A row of 11 Victorian terraced houses will transport visitors back to the heyday of The Potteries as Stoke-on-Trent’s latest tourist attraction opens.
Dubbed the world capital of ceramics, Stoke-on-Trent is already home to award-winning museums, attractions, and tours – and offers a chance for visitors to have a go at the wheel themselves.
Now, the city has welcomed its newest addition, thanks to a £2.5m transformation of the terraced houses alongside one of The Potteries’ most popular visitor destinations.
Over the last two years the properties in Harper Street, Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, which are opposite the main entrance to the Middleport Pottery site, have been restored to create a new heritage attraction.
The project – part-funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund – extends the Pottery’s popular heritage trail and is set to open to the public at the end of June, revealing more about life in a city regarded as the UK’s spiritual home of ceramics.
‘How we lived at Harper Street’ enables visitors to step back in time to 1950, with one of the properties – originally the Lodgekeeper’s House – filled with period furnishings as well as featuring audio-visual stories of people who lived locally.
Mr and Mrs Hall and their three children lived in the house at 113 Harper Street – which was formerly known as Albion Street – and the house has been recreated as if the family has just stepped out, with today’s visitors able to look round their scullery, back kitchen, parlour, and bedrooms, as well as seeing the original steep staircase.
Other houses have exhibitions showcasing the people and neighbourhood as well as life in the Potteries in the 1950s and 1960s, along with six further retail studios for creative businesses, a purpose-built archive for Middleport Pottery, office space and a community hub for Middleport Matters.
Regeneration charity Re-Form Heritage is behind the restoration of the Harper Street houses, which were originally built in 1893. However, because they were built on top of broken pieces of pottery, and lacked proper foundations, they were prone to subsidence and there were successive waves of demolition in the area from the 1930s onwards.
The row of houses is intrinsically linked with Middleport Pottery, the UK’s last working Victorian potbank in continuous production, and an award-winning visitor destination in the heart of Burslem, the Mother Town of the Potteries.
Visitors to Middleport Pottery can already explore the heritage site, beginning in the original Victorian offices before discovering the mould store housing Europe’s largest collection of ceramic moulds. Visitors can also look inside the pottery’s huge bottle kiln, one of the few remaining in Stoke-on-Trent and an iconic reminder of the city’s great industrial heritage (http://bit.ly/31tnaEt).
A factory tour offers the chance to see world-famous Burleigh pottery being made using the same traditional methods as in the 1880s, including the unique method of decoration, underglaze ’tissue-transfer’ – with Middleport the only place in the world where this technique is still being used.
For more details, visit www.re-form.org/harper-street.
For more information on Stoke-on-Trent as a destination, see www.visitstoke.co.uk
Photo: Jenny Harper