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The History of Portobello Potteries

As you walk along the promenade of Edinburgh’s coastal village Portobello, you might spot what look like two brick bee hives with chimney stacks. These are the pottery kilns, the last remains of the Portobello Potteries and the only remaining pottery kilns in Scotland. In these kilns were made ginger beer bottles, whisky flagons and hot water bottles as well as decorative pottery. (1).

There’s a spot on the shore where the Figgate Burn meets the sea that is the best place for treasure hunting. Here you can find the best kind of beachcombing treasure -- sea-worn glass and pottery. Given the proximity of the burn to the kilns, I’m convinced that the quantity of pottery sherds on the beach here has much to do with the Potteries. (A coastal survey in 1996 found dumped pottery waste in the area (2)). Mostly, you find large creamy chunks of pottery, which you can easily imagine might have belonged to a ‘bed pig’ - or old fashioned hot water bottle! Sometimes, you find something more exciting with a bit of colour!

A vintage 'bed pig' (4)

Everytime I walk along the shore, I hope to find an unexpected piece of colourful pottery. It’s a good day when you find a bit of history in the sand of Portobello beach.


Angie Spoto is an American fiction writer and poet living in Edinburgh. In 2020, she completed a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow. Her doctoral thesis was a fantasy novel, called The Grief Nurse, and a collection of essays on grief, madness and language. The Grief Nurse has been shortlisted for the First Novel Prize 2021 and The Bridge Awards Emerging Writer Award in 2020. Angie is represented by Robbie Guillory from Kate Nash Literary Agency.

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