REVIVING ONE OF THE UK’S LAST VICTORIAN POTTERIES
Middleport Pottery is the home of ‘Burleigh Ware’ ceramics and is one of the last working Victorian Potteries in the United Kingdom.
The dilapidated Grade II* factory buildings in Burslem were saved by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales when the site was purchased by The Prince’s Regeneration Trust in 2010. Working alongside FCBStudios a brief was developed to repair the factory, save the jeopardised jobs of existing employees, create additional jobs and kick start the regeneration of the surrounding town.
Now a popular visitor destination, the Pottery is bringing people into the area, and receiving extremely positive feedback with locals and international visitors alike. A true success story.
UNDERSTANDING A BUILDING’S NEEDS
The Grade II* listed factory was designed, at the time, to an innovative new model, arranged to maximise the efficiencies of production from the arrival of the clay through to the packaging and export of the finished product. Sited on the banks of the Trent & Mersey canal, the factory was directly linked with Liverpool docks, and the international demands for British products at the height of the country’s industrial eminence.
Fast forward, and the building’s time-worn industrial character was very fragile and in danger of being lost to over-sanitised heritage commodification. Even though the buildings were at risk of collapse, their conservation could jeopardise everything about the site that the team hoped to save. The ‘new layer’ of contemporary design was founded on extensive analysis of the existing condition and a thorough understanding of the site’s history, quantifying those characteristics that gave the site its sense of place. The ‘light touch’ philosophy sought only to intervene where essential and has reclaimed abandoned and uninhabitable spaces to house new businesses and visitor facilities.
Extensive refurbishment of leaking roofs and windows, improved energy efficiency of the building envelope through upgraded insulation, enhanced airtightness performance and the installation of new highly efficient servicing, including lifts, have all been addressed to make the building more sustainable. The quiet and restrained refurbishment of the site has been awarded several notable awards including the Europa Nostra Prize for European Cultural Heritage Conservation.
The project is highly commendable in its totality, has clearly regenerated the area (which was a key briefing objective) and trebled the size of the workforce.
RIBA Awards Judges'
REKINDLING THE PRIDE OF A COMMUNITY
A major objective for PRT was to maximise regeneration potential for the town, which suffered extensive economic and social decline in the last 50 years.
Traditional training opportunities were provided, including a ‘Get into Construction Programme’ to give young unemployed people a taster in traditional construction techniques, which led to three trainees being taken on as apprentices with the contractor. Volunteering opportunities were created in photography and filming, with students from Staffordshire University. Many volunteer positions have been created in visitor services and the collections, and there is now a team of over 40 volunteers. Improving visitor access and education facilities have allowed the people of Burslem to reconnect with their industrial heritage and rekindle the pride of a community built on generations of world-leading design and craft.
Middleport Pottery is now one of a handful of sites across Europe where a traditional industrial factory and its original function have been conserved, repaired and regenerated for community benefit.