Dagger!

  • Sharpe’s, like many other potteries produced toilets for many different companies to including Thomas Crapper and George Farmiloe and Sons. The only way of identifying these toilets is often by a small stamp on the back. In Sharpe’s case this took the shape of a small dagger!

The museum reopened in Jun 2021 and is now open Thursdays to Sundays. A range of activities have been delivered by trustees, staff and volunteers including from ‘Clay Play’, ‘Paint a Pot’ and ‘Raku’. A full events programme is now on offer over the autumn and winter featuring Oktoberfest, Fireworks in the kiln, Christmas Market, Christmas Party Night and the return of live music to the kiln with a number of local groups performing.

Support Us!

If you would like to support the museum in preserving the past to secure the future then please consider donating, becoming an ‘Edmund Buddy’ or Adopting an Object.