Gladstone Pottery Museum

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Trips & Adventures – 22 November 2018

Stoke-on-Trent is the home of the pottery industry in England and is made up of six towns: Hanley, Burslem, Fenton, Longton, Stoke-upon-Trent, and Tunstall, each having its own town hall.

We were welcomed to Stoke-on-Trent by Josiah Wedgwood, whose statue stands outside the train station. He was the English potter, most associated with the neoclassic style, who established the Wedgwood pottery factory.

We decided to take a taxi to The Gladstone Pottery Museum as it was situated a few miles away in Longton.

The factory opened as a museum in 1974, the buildings having been saved from demolition in 1970 when the pottery closed (some ten years after its bottle ovens were last fired). In the 1990’s ownership passed to Stoke-on-Trent City Council. The museum has shown its commitment to industrial heritage by functioning as a working pottery, and is typical of those once common in the North Staffordshire area of England from the time of the industrial revolution in the 18th century to the mid 20th century.

The museum was fascinating and we learnt a lot about saggar making, throwing, jiggering, jolleying, casting, dipping, glost placing and firing the clay. There were demonstrations of throwing the pot and flower making.

Saggars were used to support the pottery and protect it from smoke in the kiln. Each lasted about 40 firings so the saggar maker needed to replace them continuously. Saggars were made by a team, a skilled saggar maker, a frame filler and a saggar maker’s bottom knocker.

Lots of children worked in the pottery but life expectancy at the time was only 46 as people suffered with heat from the ovens and from lead poisoning.

We visited the doctor’s house as well as the tile gallery and an exhibition “Flushed With Pride” which was the story of the toilet.

The exhibition had quite a lot of “toilet humour”. We found out that the Latin word for bee is “apis” and that it’s a myth that Thomas Crapper invented the toilet! There were toilets on display for standing, sitting and squatting as well as a Japanese toilet with a heated seat.

All in all, another fabulous day out.

 

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