The city of Stoke on Trent is a combination of six pottery towns, Burslem, Fenton, Hanley, Longley, Stoke and Tunstall and they were only united as recently as 1910. The city centre is formed around the Hanley area and it is here that the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery is found. We spent a good time here and learnt a lot about the pottery industry. They also have on display items from the Staffordshire Hoard, discovered in 2009; sadly it did not glitter as much as I thought it would, as much of it is still covered in the earth that it was dug from, but the delicacy of the workmanship is amazing. I would have like to have spent time at Jesse Shirley’s Etruscan Bone & Flint Mill, which is right on the junction of the Caldon and Trent and Mersey Canals, but for Jacquie’s taste it was too industrial and on this occasion she won the choice.
Up until 1930 Josiah Wedgewood’s factory at Etruria, which was built in 1766, was still standing right beside the canal; opposite where we were moored, the site is now a modern commercial area. Subsidence at the old site and the need to modernize prompted the Wedgewood family to build a new factory at Barlaston, five locks and five miles down the canal and on Thursday morning we moved down to visit the Visitor Centre.
We came in via the back entrance from the canal, but eventually found the main entrance and bought our tickets to the museum, shops and demonstration areas. The museum is very well laid out in chronological order, but eventually I was going a little potty, so we headed off to the demo area.
Painting, jewellery, gilding, turning and throwing are all being demonstrated and the opportunity to have a ‘hands’ on experience is offered, but it is the throwing of a pot that was the most popular. Jacquie put on the plastic apron, threw the ball of clay onto the wheel and with a little help from the master potter to get it centered, eventually turned out a respectable looking object and it will be posted on to us once it had been fired in the kiln. Jacquie really enjoyed the tactile experience and may well find a pottery course when we return to dry land.