The Stoke-on-Trent Ceramics Trail

Back in 1910 the six towns that came together to form Stoke were known collectively as The Potteries and comprise Hanley, Tunstall, Burslem, Longton, Fenton and Stoke.  Although one might expect Stoke to be the actual city centre, it is usually regarded as Hanley.  The Ceramic Trail is based around these towns which are located just a few miles apart.

Middleport Pottery Burleigh design crockery
Middleport Pottery Burleigh design crockery

Getting there

Stoke-on-Trent is easily accessible being located midway between Manchester and Birmingham with direct rail services to London Euston taking only 90 minutes.

Ceramics Trail Attractions:

Potteries Museum & Art Gallery

Start at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in Hanley to learn about the history of ceramics in the city.  The museum offers free entry and is open daily and incorporates the local tourist information centre where visitors can pick up a Ceramic Trail leaflet and map.  Take a self guided tour of the museum beginning in the 17th century when pottery started to be produced in the area due to its abundance of coal and clay.  The ceramics industry soon flourished with world famous names including Wedgwood, Spode and Royal Doulton all establishing factories in the city.

Potteries Museum & Art Gallery
Potteries Museum & Art Gallery

Walk through the ‘Street of Life in Stoke’ and envisage living in the past.  Look in wonderment at the old chemist’s shop with its wooden drawers filled with pills and potions. View an antiquated fish and chip shop range, a cosy potter’s cottage and the interior of a village pub.

Street of Life, Potteries Museum & Art Gallery
Street of Life, Potteries Museum & Art Gallery

Dudson Museum

Just a ten minute walk from the Potteries Museum lies the Dudson Museum.  It’s an intriguing place as it’s located inside an original bottle kiln.  Step inside the brick lined bottle oven and learn about this family business.  This small museum traces the company’s history from 1800 to the present day and contains a selection of pottery items manufactured over the years, photographs and other memorabilia.

Dudson Museum, Hanley
Dudson Museum, Hanley

Middleport Pottery

Visit Middleport Pottery on Port Street, Burslem which was built in the 19th century. Take a one hour factory tour which includes a visit to the heritage area. The factory was at risk of closure in 2012 due to the poor state of the buildings but later that year the Prince’s Regeneration Trust stepped in to buy and restore the site with a £9m project to regenerate and revitalise it.

Middleport Pottery, Burslem
Middleport Pottery, Burslem

Guides at Middleport are all volunteers who are enthusiastic and informative.  Tours commence at the Lodge from where visitors explore the Victorian offices laid out just as they would have been 100 years ago.

Victorian Offices, Middleport Pottery
Victorian Offices, Middleport Pottery

Explore each stage of production to learn how a lump of clay is transformed into a piece of pottery.  Crockery at Middleport is still hand made in the traditional methods unchanged since the 1880’s with some of the factory workers having spent their entire working lives there.

Hand finishing, Middleport Pottery
Hand finishing, Middleport Pottery

Pop into the attractive canal side cafe for tea and cakes served on their famous Burleigh tableware then before leaving take a look outside at the Victorian bottle kiln, original worker’s bath house and the factory’s fully restored 1888 William Boulton steam engine.

Emma Bridgewater

The Emma Bridgewater factory is located in nearby Hanley and unlike Middleport Pottery, Emma Bridgewater is a relatively young company creating their first pieces in 1985 before moving production to its current site in 1996.

Emma Bridgewater Factory, Hanley
Emma Bridgewater Factory, Hanley

The traditional Victorian factory lies alongside the Caldon canal, employs 185 people and produces 1.3 million pieces a year.  One hour factory tours are available, or just browse the attractive factory shop filled with polka dot mugs for which the company is most famous.  There’s also a cosy café which even has a polka dot Aga stove and outside, a cottage garden where hens roam freely. 

Emma Bridgewater Factory shop, Hanley
Emma Bridgewater Factory shop, Hanley

World of Wedgwood

World of Wedgwood
World of Wedgwood

The Wedgwood estate stretches for 240 acres with ample free parking in its grounds.  The modern buildings have huge willow sculptures near the entrance in the shape of crockery. 

World of Wedgwood Entrance Lobby
World of Wedgwood Entrance Lobby

One hour tours commence in the attractive train themed lobby which is adorned with flowers and Wedgwood tableware. Observe the techniques necessary for producing high quality ceramics from viewing balconies and then go down to the factory floor to watch intricate hand painting and gold edging being applied to cups and saucers. 

Hand finishing, World of Wedgwood
Hand finishing, World of Wedgwood

Try your hand at a potters wheel

Roll up your sleeves, pick up an apron and have a go at creating your own masterpiece.  Step-by-step guidance is given to transform a lump of clay into a jug or vase.  It’s great fun with the friendly potters offering one-to-one tuition and ensuring that everyone produces an object to be proud of.  Pot throwing costs £15 including postage but for those visitors who live nearby and can collect the item themselves, the cost is £10 with the activity lasting approximately 20 minutes.

Master Craft Studio, World of Wedgwood
At the potters wheel in the Master Craft Studio

Wedgwood Tea Room

Make your way to the luxurious Wedgwood tea room to indulge in their afternoon tea served on delicate Wedgwood bone china.  Three tier cake stands come filled with a delicious assortment of open sandwiches, scones, jam with clotted cream, fruit jellies, meringues and cakes.  Taking afternoon tea at the World of Wedgwood is a luxuriously self indulgent experience not to be missed.

World of Wedgwood, Afternoon Tea
World of Wedgwood, Afternoon Tea

The Wedgwood Collection

The Wedgwood collection of 80,000 works of art, ceramics, letters and photographs is now owned by the V & A. but continues to be on display at the World of Wedgwood.  The tour starts with a chronological history of the company focusing on Josiah Wedgwood and his family who founded the business.

Wedgwood Collection, World of Wedgwood
Wedgwood Collection, World of Wedgwood

The museum contains many exquisite items, hand painted figurines and examples of the iconic blue and white Jasper ware for which Wedgwood is famous.  Visitors can either take a 45 minute tour or just wander around at their own pace.

The Wedgwood Collection interior
The Wedgwood Collection interior

Wedgwood Store & Factory Outlet

Before leaving, take a look in the Wedgwood flagship store and factory outlet shop to view products on display and perhaps pick up a bargain or two. Next to these stores is the spacious Dining Hall with an outdoor terrace, an informal alternative to the tearoom.  World of Wedgwood

 

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Stoke Ceramics Trail

 

63 thoughts on “The Stoke-on-Trent Ceramics Trail

  1. Pingback: The Stoke-on-Trent Ceramics Trail – boomet.Com

    1. Thank you so much for taking an interest in my post on the Stoke Ceramics Trail. It really is heartwarming to discover that at least some pieces are hand finished. It was fun trying my hand at the potters wheel but I needed some help to create my little vase!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I’ve still never been to Stoke-on-Trent unfortunately but I’d love to go one day. I’d also never heard of The Potteries and had no idea about all of this so your post is fascinating to read. It’s cool getting some background history too, and it’s impressive knowing some companies have been going from the 1800s. The architecture of the Dudson Museum is so cool, isn’t it? I’d love to have a look around the Emma Bridgewater shop, I bloody love the polka dot stuff!

    Really super post to review all of these stops on the trail!

    Caz xx

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Ceramics have accompanied civilizations for so long, they are useful markers for archaeologists; it’s funny to see that this industry continues to exist in a world that seems so different today. Thank you for these interesting visits.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Isn’t clay a fantastic medium to express yourself and have a bit of fun? What a fantastic trip and just look at all those beautiful cups at Emma Bridgewater Factory shop; as an avid tea drinker, I would probably end up buys more than I need! Thanks for sharing and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It was tempting to buy quite a few items as they all looked so lovely and were good value there. It was indeed fun creating a vase on the potters wheel though I did need a little help from the potter to make my creation look respectable! Definitely a fun day out Aiva. Thanks for commenting. Marion.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. It was a great day out Meg to learn about the history of The Potteries and tour some of the companies like Burleigh and Wedgwood. We have some fine bone china that belonged to parents/grandparents but it rarely gets used as it sits on unreachable shelves in my kitchen cupboards! Thanks so much for commenting and hope your day goes well. Marion

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Fascinating experience Marion. We toured our MedAlta Potteries museum in Medicine Hat a few years back. They operated between 1916 and 1954, not quite Wedgewood, but still a bit of history. Fine bone China does not seem as popular these days but was when we were married in 1977 and we still have our Wedgewood set, but seldom use it. Thanks for sharing. Allan

    Liked by 3 people

    1. We also have some fine bone china tea sets that belonged to my parents. Some are in display cabinets whilst others sit on the hard to reach top shelves of the kitchen cupboards rarely seeing the light of day. I do enjoy going out for afternoon tea served on delicate fine bone china but it’s not very practical at home and our sets won’t be dishwasher proof and I’m not into washing up! Thanks for commenting Allan, it was a great day out and fun having a try at the potters wheel! Marion.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. It’s much harder than it appears, either that or I’m useless at it! But after some expert tuition from the potter and a few restarts I managed to produce a small vase that I was pleased with and amazingly doesn’t even leak. The funny thing though was that we cleaned ourselves up afterwards then went into the smart dining room for afternoon tea only to notice after we’d sat down that our arms had turned chalky white so we had to pop out for a second go at washing! Marion.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Afternoon tea is a special treat and one we always look forward to. There’s usually so much on offer on the three tier cake stands that they supply you with a box to take home what you haven’t managed to eat! It was very interesting to take the factory tours to learn how the pottery is produced and re-assuring to discover that some items are still hand finished. Thank you for your welcome comments, they are much appreciated.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. ThingsHelenLoves

    How lovely to see the ceramics being hand finished, it must be nice to do that job and then know a little bit of your creativity is heading out into the world. Looks like you had fun trying your hand at the craft, a souvenir unique to you!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It was so interesting learning about the pottery industry around Stoke-on-Trent and to find that some pieces are still hand finished and it isn’t all factory produced. It was fun but messy trying my hand at the potters wheel and with a bit (actually a lot) of help from the potter, I produced a lovely little vase! Thanks so much for your welcome comments Helen. M x

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for the interesting post. We have connections to Emma Bridgewater as she lives not far from us at the coast of North Norfolk. But we have never been to Stoke-on-Trent.
    All the best
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Emma Bridgewater is related to Desmond MacCarthy, the owner of Wiveton Hall, who became famous for his TV films “Normal for Norfolk”. She spent a lot of time here when she was young.
        All the best
        The Fab Four of Cley
        🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I love the Burleigh design – it’s just so elegant! And the shop in Hanley’s polka dots brings out a fun element (I would probably buy a few cups – that will definitely brighten a grey winters’ day – like we have here in South Africa the last couple of days 😊).
    And you come very close to Demi Moore in the movie Ghost sitting there at your potters wheel 😉. Lovely post, thanks Marion for sharing. Enjoy your week. Corna

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Great article Marion, some really interesting and unique sights. I have been to Middleport Pottery! All the sights you’ve included here will be within reach IF I can get to the village of Tean next year with Sladja for a proposed four month stay. Love the idea of the Ceramics trail and, in a former life, I actually had a set of Wedgwood cups and saucers.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Do hope your proposed visit to Staffordshire happens next year. I’m reasonably confident it will. The Ceramics Trail is really interesting and coupled with a visit to the delightful Trentham Gardens creates a pleasant short break. Think I’m better sticking to writing than pot throwing though but with some help from one of the staff I did come away with a respectable small vase. Messy but good fun! Marion

      Liked by 2 people

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