Chimney Pots - They're Not Just for Show

Overhead View of London Chimneys With Chimney Pots
Chimneys With Chimney Pots in London. Photo by Gideon Mendel/Corbis Historical/Getty Images
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Definition and Photos

Two photos, detail of earthen chimney pot and rooftop chimneys with chimney pots
Chimney Pots. Left photo by Stockbyte/Stockbyte Collection/Getty Images; right photo by Richard Newstead/Moment Collection/Getty Images (cropped)

A chimney pot is an extension on the top of a chimney. The functional purpose of a chimney pot is to create a taller smokestack and a better draft for combustion because fire needs oxygen to burn and produce heat. A variety of chimney pot designs are available for this function.

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.

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 19th century when people burned coal to heat their homes—quickly removing hazardous fumes was a healthy thing to do, and the tall chimney pot put fumes away from the home.

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 the Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi).

Definition and Alternative Names

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

Other names for chimney pots include chimney stack, chimney can, and Tudor chimney.

Chimney Pots Today

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. In their marketing, Superior Clay Corporation in Ohio claims that chimney pots "Add Style, Increase Performance."

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." The Copper Shop in Haubstadt, Indiana specializes in handcrafted metal chimney pots.

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.

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Tudor Chimneys of Hampton Court Palace

Detail of tall, slender, detailed chimney pots atop the 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.

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Modest Chimney Pots at Jane Austen's House

rectangular brick house, with two front dormers and five chimneys each with chimney pot extenders
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 British author Jane Austen.

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Chimney Pots in Portugal Reflect Moorish Influences

three photos together, each displaying a lanter-like chimney pot
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

set of four chimney pots in Barcelona looks like four characters
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, one of many Gaudi buildings in Spain.

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Chimney Pots in Modern Architecture

modern house of metal and glass, porch roof held up with supports similar to lengthy chimney stacks
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.

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