The Rich History and Modern Revival of Burleigh Pottery and Middleport Pottery

Pottery, with its ancient origins and ever-evolving techniques, has been an integral part of human culture for millennia. Burleigh Pottery and Middleport Pottery, two esteemed establishments in the world of ceramics, embody the legacy of craftsmanship and the spirit of innovation. In this comprehensive exploration, we journey through the history of Burleigh Pottery and Middleport Pottery, tracing their origins, milestones, and their contemporary resurgence. 

Origins of Burleigh Pottery

Burleigh Pottery, renowned for its exquisite blue and white earthenware, has a history that stretches back to the early 19th century. The company’s roots are firmly embedded in the Staffordshire region of England, a place renowned for its rich ceramic heritage. Established in 1851 by Hulme & Booth, Burleigh Pottery initially produced brown stoneware, but it was the acquisition by William Leigh and Frederick Rathbone Burgess in 1862 that marked the beginning of the iconic blue and white patterns that Burleigh is known for today. 



The company’s unique selling point was its meticulous craftsmanship, utilising a traditional transfer printing technique to create intricate patterns on ceramics. This technique involved transferring designs from engraved copper plates onto tissue paper, which was then applied to the pottery. The distinctive blue and white pieces captured the Victorian era’s love for ornate decoration, quickly gaining popularity and recognition. 

Middleport Pottery's Legacy

Middleport Pottery, located in the historic pottery town of Burslem, Staffordshire, has a history intertwined with the Burleigh legacy. It was built in 1888 as a factory dedicated to producing pottery under various names and owners. In the mid-20th century, Middleport Pottery became home to Burgess & Leigh, the company responsible for creating Burleigh Pottery. 



The factory itself is a testament to the industrial architecture of its time, featuring characteristic brickwork and grand chimneys. Its impressive bottle kiln, one of the few remaining in the area, stands as a reminder of the historic significance of pottery production in Staffordshire. 

Challenges and Renewal

The late 20th century brought challenges for traditional pottery manufacturers as they faced the pressures of modernization and global competition. Despite these challenges, Burleigh Pottery and Middleport Pottery persevered, determined to preserve their heritage and craftsmanship. 


In 1999, Middleport Pottery faced the risk of closure, but it was saved by a group of passionate individuals who recognized its cultural and historical importance. The Prince’s Regeneration Trust, in collaboration with Burgess & Leigh, embarked on a comprehensive restoration project to revitalize the factory. This endeavor not only saved the historic site from decay but also breathed new life into the pottery industry. 


Revival and Modern Innovation

The revival of Middleport Pottery was not only about preserving history but also about embracing innovation. The restoration project aimed to create a dynamic hub that celebrated craftsmanship and fostered creativity. Today, Middleport Pottery is home to a range of activities, including pottery-making workshops, heritage tours, and events that engage the local community and visitors alike. 


The company’s patterns often drew inspiration from nature, encompassing everything from botanical motifs to scenic landscapes. By embracing the Victorian era’s fascination with intricate decoration, Burleigh quickly garnered attention and acclaim. 


Similarly, Burleigh Pottery has experienced a renaissance in recent years. The enduring appeal of its classic blue and white patterns has found a new generation of admirers. The company has adapted to modern preferences while staying true to its heritage. The pottery’s commitment to sustainable practices, such as using local clay and eco-friendly glazes, reflects its efforts to align with contemporary values. 

Collaborations and Contemporary Triumphs

Burleigh Pottery and Middleport Pottery have demonstrated resilience by embracing collaborations with contemporary designers and artists. These partnerships have resulted in fresh interpretations of traditional patterns, breathing new life into classic designs. The fusion of traditional craftsmanship and modern aesthetics has propelled these potteries into the 21st century, garnering the attention of a diverse audience. 

A Continuation of Tradition and Innovation

In a world where craftsmanship and authenticity are treasured, the story of Burleigh and Middleport Pottery continues to inspire. As these institutions seamlessly blend history with contemporary vitality, they remind us that the past is not confined to museums and that the present can be enriched by the treasures of yesteryears. With their enduring excellence, Burleigh and Middleport Pottery remind us that the art of ceramics is a living, evolving tradition that thrives through the ages. 



The intertwined histories of Burleigh Pottery and Middleport Pottery encapsulate the essence of ceramic craftsmanship. From their early beginnings in the 19th century to their modern-day revival, these potteries have stood as symbols of tradition, innovation, and community engagement. The preservation of their rich heritage, combined with a commitment to adapt and evolve, has ensured that these institutions continue to shape the world of ceramics and captivate the imagination of generations to come with popular collaborations with the likes of Ralph Lauren. As we celebrate their past and present achievements, we eagerly anticipate the creative endeavors that will shape their future.