Report - J. H. Weatherby & Sons, Stoke on Trent - October 2015

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Is this the future?
Regular User
Mar 16, 2014

“Basically, we’ve decided to close down before someone else forced us to – while we are solvent rather than insolvent. It’s really upsetting. One of the main reasons is for the employees who work here. We have had two or three generations of people working here and one of the things I’ve found warming is their reaction to this. They have been very sympathetic and understanding. Everyone who works here has been very happy here” (Christopher Weatherby, 2000).

J. H. Weatherby & Sons was founded in 1891, in Tunstall. Mr. Weatherby later established the Falcon Works, a larger pottery workshop, in 1892, when they moved the company to Hanley. The site at Hanley was comprised of extensive workshops built around a large central yard. The entire structure was built using brick and a plain tiled roof. Inside the courtyard there was, and still is, a bottle kiln with a circular hovel over a downdraught oven. A number of muffle kilns were also located at this site, and at one time they were rumoured to have been the only ones of their kind left in the city of Stoke.

The company specialised in ornamental goods (tableware and giftware) to everyday domestic ware (basins and ewers), and as they expanded their main lines turned to hotel and crested ware. Unfortunately, entering into the hotel market turned out to be J.H. Weatherby & Sons downfall. After over 109 years of trading, the Falcon Works subsequently became one of the last remaining family-owned pottery firms to close in 2000. The chairman, Christopher Weatherby, the great grandson of the company’s founder (John Henry Weatherby) attributed its closure to ‘cut-throat’ competition against larger commercial businesses, especially those overseas. They simply could not keep up with the mass demand for pottery and the rate of production of big pottery factories. At its height, the company employed over 200 full time staff, however, months before closure this number had fallen to a mere 10 employees. After the closure of the pottery works, Jonathan Weatherby, working alongside a small staff from the original works, took over producing for JONROTH. For a time they operated under the name of Jonathan Weatherby At Falcon Pottery.

Our Version of Events

After our little expedition through Butterley Tunnel, and a quick sleep in a random football field somewhere, we left the countryside and made for Stoke on Trent. We have no real idea why we went that way, we just followed the road and went where it took us. Once we got there, we decided to take a quick pit-stop, to give the drivers a break, and it just so happened the Falcon Works were nearby. Like many others have said in various different reports, this place looks like it was once spectacular, with plenty of leftovers to see. Now, however, the place is best described as ‘fucked’. A lot of the leftover pottery and machinery has been smashed, the bottle kiln has collapsed in on itself and most of the roof has disintegrated. There is still a bit to see though, and we found a few nooks and crannies with interesting decaying remains of the Falcon Works pottery past. Despite the fact that there is virtually no roof and some of the walls have crumbled away, most of the floors are surprisingly intact, so navigating our way around the building wasn’t too difficult. After an hour or so inside we decided to wrap things up because we were burning daylight. On that note, we left Stoke and continued on our epic journey to nowhere in particular.

Explored with Ford Mayhem, Meek-Kune-Do, Rizla Rider and Husky.

1: J. H. Weatherby & Sons External Shot


2: The General Condition of the Building


3: Upstairs in an Old Workshop


4: Another Workshop


5: A Pottery Rack


6: Plaster Storage


7: A Little Sample of the Pottery


8: Pottery Storage Room


9: The Large Machine/Oven Room


10: The Inner Courtyard


11: Inside the Bottle Kiln


12: The Rest of the Courtyard


13: Down in the Basement: Sacks of Bisilicate


14: Upstairs in the Pottery Rooms


15: Plates and Dishes


16: Ruined Storage Room


17: More Pottery


18: Chaos


19: Empty and Quiet


20: Metal Basin


21: Pot Ovens


22: Machines Upstairs


23: Allen West & Co.


24: Old Workshop


25: The Usual Shoe You Find in These Places


26: Broken Lift


27: The Roofless Workshop


28: A Summery of J. H. Weatherby & Sons


29: The 'Hand Warmer' on the Oven