The history of the Potteries

Middleport-from-above
Middleport-from-above

We look back at the once thriving ceramics industry in Staffordshire, which after a period of decline is experiencing something of a renaissance.

Middleport-from-above
Middleport, from above

The six towns of Stoke-on-Trent, collectively referred to as ‘The Potteries’, were the centre of the British pottery industry in the 18th century, with over 300 potworks creating wares at the turn of the 19th century, thanks in no small part to the pioneering work of Josiah Wedgwood.

One pottery to flourish was Burleigh, which today prides itself on being Britain’s last continuously working Victorian pottery. Established in 1851 at the Central Pottery, Burslem, by Messrs Hulme and Booth, it was taken over a decade later by Frederick Rathbone Burgess and William Leigh (hence the name Burleigh), who moved to the newly constructed Middleport Pottery site in 1888.

Middleport-general-office-1930s
Middleport general office in the 1930s

Middleport was revolutionary for its time, with efficient production processes and improved working conditions. It was known locally as the ‘Seven Oven Works’ due to its three biscuit and four glost bottle ovens.

middleport-Casting
Middleport casting

Today just one oven remains and thanks to a £9m restoration project, which was officially opened by HRH The Prince of Wales in June, visitors can now tour the factory to see how the delicate tableware is made. Production has never stopped at Middleport and the Victorian techniques pioneered here are still in use, such as the painstaking tissue wrapping and printing process.

Watch video charting the history of Burleigh pottery.

Watch video from 1966 of Wedgwood pottery being made. Credit: British Pathe

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March-April 2014pdf-1


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