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Middleport – Daytripping to the Home of The Pottery Throwdown

How many of you are addicted to the Pottery Throwdown on the BBC? Have you ever wondered where it is filmed, or wanted to walk down the same Victorian alleyway between the factory buildings where the potters carefully carry their wares out to the kiln? If so then you need to visit Middleport – the home of Burleigh pottery and the Pottery Throwdown.

It’s is one of those things, you never seem to get the full benefit of the culture on your back door step. Or should that be that you possibly take it for granted which leads to an unintentional neglect? Either way, as my best friend and I headed out for our day trip to Middleport Pottery, Stoke-on-Trent, we both lamented at our own wilful negligence in never having visited before. This was even more so for my friend, who works within the city itself.

Yet, there is always time to rectify those holes in your cultural education. Moreover, this is an ideal time to start to engage with the cultural scene in Stoke-on-Trent with the City of Culture bid well underway and a significant amount of investment in many cultural spaces and events. This was evident before we even drove through the gates, as to our right stood a short row of terraced houses currently being renovated for multi-purpose uses in connection with Middleport’s expanding programme.

We had been lucky that the weather was giving us a full demonstration of glorious spring, as the sun shone down from an azure sky. It feels slightly smaller than you would expect after seeing the spaces on TV in the Throwdown, but the charm and character of the buildings was still in full force.

We first entered the Vistor’s Lodge where we paid entrance into the museum situated in the old office rooms of the factory. This is a small space, but has been curated in a way that utilises the space; giving the ambience of how the rooms would have been used while also displaying a wealth of information. There are two options available upon entering the museum – either £4 for entry to the museum and selected areas of the site, or £8 for the Factory Tour.

Despite only opting for the cheaper self-guided route around the site, we were fortunate to bump into one of the fabulous volunteer guides. Perhaps we looked a little bewildered at where we could and couldn’t go, but he was kind enough to take us to each area of the factory our passes enabled us, and provided a wealth of in-depth information to accompany it. So, if you are reading this, thank you Edwin! Excellent job, we learned a lot.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the site was the last remaining bottle kiln. For anyone who has driven through Stoke-on-Trent, you may be familiar with these imposing structures that still occasionally litter the skyline. There used to be seven bottle kilns in total, but following the Clean Air Act, 1956, all but one was demolished. For all of these impressive buildings that I have seen from the outside before, this was my first time inside. It is a strange site, and one I would definitely you visit yourself.

Yet, Middleport is not just a historical site. There is still a wealth of activity on the factory site, both with the creation of the Burleigh pottery that started to be manufactured there in 1889, and the numerous on-site artisans who have taken up residence in the studio/shop spaces. There is also a rather lovely little cafe overlooking the canal too.

The whole experience is finished by a visit to the Burleigh factory shop, which has a wealth of seconds at fantastic value. So if you are looking to stock up on gifts or find a set or two of new ceramic pieces for you home it is worth popping in before you leave.

With the Pottery Throwdown reaching its conclusion for this year, you will no longer have your weekly Middleport fix on the TV. So why not go and discover the place for yourself, in person.

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