The Potteries 6 towns are known for the pottery and the links to the start of the industrial revolution. Quite often referred to as the heart of the UK ceramics industry and where it all began for people and companies like Wedgwoods and Doultons. What you might not know is that as a fringe benefit of this industrial activity resulted in some amazing buildings being built in and around the area. I have picked a building from each of the 6 towns to show these architectural phenomenon’s and show you a small part of the history of the potteries. 

The Wedgwood Institute – Queen St, Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent ST6 3EG 

Burslem Art College - Ceramic Confidential
Burslem Art College – Ceramic Confidential

Pic 1 – Magnificent full width picture of the Wedgwood Institute in Burslem 

Starting with my personal favorite The Wedgwood Institute in Burslem. This building looks amazing and pays serious homage to the one and only yes you guessed it, Josiah Wedgwood. What you might not know is that this building was designed and built by the farther of Rudyard Kipling, J Lockwood Kipling and his partner Robert Edar. Built on the site of one of Wedgwoods earliest pot banks, construction started in 1863 with the foundation stone laid by soon to be prime minister William Gladstone.  

Burslem Art College - Ceramic Confidential
Burslem Art College – Ceramic Confidential

Pic 2 – The front porch, highlighting the tiling and the Josiah Wedgwood bust 

The building is two stories and has a decorative façade covered in amazing tiles, decorative friezes and terracotta panels depicting each of the 12 months of the year. In addition to this and above the terracotta panels are detailed mosaics representing the zodiac signs. This is all of course topped off with an almost life size bust of Josiah Wedgwood himself after whom the building is name. A true special to behold and a real gem. 

Burslem Art College - Ceramic Confidential
Burslem Art College – Ceramic Confidential

Pic 3 – Intricate panel showing August and the detailed mosaic of the Virgo star sign 

The building was paid for by public funds raised to spread the word on art, science and literature. The building has been used by Staffordshire University, Stoke-On-Trent College and as a library. Other famous people linked to the building are the artist, William Moorcroft and the author Arnold Bennett.  

Tunstall Library – Victoria Institute, The Blvd, Tunstall ST6 6BD 

Pic 1 – The imposing Tunstall Public Library in all its glory 

Next up is a beast of a building the like of which is rarely seen these days. The building erected in 1889 is a three-story brick and terracotta design with significant tiling and intricate details. Formally the science institute this building has almost always been and still is to this day a library. What an amazing and inspiring place to read and obtain books. 

Pic 2 – The central column of the building  

Pic 3 – Intricate details of the tiled decorations demonstrating the many uses of this building in the public service of Tunstall 

Hanley Town Hall – Albion St, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent ST1 1QQ 

Pic 1 – The grandeur of Hanley Town Hall during the day 

Pic 2 – Transformed to an evening demon with use of effective lighting to accentuate the buildings appeal bringing it into the 21st century 

And now for the grandest (at least in my humble opinion) and most frequently used building in this collection, Hanley Town Hall. It is now an administrative building and is where I personally officially registered the birth of my son back in 2010. This amazing building started life in 1869 as a hotel. What a place to stay in those days. Even today it’s an impressive building so imagine how fancy it must have felt almost 200 years ago. It gets its name from the fact that it was indeed a town hall between 1884 and 1888. After that it was converted to courts and offices for the council for which it is still used today. Inside there are a number of courts that have changed very little since Victorian and even Edwardian times.  

You can also see in the night-time photograph the statue in front of the building. This was unveiled in 1922 to commemorate the dead of World War 1. You might just be able to make out the snake at her feet symbolising the defeat of evil. 

Pic 3 – Front porch looking upwards towards the Hanley coat of arms 

Stoke Library – Bath Street, ST4 7PZ 

Pic 1 – The now up for sale Stoke library looking a little tired and out of sorts 

Pic 2 – Beautiful William Shakespear mosaic on the front central panel of the building 

Pic 3 – An amazing historical note about the building and history of the Stoke library 

What a great building this next one is. The now for sale public free library in Stoke. The initial foundations were laid in 1877 and the building was opened over a year later in 1878 by one of the famous Minton family, who also donated the land on which the building is built. 

The building itself is quite a beauty with 2 main distinctive features. 

The first is the round portal windows that can be seen all around the first and ground floor. Thanks for those must go to the designer of the building Charles Lynan. 

The second and more interesting main feature of this building is the descriptive mosaic describing as follows: – 

“The Free Libraries Acts was adopted in 1875 
Christopher Dickinson, Mayor 
The Foundation Stoke of this Building was laid 
the 10th Day of December 1877 by the Right Honorable 
Lord Wrottesley Lord Lieutenant of the County. 
The Site was given by Colin Minton Campbell 
M.P. for North Staffordshire. 
The Museum, founded by by Robert Garner, FRCS, FLS 
and the Library, were opened for the free use of 
the Burgesses, Nov 7th 1879.  
Thomas William Minton. Mayor” 

Not the most inspiring of texts but a very beautiful mosaic none the less. 

Fenton Town Hall – Fenton, Stoke-on-Trent ST4 3BX 

Pic 1 – Wow just look at the full might and splendour of the Fenton Town Hall 

Pic 2 – Intricate coat of arms  

Pic 3 – The grand central façade of the Fenton Town Hall 

This is one of the grandest buildings we shall see of these 6 and is still used to this day as a Town Hall and court. There is a lot of work being done to bring this old buidling back to life and the is a new café there with plans to renovate some of the building back to its former glory. If you are passing and require refreshment, then please consider  

Café address etc – link to facebook? 

A building in the gothic style it has a broad main section with separate wings on either side. An impressive frontage on this grand building giving the impression of civic duty and community. I once attended a wedding in the church that is part of the adjoining squre which was a very happy occasion. 

Designed by William Meath baker in 1887, three new streets were created to allow for this beautiful large building to become the centre of life for the area and the Fenton Local Board of Health.  

Aynsley China Works – Longton, Sutherland Road, ST 

Pic 1 – The imposing front face of the Aynsley China works in Longton 

Pic 2 – Cool white shield showing when construction started on this monster of a building 

Pic 3 – Holding it together, one of the structural supports still holding the Aynsley China works together after 

This is the biggest of the buildings by far and is collection of building added together over a longer period than the rest. Still in use today the site houses many buildings not least the party company xxx who host day parties. 

There is a long history of who owned and operated Annsley China works from a ceramics standpoint and the companies include Denton Chaina and Waterford Glass Company.  

Photo Credit: –  Kyle Rose