see caption
Replica pot oven outside Wrenthorpe village hall
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Small pot works were built in Potovens, a hamlet on the Wakefield Outwood now known as Wrenthorpe, since the Middle Ages. They were built where raw materials, clay and fuel, were available and often worked by one man on a part-time basis. Potters or “cuppers” built the pot ovens, small bee hive kilns, to make pots for local use.[1]

The name survives in local placenames such as Potovens Lane.


In 1556 Wakefield Burgess court ordered the cuppers not to remove clay close to the public highway. In 1608 a survey of the Outwood recorded five cuppers, Richard Andrew, Henry Glover, Henry Gill, Thomas Glover and Richard Eshall, living at Potovens where they dug clay from pits. They paid rent of eight shillings per year.[2][3] When the Outwood was enclosed in 1666, the potters paid £10 per year for their land.[2] The Manor survey in 1709 mentioned cottagers on the Outwood and an earthenware manufactory making all sorts of pots from clay and lead.[3]

Potovens pottery has been found at Sandal CastleA ruined medieval castle in Sandal Magna, Wakefield in West Yorkshire, England. One of two castles built overlooking the River Calder, it was built by the Warrennes, the Earls of Surrey who were Lords of the Manor of Wakefield., Elland and Thornhill. Four generations of the Glover family had a kiln at Potovens; the Willans and other families also had kilns.[3] At first each pottery specialised in making one type of ware, from course kitchenware to fine cups in Cistercian ware, but over time there was less specialisation. Plates were made in the late 16th century and decorated with slip from about 1640.[4] The potteries were at their most productive in the late 17th century, but declined after pottery was brought in from nearby Leeds and Rothwell, and as transport improved, from Staffordshire. The potteries had closed by 1785.[3]



Lawrence, H. (1974). Yorkshire Pots and Potteries. David & Charles.
Walker, J. W. (1966). Wakefield its History and People Vol.1&2 3rd Edn. S.R.  Publishers.