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Village History

Probus group learns pottery history

Posted on May 30 2016 at 11:40:51 0 comments

Probus group

Members of the Kingfisher Probus Group recently visited Middleport Pottery at Burslem; the home of Burleigh ware and of BBC2’s The Great Pottery Throw Down, writes Malcolm Shine.

We saw pottery being made using handcraft methods that remain virtually unchanged since the factory opened in 1889. The tour took us through each stage of production in sequence, showing how a lump of clay is transformed into a finished piece of tableware.

Middleport 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.

Finished pottery was placed directly on to barges on the canal and taken out to the coast for export.

Of the original seven bottle kilns on the site only one now remains. Our guide told us that in the heyday of the pottery industry in Stoke-on-Trent there were about 4,000 bottle kilns – there are now 46 still standing, all listed buildings.

In 2010 the Pottery was at serious risk of closure because of the poor state of the buildings, but the Prince’s Regeneration Trust stepped in and began a £9 million project to regenerate and revitalise it.

We were disappointed to learn that some of the old job titles no longer exist (such as Cod Placer, and Saggar Maker’s Bottom Knocker). However in the on-site café we were all pleased to find that traditional Staffordshire Oatcakes are still around!

More info on the group at

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