Learn about Saggar Bottoms, WC Crapper and Slip at Gladstone Pottery Museum.
Its Saturday and I want to go somewhere, but where can we go. I know says wifey, where’s that brochure on Stoke On Trent we’ll go to one of the potteries, but which one, there are so many in Stoke but after much discussion we ended up at Gladstone Pottery museum.
“Why”, I hear you ask, well after looking at all the information on lots of the other potteries, we decided that we wanted to visit somewhere that depicted life in the potteries in the last century, what it would be like to work in a 19th century pottery and what conditions the people of the time had to endure.
So off we go to Stoke on Trent, luckily its only 35 miles from our house and once we arrive in Stoke it is well sign posted. However, if you’re coming down the A500 I would advise staying in the left hand lane as its straight most of the way but the signs will indicate you must turn left, just as you must turn left. If you know what I mean!
“There it is!”, “Damn missed it!”
On arrival at the museum
Once at the museum, there is a large car park that will hold maybe a hundred cars. However this is shared with the Portmerion Pottery which is also in the same area, so if its peak time I would probably get there early. The Museum is open from 10am to 5pm daily.
The Gladstone Museum is about 2 minutes walk from the car park. Just follow the large bottle shaped chimneys, which are the only ones left in the area. Apparently the whole area was covered in them but they have been pulled down with the increased use of electric and gas kilns.
Can I afford it, what’s the price?
Entrance price for the museum is £7.50 for adults and £5.25 for kids or a family ticket for £22, but you can phone to find the latest prices before you go. 01782 319232 or 01782 311378. Prices correct Jan 2015.
Once inside the building you will have to pass through the shop to get to the payment counter, don:t be tempted to buy when you enter otherwise you’ll end up carrying them round all day.
When you’ve paid you are given a tour sheet which is floor plan of the museum with each room numbered. This being so that as you start to move around the museum you get the experience of how pottery was made and how things worked in the right order. The numbering system also give you an idea of how the people who lived there moved about the pottery in there daily lives.
Before you take the tour you enter the movie room which shows you a short film about the potteries and the Gladstone museum, this takes about 5 minutes and takes you back to the late 19th century, early 20th century so you get the feel of the museum and what it was like during its working life. I found it very interesting.
Room 1. Starts with the factories steam driven machinery, this would have powered all the machines in the factory originally. This machine is a fairly small steam engine, which is in full working order (I mean it moves), however it is no longer powered by steam and was being turned by an electric motor, but you still get the point.
Room 2. Which is where the clay starts its journey through the factory. Here it is turned in to a sloppy mess, which is called slip. Here all the impurities and metals are removed before the clay is then dried out again before being made in to clay pots, or mixed with other ingredients to become Bone china. You’ll be surprised if you don’t know what bone china contains!
I am not going to go in to all the details of each room, as this will spoil the tour of the museum for you. I will say however that there is plenty for all to do and in some parts of the museum there is even a DIY section. You can throw your own pot, make china flowers or paint your own pots, but there is a small charge for this.
There are also demonstrations by the skilled staff some of whom where wearing the traditional dress of the time. The staff we talked to where very informative and explained in detail what they where doing, why they where doing it and how it would have been done in the past. It took the potter about 10 minutes to make one large jug, but he informed us that in the past they would have made 400 of these jugs in one working day each.
Also on the site of the museum is a new exhibit, which is situated in the only new building on the site. This exhibit is about the story of the toilet. Sounds like a load of crap! (Sorry!) but it is very interesting, taking you from the old wooden holes in the floor right up to today’s latest toilet innovation.
This building also houses the ceramic tile exhibition which as well as showing how tiles are made, displays a range of tiles from world history.
The museum has its own cafe, which is reasonably priced, I had the all day breakfast, egg, 2 bacon, 2 sausage, 2 toast and a tomato for £3.20 and a coffee was 80p. Not to bad I’m sure you’ll agree.
There is plenty to do at the museum and enough to keep you occupied for a full day, although if you have kids I would keep a close watch on them as there are many steep stair cases and moving machinery around the museum. There are guide rails but unsupervised children would be over these in a flash.
If you have a spare day and are short of something interesting to do then I can heartily recommend the Gladstone pottery museum.
Gladstone Pottery Museum,
Tel: 01782 319232
My wife and I have just been to the Gladstone Museum for the second time and I can say I am equally if not more impressed than first time I went.
This time the Bottle ovens where open for you to see inside. You can actually go and stand inside the ovens and see what it was like to work in them.
One of the chimmenys is full of Saggars awaiting to be fired, One is empty and one is on a pretend (Well they can’t have it going whilst the public walk around) firing.
All the work shops and displays where working and they even have a new exhibition called “The Doctors house” Which portays a late 1800 early 1900 doctors surgery.
The toilet exhibition seemed to smell more than last time, but this has a few new items, or perhaps a few things I missed last time.
Overall, I’ll give the museum a big mykp thumbs up. This has to be one of the best places we have visited this year!