We were in Stoke today digging holes, and on the way home drove past the vast expanse of rubble that was one of the world's most famous names in fine china, Royal Doulton.
I've always had a keen interest in the ceramics industry. Back in the early days of exploring there was a lot to be seen in Stoke, a result of the rapid decline in the ceramics industry in the early 2000's. Doulton was one of the largest casualties, closing in 2005 and moving production to the far east. This in itself was a huge blow for the city, but the story of the works post closure is a long tale of woe and could be a case study for any city on "what not to do" with important historic buildings.
Stoke On Trent (for anyone that has not spent time there) is a city in decline, peppered with vacant plots of land, decrepit buildings and empty houses. Considering the relics of the ceramics industry are probably the best string to the bow of a future for the city, the council have allowed fine examples of the buildings that gave the area it's name to become so derelict that demolition is (apparently) the only fate for them. Wetherby, Doulton, Falcon works, Acme Marls but to name just a few.
Doulton was mostly demolished a few years ago, but the original office and casting shops were retained for conversion. They sat, in a field of rubble for years, slowly being raped of roofing slates and metal until a fire destroyed an upper floor. The remaining buildings were unceremoniously demolished in 2014.
None of the decorative stonework, or the WW1 war memorial were preserved. Lest We forget indeed...
There is now a campaign to preserve the factory gates, which is utterly laughable.
Anyway back to the explores... Doulton was epic. Huge, un-spoilt and un-modernized. The kiln still contained half finished ware, decorator's brushes still sat on turn tables. The original building had a stunning ceiling buried under a modern suspended replacement, where ancient anaglypta wallpaper still clung to the plaster. Even the carpet was personalized, with the companies crest in the pile.
The boiler house was equally amazing, marked with the 'boiler house seal of approval'... a Hopkinson gauge.
I'm going to make an effort to get more of the ceramics factories reposted as I don't think we will ever see stuff quite like this again.
Up in the original ceiling