Abseiling builders help fix bottle kiln
A POTTERIES landmark is being restored to its former glory with the help of ropes, pulleys and abseiling builders.
The bottle kiln at the Dudson Centre in Hanley is undergoing a £48,000 facelift to repair long-term weather damage.
Yesterday, restoration specialists from Hanley-based Alliance Technical Services carried out work on the structure's upper heights.
And the workers used abseiling gear, steeplejack ladders and a cherry picker as their unusual methods helped to renew the rendering of the bottle oven's neck and repair the brickwork.
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Once completed, the scheme should make the oven watertight once more.
The Dudson Museum, which is housed inside the bottle oven, is currently closed but is set to reopen when the work is finished in around four weeks.
Voluntary Action Stoke-on-Trent (Vast), one of 14 charities based at the Dudson Centre, secured a £30,000 grant for the project from Staffordshire Environmental Fund.
The rest of the funding has come from the Dudson Centre itself.
Kerry Shea, head of central services at Vast, said: "The bottle kiln has been leaking around the shoulders for a long time. We've done small repairs over the years, patching it up with bitumen, but it never seemed to work.
"If we hadn't secured this funding we wouldn't have been able to get the job done properly.
"It is very important that this work is carried out. There aren't many bottle kilns left these days, and even fewer which house a museum.
"We've managed to prevent the water from damaging any of the exhibits, but the building is open to the public, and so this work has to be done to make it safer."
Foreman Andy Lowe, below left, said the company was one of only a few in the country with experience in this particular sort of restoration project.
He said: "The work we're carrying out is standard restoration work, but the unusual shape of the bottle oven brings different challenges. The main problem with it is that rain water can gather on the shoulders. It's only one brick thick as well.
"But we've done this sort of work on bottle ovens before.
"It is very satisfying work, considering how important the bottle ovens are to the Potteries."
The Dudson Centre's has long-term plans to build a glass canopy to cover the bottle oven and its surrounding courtyard.
This would help preserve the bottle oven for generations while also improving energy efficiency in the building.
But issues raised by heritage officers at Stoke-on-Trent City Council are holding up the project.