The Waterloo Pottery Kiln was named for the Battle of Waterloo that took place in 1815, the same year the kiln was built. It is one of the few surviving parts of the famous Rockingham Pottery, a complex of several kilns, a flint mill, china warehouses, and cottages that once occupied this site in Swinton, England.
In 1820 the pottery started experimenting with the manufacture of porcelain, putting a great financial strain on the business and almost bankrupting the operation. However, the experiments finally paid off. The products caught the interest of the 4th Earl Fitzwilliam, a descendant of the Marquis of Rockingham (whose stately home is located a few miles away in Wentworth). Impressed with the porcelain’s potential, he lent both money and the family name to the pottery business.
Rockingham porcelain products became famous. One of the best known is a large, exquisite dessert service that took eight years to complete and was delivered to Queen Victoria, and is currently housed in Windsor Castle. However, most famous products of the Rockingham enterprise are the two known examples of the “Rhinoceros Vases,” very impressive pieces made in the early 1820s. They are over three feet tall and were claimed at the time to be the largest piece of porcelain ever fired in one piece in England.
When Rockingham Pottery closed in the 1840s, a door and windows were installed and the kiln was converted to a private residence, then later used as an isolation hospital for smallpox victims. Today it’s possible to tour the grounds of the historic production site. You can still see the pottery ponds that were used to provide water power for the flint mill, along with parts of the gatehouse and painting rooms where the objects were so ornately decorated.
Know Before You Go
The kiln and pottery ponds are open year-round at no charge. There is free parking at the site. One of the Rhinoceros Vases can be seen in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the other in the Clifton Park Museum in Rotherham.