After listening to Emma Bridgewater on Desert Island Discs and reading her memoir/stories ‘Toast and Marmalade’ the next thing to do was head off to Stoke-on-Trent to do the Factory Tour.
Emma Bridgewater’s Book
When you step out of the station at Stoke-on-Trent you are met by a statue of Josiah Wedgwood who was responsible for the industrialisation of pottery and specifically in Stoke, or what is known as the Five Towns – Burslem, Tunstall, Hanley, Fenton and Longton.
It’s about a 25 minute walk to the Emma Bridgewater factory in Hanley. It’s a magnificently restored factory formerly built for Meakins in the 1850s, later taken over by Johnsons and by Emma Bridgewater in 1985.
The factory on Lichfield Street
It makes for an excellent day out. There are two shops – seconds and perfects (seconds are of equal quality but may have a very slight surface or paint flaw which is indicated on each item); a cafe serving homemade soup, sandwiches, teas and coffees; a Decorating Studio where you can paint your own design on an EB mug or jug or bowl; a secret walled garden (closed in winter) and a Factory Tour (best booked in advance).
The Main Shop in the Courtyard
The shop counter on arrival
The Herb Garden behind the shop
The Decorating Studio
Enjoying the Studio
My Tour was booked for 1.30pm so I had plenty of time to shop and have lunch.
Roast Tomato and Beetroot Soup
Rosetta guided a small group of us (6) beginning in the separate mould making area and moving into the main factory to see the rest of the process where we saw jiggering and jollying and topping off and fettling and sponging and foot (or bottom) wiping. Every part of the process is done by hand and carried out by skilled potters and artists using traditional methods. All the clay used is from the UK – Devon, Cornwall, Staffordshire and Wales and Emma Bridgewater uses an old Wedgewood creamware recipe for the clay mix. All the clay not used is recycled.
Here is the process as we followed it through :
The Mould Store
Rosetta shows us the mould making process step-by-step
A teapot emerges from its mould and scrap clay for recycling
Ready for the next stage : Firing
Ready for Firing
Fettling and sponging
It’s a different process for plates
Ready for Glazing
Inside the factory
All summed here :
I still had time for a cup of tea before walking back to Stoke Station and my journey home. In the cafe I met up with old Yorkshire friends :
Looking round when I got home I found these :
I’ve been through Stoke so many times by car and train but never stopped off in the town. I really should do a visit to a pottery before they’re all gone
I think you’d enjoy a Factory Visit at a Pottery. EB was especially well done. I picked up some leaflets at the station of these Moorcroft was only one offering a tour but there’s The Gladstone Pottery Museum which sounds interesting. There’s a Spode/Portmeirion factory shop but it doesn’t say where the china for sale is made. Years and years ago I visited The Wedgwood Museum which I believe the Art Fund recently ‘saved for the nation’.
I have some roots (great grandfather) from that part of the world and am interested in industrial processes so really should make the effort
I do like Emma Bridgewater pottery. I bought a few mugs, bowls & plates when they had a good deal on shipping to Australia & I use them every day. They don’t seem to have the good shipping deals anymore so maybe too many of us took advantage of it! Thanks for the vicarious tour.
I can now see why EB is relatively pricey but lucky you to have had them shipped to Australia, Lyn. Mailing prices have escalated around the globe but also maybe some items didn’t arrive in one piece.
They had a special 10 pound postage offer & I bought some seconds & some of the Queen’s Jubilee pieces so it must have been 2012.
My daily mugs are all Emma Bridgewater; British birds. I like the her dedication to make it an entirely British product, especially as so many of the well known china names are no longer manufactured here. Loved seeing the whole process via your photos.
I bought two bird mugs, Fran. Also flowers, a candle in a lovely jar (black dresser) and a hens mug. All to be gifts and bought at sale prices in the firsts shop. If I had wanted Christmas mugs I’d have been spoiled for choice! Glad you enjoyed the tour too!
Oh what fun that must have been! The next time I visit I’d like to do that tour. You might know that I’ve got the Landmark 50th anniversary mug, of course. I really love English pottery and china, and I think had I been with you on this tour I might have bought more than one Christmas mug.
More than one Christmas mug coming your way … if there’s room the suitcase!!
Oh really? Dying with anticipation! Will write proper email tomorrow!
OH, what temptations! I love EB. Would have a lot more if shipping costs were less substantial.
So her fame stretches overseas to you in New England and Lyn in Australia. Will have to see if I can squeeze a mug in my case next visit!
A small selection of her mugs are sold in a shop in Marion that you have visited. So many other things to look at though!
A great Blog. We love Emma Brigdewater and have lots of her mugs. We are planning a trip to Stoke on Trent early spring so will add this to our (ever growing) list of places to visit. Rosanna x
I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. Don’t forget to book a tour in advance – they get pretty booked up. xx
And I’m dying with anticipation for that too, QB xxx