The Great Pottery Throw Down: Middleport Pottery

Images courtesy the BBC, Sara Cox, Keith Brymer Jones, Kate Malone, Layton Thompson

The location for BBC 2’s Great Pottery Throw Down is Middleport Pottery in Stoke-on-Trent. The CR team paid a visit to explore its history

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Middleport Pottery, the home of world-famous Burleigh, is now a visitor destination in the heart of Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, following an impressive £9 million restoration by The Prince’s Regeneration Trust.

Middleport was described as ‘The model pottery of the Staffordshire pottery industry’ when it was first built in 1888. It was designed to make all production processes more efficient and to improve workforce conditions.

Charlotte Rhead worked at Middleport between 1926 and 1931, and David Copeland worked there in the ’60s, bringing new modern designs while still using traditional copper plate engraving skills.

The last firing of the pottery’s bottle ovens took place in 1965. Six of them were demolished, while a single original bottle oven became Grade II listed in 1979. Middleport opened as a visitor site in 2014 following its redevelopment, and is now a working pottery and key heritage site.

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Today, visitors can step back in time to explore the pottery’s Victorian offices and learn about the people and events which shaped the pottery. The factory tour offers the chance to see pottery being made using the same handcraft methods as in the 1880s. The tour leads visitors through each stage of production in sequence, showing how a lump of clay is transformed into a finished piece of pottery.

During our visit we were given a tour of the preserved bottle oven and mould stores, which hold an incredible selection of moulds from across the pottery’s history – many of which were familiar. Any information regarding the filming of the Throw Down was off-limits – even Middleport’s staff had hardly seen a trace of the film crew or contestants – but it was wonderful to learn about this historic site and its significance to Britain’s ceramic legacy.

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Discover more about Middleport’s history and restoration via the Pottery’s website: www.middleportpottery.org 

Read about the making of the Great Pottery Throw Down inside Ceramic Review issue 276, out now. Find us live tweeting during each show on Thursday evenings from 8pm-9pm, @ceramicreview, #potterythrowdown

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