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Report - The Pottery Industry, Stoke-on-Trent, May '15 - May '16

Discussion in 'Industrial Sites' started by Gudgeon Pin, Aug 9, 2016.

  1. Gudgeon Pin

    Gudgeon Pin 28DL Full Member
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    This is my first post on these forums, although I have been examining them fairly regularly since sometime in the latter half of 2006. Over the last decade, I have found continued fascination in this colossal compilation of photographs, and I have been engrossed by the website on many occasions!! I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the administrators and moderators, for providing such an incredible resource, and also to thank everyone else for posting so many excellent reports!

    I wouldn’t describe myself as an “urban explorer” to be honest, and class myself more as someone with an interest in local history and industrial archaeology. However, that can basically amount to the same thing! I am especially interested in the traces of traditional heavy industries, and so I can never pass by a derelict industrial building without having a look! Being nosey, I will always be happy to snoop around other kinds of buildings too if I get the chance.

    I moved to Stoke-on-Trent about a year and a half ago, and I’m currently working in a very old factory with strong links to the pottery industry. The potteries of Stoke are fascinating, for there were so many facets to the local industry, alongside the factories producing the ceramic ware itself. There were all the companies providing the machinery to the potteries, such as William Boulton of Burslem and Edwards and Jones of Longton. Then there were many companies which specialised in making kilns and furnaces. There were also the suppliers of raw materials – calcined bone and flint to add to ceramic bodies, glass frits for use in ceramic glazes, companies that calcined and ground ceramic colours – the list is endless!

    Anyway, before I waffle on too long, having moved to Stoke, I quickly set to work exploring the pottery industry, or what is left of it! These are all lone visits, as I don’t really know many people in this area. None of these potteries are novel finds, and all of them have been visited many times before. They’re not generally in the best state these days, as many have now been derelict for a decade or so, and most have suffered their share of arson attacks and other vandalism. It seems that I’ve missed the boat on many other sites in Stoke in just the last 5 years, but I’d be surprised if many of these buildings are here in another 5 years, so I feel privileged to have seen them.

    I wasn’t originally intending to post a report, but then it occurred to me that it is a while since some of these potteries featured on the forums. So maybe it is time I shared something in return for all the information I have read. I thought I would combine all the sites I’ve visited into one compilation report, and hope that’s ok! I realise that this is a lot of photos in relation to your standard report, but it does cover nine different sites.

    I have my eye on a few more sites too, but have had no joy with those so far. Nothing quite gives you a feel for the death of Stoke’s pottery industry like a walk around these poor buildings. I can only apologise for the quality of the photographs, some of which I realise aren’t great. I am no photographer, certainly not compared to many of the users of this site, so you’ll have to excuse the photo quality. I also spent most of my time scouring the buildings rather than photographing. Anyway, this should still give you some idea of how these potteries looked between May 2015 and May 2016.

    Cheers!


    We’ll start this tour of Stoke’s derelict pottery industry in the town of Longton, and make our way north up to Burslem, taking in the scenery along the way! I’ve only given a fairly brief history of each site, as in most cases it is simply recovering old, and familiar ground.

    First off let’s visit John Tams’ Crown Works. A potbank of very long standing, the Crown Works were established in 1841. They were taken over by Tams around 1875 and operated by the Tams group until closure in 2006. The Stoke Sentinel reported that these works were to be demolished in July 2013, following a fire. However, this has not happened, and the fire only destroyed one corner of the factory. The rest of the site still exists.

    Kilns at Tams.

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    Rubber moulds for the production of mugs, which the factory specialised in during its final years.

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    The shop floor at Tams.

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    Emery Colours – another company which is no more.

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    An Invicta metal shaper in the fitting shop.

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    There are many shelves of ceramic transfers, still neatly stacked up.

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    The entrance into the tunnel kiln.

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    Next up, let’s head over to the town of Stoke itself. Here lies Spode, one of the most famous names amongst the Staffordshire potteries. Josiah Spode established his works in the town centre back in 1776 and the company remained on this site throughout its entire history. This is a large site - some ten acres in extent, and fortunately, despite closing in 2008, this is a site where the buildings have remained fairly undisturbed. A major renovation project for the works was given planning permission earlier this year, which should ensure the long-term future of these buildings.

    Many of the buildings at Spode Works have barely been touched since closure.

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    This appears to have been some kind of lab or small testing room.

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    There are many mould stores at Spode, some of which contain plaster moulds dating back as far as the early 19th century. The size of the works, and the quantity of available storage space, lead to the survival of items which would have been disposed of in most smaller factories.

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    Moulds stored in a vaulted cellar beneath one of the 19th century buildings.

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    Also in Stoke, but a stone’s throw away, lie the Falcon Works - originally part of William Henry Goss’ factory, from c.1870. By the 1950s these buildings were part of the Portmeirion factory, which occupies the adjacent site. Portmeirion had already moved out of these buildings by 2002, and eventually sold them around 2011.

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    These buildings are rather worse for wear, and fairly empty, although they retain some interesting features.

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    There are plenty of plaster moulds piled up inside the works, all of which are for Portmeirion’s wares.

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    There are also two bottle kilns remaining at these works. They are glost ovens and are housed within their own small building.

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    There are some nice tiles stacked up inside the building, which seem to have been removed from the walls. Inside the kilns themselves there are even some fragments of saggar, as seen here.

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    Having finished in Stoke, it’s time to head over to Hanley. On the way we’ll pass by Etruria, the location of Jesse Shirley’s Bedford Works. Jesse Shirley built the original Etruscan Bone and Flint Mill back in 1857, at the junction of the Trent and Mersey and Caldon Canals. This mill calcined and then ground bone and flint for the pottery industry, and is now preserved as an excellent museum. Alongside the museum lie the semi-derelict works of its successor, Jesse Shirley and Son, the world’s oldest manufacturer of bone ash, until the company collapsed in 2011.

    A set of Avery scales – a necessary feature of any old works, and the blocked up entrance to the colour room.

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    A ball mill for grinding ceramic materials; this probably had a capacity of around four tons. When these works closed the machinery was mainly scrapped. Somebody has taken a gas axe to this mill, but seems to have given up part way through the job.

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    Part 2 to follow.
     

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  2. Gudgeon Pin

    Gudgeon Pin 28DL Full Member
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    Part 2

    In Hanley, lies the former Lord Nelson Pottery of Elijah Cotton Ltd. The works were established in 1875, and most of the remaining buildings are of a good age. Elijah Cotton’s closed in 1981, at which point the factory became the Nelson Industrial Estate. There are remains inside belonging to a number of small pottery companies including Minton China and Croft China.

    A mould store in the part of the factory which had been occupied by Croft China in later years.

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    A potter’s wheel set into a bench down in the basement.

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    The best find in this place was plenty of documents, mainly dating from the 1960s and belonging to the time when this was Elijah Cotton’s factory. These had been tied into bundles with string and stuffed into the roof space in part of the factory. The roof has subsequently fallen through and the documents now litter the floor below. There are also plenty of untouched bundles perched upon the beams, and in what remains of the attic!

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    Price List of Hotel Ware for October 1934!

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    Patterns for cups and saucers.

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    In a corner of the attic I even found some products of the Nelson Pottery - some broken jugs and a stash of ceramic bed pans marked “Nelson Ware”!

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    Also in Hanley are the Falcon Works of J. H. Weatherby, which I’m sure need no introduction to most people here. These were established in 1892 and closed in 2000.

    Potter’s wheels in situ at Weatherby’s.

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    It’s looking in a very bad way these days…

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    This is all biscuit ware which has seen a first firing, but has not yet been glazed.

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    Some glazed ware on the racks upstairs, there’s lots of back stamped pottery around here dated to the 60s and 70s.

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    The last town which we’ll visit is Burslem, which we’ll enter via the suburb of Middleport. Here is another raw material manufacturer, Middleport Mill. In 1907 this was the home of Goodwin’s Mill Company. There is a calcining kiln and the mill ground raw materials for the pottery industry. The date of closure is unknown, but it seems to have been disused a long time, as has the adjacent Port Vale Flour Mill – a real deathtrap. The buildings of Morrilew Pottery, which formerly stood in front of the flour mill, have now been demolished.

    These brick piers are the supports for ball mills, and you can see the bolts for the bearings. The mills would have been loaded on the floor above.

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    A pile of flint pebbles ready for calcining by heating in the kiln. Calcining rendered the flints more friable and they were then ready for grinding in water.

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    Inside one of the buildings at the mill.

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    Near Burslem town centre is the remains of Acme Marls Ltd. They manufactured kiln furniture, to assist in the placement of ceramic ware inside the kiln for firing. This was bought out by J&J Dyson PLC in 2000, at which point production was moved away from this site.

    The only remaining building at Acme Marls – this has a datestone on the front for 1880. These works occupied a large site, most of which was on the other side of the road, but all other buildings have been cleared away. Most recently this building has been used for airsoft, and there is nothing original inside.

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    Downdraught ovens at the Acme Marls site. I have managed to visit all of the remaining bottle ovens and calcining kilns in The Potteries, and these structures are certainly well worth examining.

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    Our ninth and final site is another pottery of long standing – Wade’s Hilltop Works. This factory was built in 1814, to replace and even older works. Once worked by J. & R. Riley, Wade’s moved into this building in 1954 and abandoned it in 2010. The company is still very much operational to make a change, although it’s a shame they’ve left such a historic building to rot…

    Moulds for animal figures – these are in a small separate building, and are lined up on shelves labelled “cats”, “dogs”, “horses” etc.

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    Shop floor at Wade’s with some kilns in the background.

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    This factory made plenty of items for breweries, distilleries, pubs etc. including these piles of ashtrays.

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    That's all for now - cheers!
     
  3. Oxygen Thief

    Oxygen Thief Admin
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    Brilliant that is mate, thanks for taking the time.
     
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  4. host

    host 28DL Regular User
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    Excellent well documented report. St Davids in Harlech is now long gone too..as in its been derelict for years.
     
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  5. jST

    jST LLS.
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    Enjoyed that, nicely compiled mate.
     
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  6. Yorrick

    Yorrick 28DL Regular User
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    That’s a cracking first report mate.

    Pic 2 – Where I work we’d call that rubber thing a plug rather than a mould as it's a copy of the object and the writing is the right way round. We'd use it to make a mould (probably in sand) where the writing would be backwards. The mould would have a relatively short life (usually 1 firing) but the plug will last for years.
     
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  7. dweeb

    dweeb Super Moderator
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    Excellent... You've covered much of what there is / was to see in the Potteries. Drop me a PM if you want to see a few other sites in the area :)
     
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  8. Camera Shy

    Camera Shy Old enough to know better
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    As said, probably one of the best first reports i can remember. Welcome onto the site.
     
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  9. Benyy

    Benyy 28DL Full Member
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    Fair play mate, you've done your research and taken the time to upload it thanks! Really enjoyed the read
     
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  10. Six

    Six 28DL Regular User
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    Great report and good write up too!
     
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  11. ACID- REFLUX

    ACID- REFLUX 28DL Regular User
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    Ditto the above comments, enjoyed reading that mate very good :thumb
     
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  12. Shatners

    Shatners Silly Bugger
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    Great report that mate and the photo comments give some good background context :-)
     
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  13. Funlester

    Funlester The Fun One
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    Nice report mate, doesnt look like much has changed since I went last year.
     
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  14. Gudgeon Pin

    Gudgeon Pin 28DL Full Member
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    Thanks for your replies everyone, and for all the kind comments too, I appreciate the feedback. Pleased to hear that it made for an enjoyable read - I'll try not to leave it another 10 years before I post my second report haha!
     
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  15. raisinwing

    raisinwing 28DL Regular User
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    Nicely done, just goes to show that there's plenty around to see. Look forward to seeing some more stuff from you! :)
     
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