“On my way into Hanley on Town Road, even though many years ago, I can still remember looking up with fascination at an old building with blackened bricks: This building is now a roofless vandalised ruin and Hanley old town road is a dead end.”.

The Tourist

“I have travelled all the way from USA and now I am lost” said The Tourist “Why have you travelled such a distance to come to Stoke on Trent?” asked the surprised potteries local. “Well, for generations my family have been collecting pottery made by J & G Meakin, and it has been my lifelong ambition to see the manufactory where the pottery was made.” “As you must already know then, Meakins went out of business early part of the 21st Century.” However, you can still see the manufactory as the building is now owned by Emma Bridgewater pottery. “I have just left there and it is magnificent, and now I want to visit Meakin’s older manufactory: This is Eagle Street? asked the tourist. “Ah hah, you are after Eagle Pottery, which was knocked down years ago.” Knocked down, you mean bulldozed, gone.” said the shocked tourist. Then after a short pause, whilst pointing his trembling finger at an old photograph continued with, it was a fabulous pottery manufactory built in 1860, why would do they do that, convert years of history into rubble? “Unfortunately, this is what usually happens, when a pottery company moves out, the bulldozers move in; then the land is sold for development. “Oof; that was a hard punch to take on the chin.

I have waited all these years, travelled all this way, only to discover years of history has gone, and I mean gone” said the disappointed tourist with an emphatic strong American accent. “I can show you the site where it once stood as it is only a brief walk away” said the helpful local. “What stands there now? asked The Tourist. “Houses” was the immediate reply. “Houses have been built on a site where a factory once stood, where folk earned money to buy houses, where is the logic in that? Taken aback by this loud outburst, the local meekly asked “Do you still want to go there?” With a feeling of guilt from inwardly blaming the potteries local; the tourist quietly replied “just to see modern houses, not worth it” Then with renewed enthusiasm in his voice, “According to this old map I have got here, we are not far from the famous Hole in the Wall; I believe it has been an oatcake shop for well over one hundred years, if you will so kindly lead the way, I will buy you your lunch.

Robert Stevenson - The Sign Writer; The Tourist - The Wedgwood Institute

The Wedgwood Institute

Robert Stevenson - The Sign Writer; The Tourist - The Wedgwood Institute

The Wedgwood Institute

Side entrance beginning to crumble to time

Robert Stevenson - The Sign Writer; The Tourist - Falcon Pottery Works

Falcon Pottery Works

Another Pottery Works - Left Abandoned

Robert Stevenson - The Sign Writer; The Tourist - Pre-Fabricated, Super Sheds

Pre-Fabricated, Super-Sheds

Vast Warehouses now dominate the skyline

Robert Stevenson - The Sign Writer; The Tourist - The Leopard, Burslem

The Leopard, Burslem

Another victim of neglect in Stoke-on-Trent

By the expression on the face of the friendly local, The Tourist knew this was not going to be and with a shrug of his shoulders said “I guess the famous hole in the wall has been knocked down too. “You guessed correctly; at the time it was part of the local authorities’ regeneration project.” I came here expecting to see old buildings, like these photographs in this book, where can I go to see the parts of the old town then? Even though the Staffordshire blue pavers are no longer here, this street is a remnant of the old town. Staffordshire blue pavers? quizzed The Tourist. They are a greyish blue, some are patterned with spots and others with diamonds, they were part of the city’s unique appearance; these and the bottle ovens of course. Ahh yes, I know what you mean now, I have seen such pavers at the manufactory of Emma Bridgewater, and these streets were paved with them? Yes, said the local, and continued with, “but to modernise Stoke-on-Trent, they were replaced with these characterless concrete slabs.”

To stop giving the tourist a negative impression of the city the local decided to voice more positively. “You see that building over there on the corner, that was once a butcher’s shop. You can see from the wear of the step; the property was once a shop. My, my, yes said the tourist. It warms my heart to think; generations of hard-working people from this city, have overtime all contributed to shaping that stone step like so: Must have been a butchers’ shop for many, many, years? Asked The Tourist “It was indeed” replied the local. Also, the property on the right, down the very bottom of the street, that was Dougie Boulton’s groceries. I see, so that was once a corner shop too, how fascinating. I do so love the history of this country especially here in The Potteries. Said the tourist.

You mentioned bottle ovens, there was none at Emma Bridgewater factory, they were knocked, I mean removed years ago, where can I go to see some? The local thinking out loud muttered; Mm, the regeneration project has changed Hanley so much, even I get lost. Interrupting the local’s thoughts, “It must have been some goddamn big regeneration project, was it worth the loss of so much history? The local with a hint of sarcasm replied, “The results of the loss can be seen in Hanley town centre itself” “Shall I go there then?” asked The Tourist.

Not wanting to give an answer the local quickly asked. How about going into Burslem instead? There are three bottle ovens standing together in Burslem; then just a short distance away there is Middleport Pott” “Wow, you mean the mother town and Royal Doulton. Is that factory still there? “No, knocked down and. Before the local could finish, the tourist finished the sentence. “Houses have been built there. How and where do the people of this city earn money to buy all these newly built houses now the old industries are gone. “With some exceptions, most people work inside distribution centres, supermarkets and fast-food chains. Replied the local from The Potteries old days. The Tourist: It truly saddens my heart, to be told the people of this City; who have for generations, hand crafted the most beautiful pottery: After a long pause the tourist continued with; are now stacking shelves, scanning barcodes and serving cheeseburgers. Then with a hefty sigh: Well, I suppose to keep moving forward a city has to change with the times. Surely though, time has not been allowed to change the historic Mother Town. What I am trying to say is; I have travelled all this way to see brick buildings of age and with history; not prefabricated, characterless, super sheds. “You can visit Queen Street, very quiet, and there is the most beautiful building to be seen” Can I go inside it? The Tourist asked. “No, sorry it hasn’t been used for years. To be truthful some of the old buildings in Burslem are in such a poor state, I am surprised they are still standing.” You mean they could be knocked down too? asked the tourist, alarmingly “If something is not done and soon, it is highly probable.”

It is getting worse, much worse by the minute. The tourist thought to himself. The local was about to mention the fate of The Leopard Hotel then decided best not to. “And the pot?” The local, whilst pondering whether to admit or deny the drug problems throughout city; The Tourist reiterated his question with, “You were going to tell me about middle pot” Ahh yes Middleport Pottery, and before the local could explain further the tourist sarcastically said “Is now a housing estate too, or even worse, a monstrous parking lot which dwarfs a weird buil.” The Tourist, decided to end the sentence in case he offended the local by running down the city. “No, no” said the local. “Middleport Pottery is a working museum and onsite there is a restored bottle oven: And offsite, to show how the ordinary folk of this city use to live years ago, there is a row of restored old homes. “This is great to hear, any more places like this I can visit?” Although, not a working museum, the restored Gladstone Pottery in Longton is a fabulous manufactory to visit; but unfortunately, most of the time it is closed to the public. “A museum closed to the public?” the tourist looked puzzled. “It does open to the public, but only when it suits the owners.” Said the Local. The Tourist: “I understand; it was the hands of the working people who built this city, but then there are minds of those whom, and finished his sentence with, are all part of the regeneration project.” Tomorrow, I shall go to Middleport Pottery, for I want to see how the real people of this city used to live. The Tourist, thanked the old potteries local for her help, who said, “Pleased to be of help duck and nice to meet you too”

Robert E. Stevenson – The Signwriter

Traditional Signwriting for Heritage, Commercial & Vintage Projects