• Around 1868, Edward Porritt built an ashery on the south side of King Street East across from the grist mill
  • Vats, which were called leaches  and which were lined up along the exterior of Porritt’s building, were filled up with hardwood ashes collected by wagon from homes, businesses and local farms
  • Water was allowed to percolate through ash layers.  The resulting ‘leachate’, called lye, drained out through the bottom of each leach into buckets and/or troughs.  The lye was then moved inside the ashery to be boiled down in large cast-iron pots over a wood-fired furnace
  • Boiling down the alkaline lye solution together with fatty acids, such as animal fats , created soap.  Boiling lye down further would produce black salts or potash

  • The ashery in Bolton had a distinctive chimney stack which is visible in early panorama photos of the village.  The chimney’s height allowed smoke to exhaust and rise above the valley floor
  • By 1885, the availability of hardwood ashes in the vicinity of Bolton had dwindled to the point that the ashery business was closed down

And the building?

  • The ashery building stood at the foot of what is now Humber Lea Road, inside the oxbow.  The chimney stack was still standing in 1912 as evidenced by photos taken by Robertson Matthews during the April 1912 flood  It is not known when the building was dismantled. 


An Ashery was a factory that converted hardwood ashes into lye, potash or pearl ash.  Asheries were common in newly settled areas when excess wood was available as settlers cleared their land for farming.  Hardwood ashes contain abundant levels of potassium carbonate and potassium hydroxide, the principle components of the products being produced.    

Lye was produced by soaking ashes in hot water, filtering out the ashes and repeating with fresh ashes as necessary to obtain the desired alkalinity in the resulting liquid.  This liquid, commonly called lye, could then be mixed with fats to produce soft soap or it could be evaporated to produce ‘pot ash’ or black salts which still contained dark carbon impurities.  The potash could then be baked in a kiln to further refine the substance into a pearly white material called ‘pearl ash.’ 

The product was often shipped to Great Britain where it was used in the production of glass and ceramic wares.   

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.