Fascinating history and heritage of The Potteries, now open at Middleport

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Fascinating history and heritage of The Potteries, now open at Middleport

The £8.5-million restoration of a precious piece of Potteries’ heritage is now open at Middleport Pottery (home of Burleigh) in Stoke-on-Trent

In 2011 this vast and historic site was at serious risk of closure, meaning that the famous Burleigh brand – which has been produced using traditional methods on this site since 1888 – would have had to move away from its home in Burslem.

But in June 2011 HRH Prince Charles’s charity, The Prince’s Regeneration Trust, stepped in to buy and save the site. Following three years of renovation and rejuvenation, the historic premises has proudly opened to the public.

The revitalised pottery features guided tours of the Burleigh factory and a visitors’ centre and heritage trail, where it will be possible to experience the impressive history of the site, including the bottle kiln, extensive archives and mould store and steam engine. Factory tours offer the opportunity to see the clay being formed, fired and decorated using the same traditional techniques as when the Pottery first opened in the 1800s. The tour also includes Middleport Pottery’s steam engine, which once powered the whole site. There is also be an extended Burleigh shop, giving visitors the chance to buy pottery made on-site; and a delightful new café adjacent to the canal side.

It is difficult to think of a more historic pottery works in the whole of the UK. As well as being home to Burleigh since 1888 (and through two world wars), it is also the last working Victorian pottery in the country. And – far from being stagnant, or ‘staged’ – it is a real, living, working, breathing building that is about to write yet another chapter in a proud history stretching way back over 126-years of unbroken pottery production.

A model factory when it was first opened, it also took a starring role in one of the most famous novels by local author Arnold Bennett. First published in 1902, Anna of the Five Towns contains a lengthy section in which wealthy pottery owner Henry Mynors takes Anna Tellwright on a tour of ‘Providence Works’. The description which follows leads the present day visitor back in time – as well as through the warren of corridors, rooms and stairwells within Middleport Pottery.

In Bennett’s novels of course there were just five towns. Providence Works was placed in the Mother Town of the Potteries, ‘Bursley’ (or, Burslem, to give it its correct name). The atmosphere of the Victorian works Bennett captures in the pages of that book has been preserved by The Prince’s Regeneration Trust as carefully as the building itself.

The visitor experience at Middleport will be expanded to the point where this not only promises to be a major new attraction for Stoke-on-Trent, but also a catalyst for change to the Mother Town of the Potteries herself.

Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive of The Prince’s Regeneration Trust, says, “Middleport Pottery is a living and breathing part of British industrial history because Burleigh pottery is still made here using traditional techniques and skills. We’re delighted to be opening it up as a major visitor destination this summer and look forward to welcoming people from around the world to come and share in the unique experience at Middleport.”

Further information can be found online, at

http://www.middleportpottery.co.uk

For all other tourist information about Stoke-on-Trent and the world-famous six towns of The Potteries visit

www.visitstoke.co.uk

For more information on The Prince’s Regeneration Trust, a charity founded by HRH The Prince of Wales

www.princes-regeneration.org

 

 

 

 

 

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