by John Webbe
Have you seen the information boards around Burslem town centre? Maybe you have seen the bright-green leaflets which proudly shout “Welcome to Burslem, Mother Town of the Potteries”? They form Burslem’s heritage trail.
I decided to follow this route with my retired parents and my then nearly-two-year old daughter as we enjoyed the sun shining bright overhead. There are nine heritage trail boards in total – seven around Burslem town centre and one each at Moorcroft & Middleport Pottery. I am not going to repeat any of the information on the heritage trail boards or in the leaflet, I’ll leave that to you to find out, but believe me, it’s worth it – there’s some fascinating information for even the most hardened Boslemite to learn!
A lot of local businesses have contributed their own histories, others have helped with the design and layout, whilst the vast majority of the text on the leaflet and the information boards has been compiled & factually checked by local historians Fred Hughes and Mervyn Edwards. The result is a credit to all involved.
We started the day at about 10.30am at Swan Bank (heritage board number 4), then crossed over onto Market Place (board number 2). Even after reading the information here, I’d recommend just standing and slowly turning around to look at the architecture Burslem is blessed with – Wedgwood’s Big House, the Lloyds TSB bank, Swan Bank Church, The George Hotel, Market Place shops, Ceramica (the Old Town Hall), Overhouse Chambers, Queen’s Theatre, the Prince’s Hall and the former Post Office – what stunning buildings seen from one single spot!
From Market Place, we wandered up Hamil Road, had a look over at Port Vale’s ground & the Children’s Centre, then went into Burslem Park where my daughter ran off to the playground excitedly shouting.
The information board (number 3) is over by the Moorland Road entrance near the lake, and after learning more facts about the area, we headed down to Moorland Pottery’s factory shop, and then onto the greenway to walk up to Moorcroft.
If you’ve not been on Burslem greenway, we were impressed – it was very clean and so quiet – no noise from traffic can be heard all the way along and it’s safe enough to let the kids charge up and down.
It’s worth the walk along the greenway to Moorcroft just for the scenery as it’s elevated above local buildings and there’s a fantastic view back over to Burslem town centre as well. On arrival at Moorcroft (board number 9), we enjoyed a much-needed hot drink from their machine and enjoyed even more the quality designs on show in the Moorcroft shop & the museum (whilst at the same time telling the child: “Please do not touch anything!”).
We headed back towards Burslem along Nile Street, popping into the Moorcroft & Dudson factory shops on the way, and then having a good look at the remains of the former Royal Doulton factory.
We crossed into Queen Street, popped into the shops and admired the grandeur of the School of Art & Wedgwood Institute buildings (board number 5).
After lunch we walked over to learn more facts about the town at St John’s Square (board number 6) and across to Westport Road (board number 1), and then walked down Newcastle Street to visit Middleport Pottery (board number 8) and see the wonderful Burleigh ware in the factory shop. Then we strolled back up towards the town along Furlong Lane, down Woodbank Street, stopped off to read the final board of the tour (board number 7) at the historic St John’s Church and finally back to the car.
Admittedly, with a nearly-two-year old, it was a good walk as the pace of progress is slow, but we managed to get around the town, learnt some really fascinating information, and saw some sights which were new to all of us. I would really recommend getting out there and enjoying this trail as well – you’ll enjoy it, learn new things about Burslem and its fantastic history; you will feel the energy of this wonderful area.
by John Webbe, originally published in Local Edition