303) Potash stone discovered at the Squire's
Tavern - October 25, 2006
The Historical Society volunteer crew took time out from work at the Squire's Tavern
to dig up an odd looking stone that was part of the walkway in front of the Tavern.
The smooth stone appeared to be possibly an abandoned gravestone that had
been incorporated into the walk. Upon removing it and turning it over, it
was found instead to be an old potash stone. The tell tale grooves and runoff
notch in the stone told the story. The first step in making potash would be
to fill a bottomless barrel with ashes. The barrel was placed over the potash
stone. Water was slowly poured in the barrel over the ashes until a brown
liquid oozed out the bottom of the barrel and was collected on the stone.
The brown liquid ran down the stone, into the grooves and dripped from the notch
into a clay container. The brown liquid was lye, which could be used in soap
making or could be refined further into potash. Potash was an ingredient used
to make glass and ceramics or could be used for fertilizer. Potash production
gave early residents of Barkhamsted another source of income because there was a
ready market for the material.
Photo above - workers removing a stone in the walk in front of the Squire's
Tavern that turned out to be an old potash stone.
In the photo above, notice the grove around the edge of the stone. If
you look closely you can see the notch at the bottom of the stone (just to the right
of the shovel) where the liquid was drawn off.