The Prince’s Regeneration Trust has stepped in to save Middleport, one of Stoke-on-Trent’s most beloved potteries
The Prince’s Regeneration Trust is to reopen Britain’s last working Victorian pottery, Middleport, in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. The pottery, which makes world-renowned Burleigh pottery, has been the subject of a £9m restoration project and will reopen on 1 July.
With funding from the English Heritage and Lottery Fund, the site will showcase British manufacturing and the rich tradition of the Staffordshire potteries. Visitors will be able to see the original offices recreated as they were during the pottery boom of the 1930s, watch the potters at work and even have a go at making pottery themselves.
A new visitor and education centre will provide interactive areas featuring the latest technology to bring to life the stories of former workers. There will also be ceramics exhibitions and galleries in the beautiful canalside building, including Europe’s largest collection of historic moulds made for such occasions as the Queen’s coronation and Churchill becoming prime minister.
Ros Kerslake, chief executive of the Prince’s Regeneration Trust, told BRITAIN magazine: “It feels like a really amazing place to visit. When we started the project, we wanted it to look like we’d never been there – the magical thing about Middleport is that it looks almost like it’s been untouched since it was first built in Victorian times – and I think we’ve retained that.”
The Grade II listed building was purpose-built in 1888 by ceramics manufacturer Burgess & Leigh who moved its business there and the trademark ‘Burleigh’ is a combination of these two names. The years between the wars are considered the company’s ‘golden age’ with a number of talented artists and designers helping to establish the brand’s international reputation, and by 1939, the factory at Middleport was employing over 500 people.
As well as the historical importance of saving the site, the three-year restoration project has been vital for the future prosperity of the Stoke-on-Trent area. The project has saved 50 jobs at Middleport and has created at least 50 more, and it is hoped the restored pottery will attract significant numbers of visitors to the area. “From our point of view that regeneration element of it is at least as important as the heritage element of it,” says Kerslake.
The Prince’s Regeneration Trust specialises in bringing buildings back into use, with HRH Prince Charles said to have been heavily involved in preserving the pottery. “He has been enormously supportive and helpful to us in what we’ve done,” says Kerslake. “It’s fair to say we wouldn’t have been able to achieve it without his help and support”.
Middleport pottery opens 1 July 2014. For more information on visiting, go to www.middleportpottery.co.uk
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