The History of Middleport Pottery

In 1862 William Leigh and Frederick Rathbone Burgess took over Central Pottery in the heart of Burslem, calling their new business Burgess & Leigh Ltd. Eventually the founders’ surnames would be combined to form the brand name Burleigh. In 1889 they moved to their state of the art, purpose built site beside the Trent and Mersey Canal at Burslem.

Middleport Pottery was described as ‘The Model Pottery of the Staffordshire Pottery Industry’ when it was first built. It was designed to make all production processes more efficient and to improve conditions for the workforce.

The passageways between the ranges were just wide enough for a cart to get through, and for the easy movement of workers and pottery.

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  • 1862Frederick Rathbone Burgess and William Leigh form trading company Burgess & Leigh Ltd (the brand name Burleigh combines the two surnames)
  • 1888Middleport Pottery is built
  • 1889Burgess & Leigh Ltd move into Middleport
  • 1897Extension built for communal washing facilities for staff and their families
  • 1902Anna of the Five Towns by Arnold Bennett is published, with a lengthy section on a fictional pottery based on Middleport Pottery
  • 1910The six towns of Burslem, Tunstall, Stoke, Hanley, Fenton and Longton are joined together to form Stoke
  • 192080ft high brick tower built containing a revolving mangle to dry the pottery
  • 1925The city of Stoke-on-Trent created
  • 1926-31Charlotte Rhead, one of the three leading designers of the day, works at Middleport Pottery
  • 1956Clean Air Act
  • 1965Last firing of the bottle ovens. Six of the seven bottle ovens are demolished.
  • 1977Slip house is electrified
  • 1979Remaining bottle oven becomes Grade II listed
  • 1982Permission to demolish the bottle oven is refused by Stoke-on-Trent council
  • 1999William & Rosemary Dorling acquire Middleport Pottery and Burgess & Leigh Ltd (which becomes Burgess Dorling & Leigh Ltd)
  • 2009PRT begins raising funds to acquire Middleport Pottery as Burleigh looks to leave Burslem due to disrepair of site
  • 2010Denby acquires Burgess Dorling & Leigh Ltd
  • 2011PRT purchases Middleport Pottery from Burgess Dorling & Leigh Ltd
  • 2012PRT awarded funding and work begins
  • 2013First of the new workshops open for use
  • 2014Middleport Pottery opens as a new visitor attraction