One of the highlights of the summer has been a trip to Staffordshire to stay in a wonderful Jacobean farmhouse, complete with four poster bed, and to visit ‘The Potteries’, Stoke on Trent.
The Burleigh Pottery at Middleport was a real eye-opener. A factory tour of this working pottery demonstrated the hand skills that are still being used to create their signature ‘Calico’ ware and many more designs from their extensive archives. Watching how the skilled craftsmen and women transfer the print from a flat sheet onto curved objects was fascinating – not a join to be seen!
The trip included a visit inside one of the old bottle shaped kilns which needed to be manned for 48 hours when they were being used to fire the pottery. Sometimes the pottery owners were impatient to get the fired pots out of the kilns so men had to go into the red hot interior wearing five overcoats and a wet rag over their hands and faces. Many workers developed serious lung disease as a result of this. Luckily the modern pottery uses electric kilns.
It was also interesting to meet a ‘fettler’ – a person who trims the rough edges of the damp pottery before it’s fired. As a Yorkshire woman I’ve often used the expression ‘get yourself fettled’ ie sort yourself out, so it was amusing to meet someone whose job it was!
I can thoroughly recommend a trip to the ’Potteries’, if you are like me and you are fascinated by old crafts and industrial history.