A personal experience
Stepping onto the cobbles of Middleport Pottery you’re immediately surrounded by 131 years of industrial and social history. The beautiful architecture, the background rumblings of pottery manufacture, the ranges, the tones and colours are captivating. It’s fascinating to see how people connect to this building; family history, former pottery workers, an interest in ceramics, Victorian engineering or perhaps quality time spent with friends and family. It’s a personal experience, one that requires a personal approach to customer service.
We regularly tailor our tours, educational visits and events to meet the visitors’ needs. If you’d like your wedding party to arrive on narrowboat, we can make it happen. With a deep understanding of the site, the volunteer guides respond to the visitors’ interests and regularly facilitate bespoke heritage tours. Our feedback regularly mentions a staff member or volunteer who has made their visit that extra bit special, a real testament to the personal service we provide.
A Grade II* listed site, Middleport Pottery is one of the country’s best preserved and complete Victorian pottery factories. Built in 1888 in Stoke-on-Trent’s “Mother Town” Burslem, the site is recognised as the ‘Model Pottery’, a building that brought about vast industrial and social change – paving the way for other pottery factories to follow.
Designed by North Staffordshire’s leading architect at the time, Absalom Reade Wood, who also designed many of the area’s Town Halls and Churches, the pottery showcased a modern and efficient layout which streamlined production and improved working conditions. The pottery was strategically located beside the ‘motorway’ of its day, the historic Trent and Mersey Canal for access to two of the country’s major ports, Hull and Liverpool, enabling easy transition for international exports.
A site of such significant historical importance, in 2018 Middleport Pottery was featured in Historic England’s ‘Irreplaceable: A History of England in 100 Places’; places that tell the remarkable story of England and its impact on the world.
Despite its ground-breaking achievements it’s sobering to think that Middleport Pottery was listed on the Heritage at Risk Register between 1998 – 2014. The work to maintain the Victorian pottery is ongoing, and our charity, the United Kingdom Historic Building Preservation Trust, works tirelessly to build sustainability. Additionally, each time a visitor buys a coffee, purchases a gift, visits our Visitor Centre, they are actively contributing to Middleport Pottery’s future – so that it can be enjoyed for generations to come.
Middleport Pottery has not only captured the imaginations of our visitors, but also some of the country’s leading cultural organisations.
In 2018 the pottery was the last tour venue for Poppies: Weeping Window. In partnership with 14-18 NOW and Stoke-on-Trent City Council 122,000 people visited this internationally significant artwork. The building proved to be the perfect setting for this thought-provoking and poignant memorial.
Opening this week, Middleport Pottery is one of four sites hosting the highly acclaimed British Ceramics Biennial; a contemporary arts festival that draws thousands of visitors to the ‘Capital of Ceramics’. Doors open Saturday 7th September.
Peaky Blinders fans will also be aware that the pottery is featured in the latest series. The authenticity of the site, it’s original features and charming aesthetic is the perfect backdrop for film makers and photographers alike.
Traditional skills and modern craftsmanship
This year we’re celebrating 130 years of continuous production here at Middleport Pottery. What a success story – a building built solely for the manufacture of Burleigh ware continues to produce here today. Furthermore, production methods have changed very little over the years. Traditionally handcrafted, each piece of pottery passes through 25 pairs of hands. A wide range of Burleigh’s ceramics can be bought from their factory shop on site which is open daily.
Craftsmanship is woven into the fabric of the building. On site there are seven independent creative businesses, each showcasing a range of crafts which are made and sold from their open-door studios. Also based at Middleport Pottery is Clay College which offers a two-year, full-time ceramics course in studio pottery and attracts students and visiting lecturers from across the world.
[Pic: Middleport Studios]
I’ve already mentioned our volunteers, however, they are deserving of a special mention – they mean to world to us and here’s why.
Our team is supported by the most brilliant bunch who generously give their time and knowledge to the charity. They help support a vast range of activities; Factory Tours, Heritage Trails, Steam Engine maintenance, educational visits and events!
There are also many volunteers behind the scenes; gardening, preparing children’s activities and cataloguing our extensive archive. We have volunteers who grow plants just for Middleport Pottery’s flower beds, attending to them weekly for the enjoyment of our visitors. Others carry out additional research; collecting historical memorabilia, clippings and photographs.
Some of our volunteers have been with us from the very beginning, meticulously referencing and cataloguing the 19,000 moulds when they were temporarily moved to Spode Works. Others have just come onboard, quite literally! Narrowboat crew, skippers and engine maintenance will support our Historic Narrowboat trips to Etruria Industrial Museum and Harecastle Tunnel.
So, these are my top five reasons why I, along with many others, believe why Middleport Pottery is deserving of its ‘Certificate of Excellence, Hall of Fame’.
I wish to take the opportunity to thank all our visitors over the last five years, your reviews and feedback help us to reflect and develop our offer. With your support we have achieved so much over the last five years – may long it continue.
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Middleport Pottery, Port Street, Middleport, Stoke-on-Trent. ST6 3PE
Open daily – 10am – 4pm
Free entry and free parking.
British Ceramics Biennial at Middleport Pottery
7th September – 17th November