Her­itage week­end

Whether you’re a fan of beau­ti­ful ceram­ics, or want to oc­cupy the kids in half term, dis­cover the rich his­tory and charm of the Pot­ter­ies

Period Living - - Contents - Fea­ture Holly Reaney

From pot-throw­ing to shop­ping, dis­cover the best of Stoke on Trent

Wedg­wood, Burleigh, Emma Bridge­wa­ter, Spode: all in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised brands that call Stoke-on­trent home. With a ceram­ics her­itage go­ing back to the 1650s, Stoke’s nat­u­ral abun­dance of clay, wa­ter and coal led to the cul­ti­va­tion of lo­cal skills in pot throw­ing, sculpt­ing and hand dec­o­rat­ing. These meth­ods can be seen in ac­tion to­day at one of the many fac­tory tours on of­fer across the Pot­ter­ies.

If you’re hop­ing for a more prac­ti­cal ex­pe­ri­ence, then don’t miss the World of Wedg­wood vis­i­tor cen­tre, where you can try your hand at mak­ing earth­en­ware. Dur­ing the 30-minute Master Craft Stu­dio work­shop, £15, you will prac­tise the art of pot throw­ing to cre­ate your own unique piece. This will be fired and posted out to you. For a less messy ad­ven­ture, the dec­o­rat­ing stu­dio hosts paint­ing work­shops for £5 per pot, so you can still cre­ate your own mas­ter­piece. To book, call 01782 282986.

At the peak of man­u­fac­tur­ing, 4,000 bot­tle kilns stood proudly across the Stoke-on-trent sky­line. Although many have since been re­moved fol­low­ing the Clean Air Act of 1956, 47 re­main, all now listed build­ings, which stand as tes­ta­ment to the city’s rich pot­tery her­itage. Get up close to an orig­i­nal bot­tle kiln on the Burleigh fac­tory tour, which al­lows vis­i­tors to stand in­side and ap­pre­ci­ate the vast scale of Stoke’s pot­tery pro­duc­tion. Adults £9.50; visit burleigh.co.uk to book. For a more pic­turesque view, visit the kilns at Top Bridge Works in Long­port, which are flanked by the

Trent and Mersey canal.

Through­out the 17th and 18th cen­turies, Stoke was an es­teemed pow­er­house of pot­tery. Yet, by the

end of the 1900s, pro­duc­tion was in de­cline as com­pa­nies found they could pro­duce pot­tery abroad for sig­nif­i­cantly lower costs. Some of the lead­ing names re­mained based in the city, but many of the old fac­to­ries were aban­doned and ul­ti­mately de­stroyed. How­ever, one such fac­tory be­came the home of Emma Bridge­wa­ter (see more over­leaf), mark­ing a key mo­ment in the re­vival of Stoke’s pot­tery in­dus­try.

Where to eat

By day, a quaint and quirky café, by night a bistro res­tau­rant, The Quar­ter, lo­cated on the edge of up-and-com­ing Han­ley, is a mustvisit res­tau­rant with a wel­com­ing, homely at­mos­phere and lively dé­cor. The bar boasts wines from around the world, be­spoke beers and an imag­i­na­tive cock­tail menu. It is held in par­tic­u­larly high es­teem for its gin and pros­ec­cobased of­fer­ings, a favourite be­ing ‘Rosec­oco’ – a flo­ral com­bi­na­tion of prosecco and rose syrup.

Qual­ity food stands at the heart of this fam­ily res­tau­rant, which of­fers a sim­ple yet ex­cel­lently ex­e­cuted menu, cel­e­brat­ing homemade, rus­tic cui­sine. If you feel spoiled for choice, sam­ple the menu’s va­ri­ety with a plat­ter. The ‘slider plat­ter’ fea­tures three minia­ture burg­ers, served with a small side of chilli con carne, coleslaw and a salad. Evening book­ing is es­sen­tial; call 01782 286008 or see the­quar­ter­cafe.co.uk for more in­for­ma­tion.

Stoke’s re­gional del­i­cacy, the oat­cake, is not the stodgy bread that you’d ex­pect. In­stead, it is more akin to a savoury pan­cake made from oat­meal, flour and yeast. Dat­ing back the 19th cen­tury, it was com­mon for oat­cakes to be sold out of win­dows of houses to cus­tomers on the street. Although this is no longer prac­ticed, there are plenty of cafés that still serve oat­cakes across the city.

The Sta­tion Kitchen, lo­cated in the for­mer Chur­net Val­ley Her­itage Rail­way wait­ing room, bakes its oat­cakes on an orig­i­nal gas bax­ton, a vari­a­tion of the tra­di­tional bake­stone. These are then paired with fill­ings in­clud­ing ba­con, sausage and egg, to of­fer a truly authen­tic taste of Stoke.

For more visit stafford­shireoat­cakes.com. ➤

Set just across the road from the his­toric Stoke Min­ster, The Glebe is a beau­ti­ful Vic­to­rian pub of­fer­ing a re­lax­ing at­mos­phere. Although fa­mous for its wide range of beers and ales on tap, it is the ar­chi­tec­ture and de­sign that make The Glebe stand out, specif­i­cally the beau­ti­fully de­signed stained-glass win­dow, at­trib­uted to Wil­liam Mor­ris, which casts a glow of colour across the pub. With a spa­cious front and back bar and large leather arm­chairs in front of roar­ing fires, it is the per­fect place to end your evening.

Where to shop

If you are look­ing to in­vest in pot­tery, there’s only one place to go. Of­fer­ing greatly re­duced prices, lim­ited edi­tions, dis­con­tin­ued lines and sec­onds (slightly to sig­nif­i­cantly im­per­fect ceram­ics and earth­en­ware), fac­tory out­let shops let you get the pot­tery you love at a re­duced price. Wedg­wood,

Burleigh, Port­meirion and Emma Bridge­wa­ter all have out­let stores along­side their fac­to­ries, which are the per­fect places to grab a bar­gain or to add a much de­sired piece to your col­lec­tion. Plus, they op­er­ate as stand-alone stores so you don’t need to worry if you haven’t got time to squeeze in ev­ery fac­tory tour on of­fer.

Where to stay

Built in 1845 for Josiah Wedg­wood’s grand­son, The Up­per House Ho­tel in Bar­las­ton is steeped in lo­cal his­tory. With 24 in­di­vid­u­ally dec­o­rated rooms set in 10 acres of wood­lands and land­scaped gar­dens, the ho­tel is a great base for ex­plor­ing ev­ery­thing Stoke-on-trent has to of­fer. Prices start at £75 per room; visit the­up­per­house.com to book.

Where to visit

With glo­ri­ous grounds fram­ing 19th-cen­tury Ital­ianate gar­dens, and a quaint tim­ber lodge shop­ping vil­lage, Tren­tham Es­tate is an un­spoilt idyll on the edge of Stoke. At the cen­tre of the gar­dens is the mile-long ‘Ca­pa­bil­ity’ Brown-de­signed Tren­tham Lake, which is flanked by meadow schemes and a flo­ral labyrinth. The re­mains of once-ma­jes­tic Tren­tham Hall, which stand in the north-eastern quar­ter, fea­ture a haunt­ing sculp­ture gallery, now cov­ered in wis­te­ria and en­veloped into the gar­dens. Tick­ets to the gar­dens are £9.45, or £8.40 for con­ces­sions; for more in­for­ma­tion visit tren­tham.co.uk.

IN FO­CUS: EMMA BRIDGE­WA­TER FAC­TORY

If you look at the base of your favourite Emma Bridge­wa­ter mug, you will see the words ‘Made in Stoke-on-trent, Eng­land’ proudly em­bla­zoned on it. Orig­i­nally from Ox­ford, Emma was led by a friend to select Stoke as the home for her clas­si­cally mod­ern pot­tery brand. Yet her choice to re­main in the city, even after the global ex­plo­sion of the com­pany, is not based on nos­tal­gia, but on the fact that it is still the best place in the world to make earth­en­ware and ceram­ics. It’s the same rea­son the brand’s glass­ware is pro­duced in Poland – to cre­ate the best prod­ucts pos­si­ble.

Each year, ap­prox­i­mately 45,000 hand­crafted half-pint mugs pass through the re­stored Vic­to­rian fac­tory, which was pur­chased in a state of ruin, boarded up and des­tined for destruc­tion. Re­stored to its orig­i­nal glory and given new life, it has not been modernised and filled with ma­chines as one would imag­ine that a multi-mil­lion pound busi­ness would do. In­stead, it is filled with peo­ple; ex­tremely skilled and cre­ative work­ers who do ev­ery­thing by hand, from cre­at­ing the moulds, pour­ing and cast­ing, to dec­o­rat­ing each piece with tra­di­tional sponge­ware tech­niques. The only real ma­chines used in the process are a jol­ley (which re­moves ex­cess clay to cre­ate deeper pieces, such as bowls and dishes) and a jig­ger (a process of throw­ing clay over the mould to cre­ate flat­ware), which were dis­cov­ered in­side the aban­doned fac­tory be­fore be­ing re­stored. Both date back to the 1940s and are still used to shape ev­ery sin­gle Emma Bridge­wa­ter plate. Since they are no longer man­u­fac­tured, each has to be care­fully main­tained.

The fac­tory is open Mon­day to Fri­day, so make a long week­end of your visit to Stoke, and see it op­er­at­ing in all its glory with a fac­tory tour. Be­gin at the start of the process, with the clay com­ing into the build­ing, and fin­ish by watch­ing the fi­nal prod­uct checks be­fore the items are dis­trib­uted around the world. The tour costs £2.50 per per­son, which can then be re­deemed against a pur­chase in the shop, while en­try for un­der-16s is free.

For a more cre­ative ex­pe­ri­ence, the dec­o­rat­ing work­shops, from £9.95, of­fer the op­por­tu­nity to dec­o­rate your own Emma Bridge­wa­ter half-pint mug or plate us­ing the iconic sponge de­signs, re­sult­ing in a per­son­alised and unique me­mento. The dec­o­rat­ing stu­dio is open ev­ery day.

To ex­pand your ex­pe­ri­ence, the fac­tory also of­fers ex­pe­ri­ence days, from £30, in­clud­ing af­ter­noon tea as well as the fac­tory tour and a dec­o­rat­ing work­shop. For more in­for­ma­tion and to book, visit emmabridge­wa­ter­fac­tory.co.uk.

Op­po­site: Stoke’s his­toric in­dus­trial sky­line Above, left and below left:Wedg­wood has been based in Stoke for nearly 260 yearsBelow: His­toric bot­tle kilns flank the Mersey canalBot­tom: Visit The Quar­ter’s de­li­cious deli for home-made lo­cal good­ies

Clock­wise fromtop left: The oat­cake is a re­gional del­i­cacy; the Sta­tion Kitchen Shop fol­lows a tra­di­tional recipe to pro­duce its authen­tic oat­cakes; Emma Bridge­wa­ter stands proudly at the Worker’s En­trance to her Stoke fac­tory; a Burleigh worker ap­plies a pat­tern us­ing the tis­sue print­ing method; de­signed by Henry Ward in 1834, The Glebe pub boasts many orig­i­nal pe­riod fea­tures

Above and left: The beau­ti­ful Tren­tham gar­dens are the per­fect place to ex­plore the win­ter coun­try­side that Stoke has to of­ferBelow: An Emma Bridge­wa­ter mug will pass through 30 hands on its jour­ney through the fac­toryRight: A worker dec­o­rates jugs by hand us­ing a tra­di­tional stamp­ing tech­nique

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