The Potteries is a collection of towns, based in and around Stoke-on-Trent, that began in the mid-17th century as small communities of potters spread out along an eight-mile vein of coal and clay. The demand for local clay was such that early potters took to digging for it in the roads – that’s where the term ‘potholes’ come from. How can one town be based in another? Well, uniquely, Stoke-on-Trent is made up of six separate towns – Tunstall, Burslem, Hanley (designated the city centre), Stoke-upon-Trent, Fenton and Longton.
Stoke has been producing pottery here for 300 years, having got the idea from China. It was so successful that in the 19th century its skies were black from the smoke of thousands of towering bottle ovens (furnaces inside bottle-shaped chimneys) firing countless ceramic pieces from bone china dinner services to electrical insulators. All the big names had factories here: Wedgwood, Spode, Twyford, Royal Doulton, Minton… there were some 1500 in all. One of the few left here now is Moorcroft, which has been producing its distinctive, richly coloured and highly decorated pieces at the same small factory in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent since 1912.
For a great day out, visit the Gladstone Pottery Museum in Longton. Housed in a beautifully restored Victorian pottery factory, it’s packed full of interesting exhibits and fun things to see and do. After you’ve watched a bone china flower being made or a pot being thrown on a wheel, you can have a go yourself.
Tel: 01782 236 000. www.visitstoke.co.uk