Stoke & Staffordshire

Middleport pottery site £9m renovation complete

Bottle kiln
Image caption The factory's original bottle kiln has been refurbished

Building work to renovate the UK's last working Victorian pottery factory in Stoke-on-Trent has finished.

The Prince's Regeneration Trust has spent about £9m revamping Middleport Pottery in Burslem.

The trust said it bought the Grade II-listed building in June 2011 to save 50 jobs and preserve skills. The factory has produced Burleigh china since 1888.

A visitor centre, workshops and a cafe have been put in and the original bottle kiln has been refurbished.

The factory was officially reopened on Tuesday by Prince Charles.

Image caption The visitor centre tells the story of Burleigh china
Image caption The visitor centre features collages designed by local ceramic artists

Trust chief executive Ros Kerslake said it had brought the factory up to "21st Century standards but kept the huge uniqueness of how it was in 1888".

She said: "It did need a lot of significant construction work, the roof needed substantial repair, for example, but we tried to be sensitive to not over restore or over modernise the place."

The trust said it hoped to boost its visitor numbers from about 8,000 to 30,000 people a year through its new museum exhibit and by encouraging schools to use the new classroom spaces.

As part of the refurbishment, 19,000 historic pottery moulds and cases belonging to factory tenants Burgess, Dorling and Leigh, were moved out of the factory.

The pieces, collected over the past 130 years, were stored for seven months at the old Spode pottery site in Stoke town centre.

The plaster moulds have been catalogued and returned to a new storeroom at the factory.

Visitor centre manager Theresa Fox-Wells said: "[They] were up on the third floor, the weight was putting quite a strain on the building.

"It was a huge exercise to transport them from site to site. They're now safely stored here again, but on the ground floor this time."

Image caption Burgess, Dorling and Leigh have been making Burleigh china on site since 1888

The trust said since it had taken over the factory 30 new jobs had been created on both the administrative and manufacturing side.

It said it was aiming to create 30 more.

Money for the project had come from a range of sources including English Heritage, the government's Regional Growth Fund, the Heritage Lottery Fund and private donations, the trust said.

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