What is a chimney pot?

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Definition and Photos

Two photos, detail of earthen chimney pot and rooftop chimneys with chimney pots
Chimney Pots. Photos from Getty Images - earthen clay chimney pot photo by Stockbyte/Stockbyte Collection and rooftops photo by Richard Newstead/Moment Collection

Tudor or Medieval Revival style buildings often have wide, very tall chimneys with round or octagonal "pots" on top of each flue. Multiple chimneys have separate flues, and each flue has its own chimney pot. These chimney extensions became very popular in the 18th century when people began to burn coal to heat their homes.

Definition:

"A cylindrical pipe of brick, terra-cotta, or metal placed atop a chimney to extend and thereby increase the draft."

Other Names for Chimney Pot:

  • chimney stack
  • Tudor chimney
  • chimney can

Chimney Pot Design:

A chimney pot is open at one end, to attach to the top of the chimney flue, and vented open at the exposed end. They are almost always tapered, but can be any shape—round, square, pentangular, octangular, etc.

Some chimney pots are beautifully decorated, as an architectural expression of an owner's wealth and social status (e.g., Hampton Court Palace). Other stacks provide historical context of the building and its occupants (e.g., Moorish influences in southern Portugal). Still others have become iconic artwork pieces by  master architects (e.g., Casa Mila by Antoni Gaudi).

Property owners can still buy and install chimney pots. Today's resellers, such as ChimneyPot.com, may supply a variety of styles made from different materials by companies worldwide, from Britain to Australia. Sizes can range from 14 inches to over 7 feet tall.

Chimney Pots Today:

Artisans continue to make chimney pots from clay and ceramic not only to preserve historic houses, but also to accommodate the discerning homeowner. West Meon Pottery in southern England crafts items for the National Trust, the British Museum, or "a single pot for the humblest of properties."

Many of today's chimney pots are factory made of clay with modest ornamentation. Fireside Chimney Supply in Michigan advertises their products as "a perfect way to add elegance to the exterior of your home."

Just like Henry VIII at Hampton Court Palace.

Chimney Pots on Amazon:

  • Cannon Barrel Clay Chimney Pot by Fireside Chimney Supply
    Buy on Amazon
  • Barron Clay Chimney Pot by Fireside Chimney Supply
    Buy on Amazon
  • Estate Magnum Crown Chimney Pot by Fireside Chimney Supply
    Buy on Amazon

More Suppliers:

Sources: Dictionary of Architecture and Construction, 4th edition, edited by Cyril M. Harris, McGraw Hill, 2006, p. 205; Clay Chimney Pots, Fireside Chimney Supply; Traditional Building [accessed June 23, 2015]

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Tudor Chimneys of Hampton Court Palace

Chimneys atop 16th Century Hampton Court Palace near London
Chimneys atop 16th Century Hampton Court Palace near London. Photo by Travel Ink/Gallo Images Collection/Getty Images

Chimney pots are often called Tudor Chimneys because they were first used to great efficiency during the Tudor Dynasty in Great Britain. Thomas Wolsey began converting the country manor house in 1515, but it was King Henry VIII who really created Hampton Court Palace. Located near London, the Palace is a well-known tourist destination for viewers of ornate chimney pots.

Learn More:

Source: Tudor and Elizabethan architecture (1485-1603), Researching Historic Buildings in the British Isles by Jean Manco [accessed June 23, 2015]

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Modest Chimney Pots at Jane Austen's House

Jane Austen's House in Chawton, Hampshire, England
Jane Austen's House in Chawton, Hampshire, England. Photo by Neil Holmes/Photolibrary Collection/Getty Images (cropped)

By the 18th and 19th centuries, burning coal for home heating was becoming more common throughout Great Britain. Chimney pots were useful additions to country cottages in England, including this modest home in  Chawton, Hampshire, England—the home of Jane Austen.

Learn More from About.com:

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Chimney Pots in Portugal Reflect Moorish Influences

Decorative chimney pots in Algarve, Portugal may display historic Moorish architectural influences.
Decorative chimney pots in Algarve, Portugal may display historic Moorish architectural influences. First two photos by Richard Cummins/Lonely Planet Images Collection/Getty Images; photo on far right by Paul Bernhardt/Lonely Planet Images Collection/Getty Images.

Chimney pots beyond the British border can exhibit an entirely different design—more integrated both structurally and historically. The fishing villages in the Algarve Region, along Portugal's far southern shores closest to Africa, often display architectural details that represent the region's past. Portuguese history is a series of invasion and conquests, and Algarve is no exception.

The design of a chimney pot is a great way to honor the past or express the future. For Algarve, the 8th century Moorish invasion is forever remembered with the design of a chimney pot.

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Gaudi Chimney Pots at Casa Mila

Gaudi-designed chimney pots atop La Pedrera (Casa Mila) in Barcelona
Gaudi-designed chimney pots atop La Pedrera (Casa Mila) in Barcelona. Photo by Lonely Planet/Lonely Planet Images Collection/Getty Images

Chimney pots can become functional sculptures on a building. Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi created these stacks for La Pedrera (Casa Mila) in Barcelona.

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Chimney Pots in Modern Architecture

Chimney stacks mimic balcony columns in this modern house
Chimney stacks mimic balcony columns in this modern house. Photo by Glow Decor/Glow/Getty Images (cropped)

Tudor chimneys or chimney pots can be very long in length. As such, they architecturally fit well with modern designs. In this modern house, the architect could have built the chimney higher, above the roof line. Instead, the chimney stacks mimic the modern columns of the balcony below—a harmonious architectural design.