Middleport Pottery's history is moved to new Stoke home
THOUSANDS of historic pottery moulds and cases are being painstakingly transferred across the city.
The Grade II-listed Middleport Pottery is currently home to around 19,000 moulds and cases, some of which are believed to date back to the 1800s.
They are now being transferred to part of the old Spode site in Stoke so the Prince's Regeneration Trust (PRT), which has embarked on a multi-million pound transformation of the Victorian pottery, can start the cataloguing process.
The unique collection has been built up by Burleigh-maker Burgess, Dorling and Leigh, which moved to Middleport in 1889 and is still based at the factory.
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PRT project manager Harry Wardill said: "The factory was built in 1888 but part of the collection pre-dates that because Burgess, Dorling and Leigh was founded some years before.
"It's absolutely fascinating." The PRT secured Middleport Pottery's future last year with a £7.5 million investment.
Fifty jobs were safeguarded at Burgess, Dorling and Leigh and work is now under way to create an interactive visitor centre, gallery, factory shop and cafe.
The Sentinel reported in July that the PRT had landed £1.5 million of lottery cash to help tell the story of Middleport Pottery, which includes cataloguing the moulds and cases.
Harry said: "They are currently in a second-floor room of a very old building, and we need to move them so we can do some repairs. We have managed to secure part of the old Spode site for a peppercorn rent through the city council.
"We thought the move would take about eight weeks but that's now looking more like 12."
It is thought the cataloguing will take about 18 months to two years.
Harry said: "Everyone is very excited about what we might find.
"Once the moulds have been catalogued they are going to come back and be housed on the ground floor in a purpose-built store.
"That will be open to the public as part of our heritage project."
Burgess, Dorling and Leigh's current mould-maker, John Machin, has been with the firm for more than 30 years.
Harry said: "John is a very highly-skilled craftsman and he's the person who knows most about what's there.
"Some of the moulds were bought from other firms but the majority relate to Burgess, Dorling and Leigh, so it's a unique collection. I would say its probably the most complete and potentially the biggest in the world."
Funding for the project has come from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
HLF chief executive Carole Souter said: "These moulds are nationally important heritage which are also fundamental to understanding the history of Stoke-on-Trent and the Potteries."