“Why do they have a pottery kiln next to the castle?” and “Where did they get the firebrick for it?” On the Ozark Medieval Fortress tour, questions about the kiln are most often answered by the potter at the Pottery Hut. Sometimes, however, I get the questions. It is important to remember that pottery was a valued contribution to Medieval life. This was in part because of drinking/water vessels, food containers, bowls, and the like. Pottery was also important to the building of the castle because, especially in France, the roofs were covered with tile shingles. It is expected that 12,000 tiles will need to be made by the potter at the Ozark Medieval Fortress for the first roofs and will be needed in six years. Since the kilns must be built first, that means 3,000 clay tiles shaped and fired per season over the next four years.
The kiln is near the castle because that is how it was done in the Middle Ages. Like the blacksmith shop and community oven, the kiln was owned by the lord and vassalage was served there. With the kiln (and potter’s shop) near the castle, the lord kept control and the licensed potter had customers for his wares.
The question about the firebrick is excellent and a good excuse to brag about Mitch, the potter at the Ozark Medieval Fortress during the first season when the first kiln had to be built. This first kiln is used to bake the firebrick that will comprise the permanent kiln. He used the white Ozark clay that was dug on site, loaded it on the donkeys and mixed it by hand. He then had to form it into bricks and sun-dry them in small batches until he had enough to build the temporary kiln. He covered that with mud to help hold in the heat and he will bake the firebricks for the permanent kiln in this oven. Making pottery in this type of kiln means staying up all night, as the fire must be kept going for 24 hours. All this he did in the heat of summer. Whether making common household utensils or making roof tiles, potters were an integral part of the Medieval community.