Visit Stoke | A weekend exploring the Stoke potteries

December 23, 2019

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Earlier this month I had the opportunity to travel to Stoke with the #BlogOnVisits team to discover the Stoke Potteries. An opportunity to explore the historic sites that have helped make Stoke pottery famous all over the world. It was also a chance for me to travel just as me, rather than as a family. A small segment of freedom for the weekend at least and catch up with some of the bloggers who normally live inside of my computer screen.

So grab a cuppa and join me as I chat through our weekend in Stoke, discovering the Stoke Potteries…

Gladstone Pottery Museum

A close up of a brick building

The first stop on our weekend in Stoke was to the Gladstone Pottery Museum, the only complete Victorian pottery factory from when the coal-burning oven’s made the world’s finest bone china. Utilising traditional skills, workshops, bottle kilns and a beautiful cobbled yard. It was like stepping back in time to see how things once were. A self-guided tour with the option of an audio tour to fill you in on all the details about Gladstone.

Throwing a Pot

A man preparing food in a kitchen, with Pottery and Art
Gladstone Pottery Museum – Throwing a pot
Pottery and Design
Gladstone Pottery – Thrown clay pot

Walking around Gladstone there are a number of hands-on activities and demonstrations. One of which included the art of throwing a pot. With the gentleman talking us through the process and making it look very easy – which I’m under no illusion is easy at all.

Making a bone china flower

A piece of cake sitting on top of a table
Gladstone Pottery Museum – Bone china flowers
A vase of flowers sits in front of a window
Gladstone Pottery – Bone china flower display

Next was an amazing demonstration on how to make bone china flowers. Something that the lady completing the demonstration started making as a girl. Originally paid on piece work, so the faster she got at completing the stunning flowers the more money she made. Watching her craft the flowers was mesmerising.

Pottery decorating

A person sitting in front of a store
Gladstone Pottery – Decorating masterclass
A close up of a piece of cake on a table
Gladstone Pottery – Decorating a piece of pottery

Although I’d like to kid you all and tell you that art was my favourite subject at school. Something in which I excelled at, I would in truth be telling you a whopping big lie. I have somewhat limited creative talents, with painting falling down the list. However, the opportunity to decorate a piece of pottery whilst visiting Gladstone was too good of an opportunity to say no to. With a festive visit, it was only right that I decorated a Christmas tree.

The Glost House

A half eaten piece of cake on a plate, with Sponge and Sponge cake
The Glost House – Victoria Sponge Cake

After a busy morning exploring all that the Gladstone Pottery Museum had to offer it was time to refuel. The Glost House is a beautiful setting for our tear room style lunch. Whilst others in the group were more adventurous than me and enjoyed Staffordshire Oatcakes with a choice of fillings. I stuck to a jacket potato, which was light and fluffy. Followed by one of the biggest slices of Victoria sponge cake I’ve had.

Portmeirion Factory Shop

A christmas tree
Portmeirion Factory Shop – Royal Worcester baubles
A stack of flyers on a table
Portmeirion Factory Shop – Christmas designs

After refuelling, it was time to head next door to the Portmeirion Factory Shop – which was one of the highlights of our trip to Stoke. As soon as we walked through the doors each of us were excited to see each of the different brands that fall under the Portmeirion umbrella. From Portmeirion, Spode, Wax Lyrical, Royal Worcester, Pimpernel and Nambé.

Although I had anticipated a discount on the usual prices, I was blown away by the amazing value across the shop. Allowing me to stock up on some beautiful cards and a couple of Christmas ornaments. However, I could have quite happily bought so much more!

Emma Bridgewater

After picking up a couple of things we headed over to the Emma Bridgewater Factory. Somewhere I’m not ashamed to admit I was giddy about attending – as I have a bit of a thing about Emma Bridgewater and polka dots! Sadly we didn’t have time to complete a factory tour, however, we were booked in for the decorating studio.

Emma Bridgewater decorating studio

A cake sitting on top of a table
Emma Bridgewater Decorating Studio
A cup of coffee on a table, with Ceramic
Emma Bridgewater Decorating Studio – Creating my own ½ pint mug

Whether you are a huge Emma Bridgewater fan like myself or just recognise the signature designs and styles. A visit to the Emma Bridgewater Decorating Studio is something quite special. With a wide range of pottery items to choose from. However, it seemed only right to make one fo the ½ pint mugs. Given that artist skills are somewhat lacking I was pleased to find that they had a range of sponge stamps (and brushes) available to assist with creating masterpieces.

I think I can safely say that we all enjoyed our time in the decorating studio and somewhere we would return to with family and friends. I did enquire as to whether I could create or purchase the name tags that the staff members wore. Beautiful polka dot design name badges, which would have been amazing to wear when I attend events and meetings. Unfortunately, they’re not available – so I’ll have to get my CV ready for a summer job.

Emma Bridgewater Factory shop

A cake made to look like a cup, with Design and Ceramic
Emma Bridgewater Factory Shop – Polka Dot designs
A cup of coffee, with Design and Mug
Emma Bridgewater Factory Shop – Toast & Marmalade designs

Having had fun decorating our very own Emma Bridgewater design, it was time to head into the factory shop. With the option to purchase reduced priced items and factory seconds. I managed to find a beautiful pint-sized mug with Granny on it – perfect for my Mam’s upcoming 60th birthday on Christmas Eve.

Emma Bridgewater Tea Room

A kitchen with wooden cabinets
Emma Bridgewater Factory Tea Room

By the time we had completed our afternoon slot in the decorating factory and enjoyed a visit to the factory shop. We were a little too late to enjoy anything within the tea room. However, this didn’t stop me exploring the beautiful splendour of the polka dot AGA.

Sleeping Beauty at the Regent Theatre

The Regent Theatre in Stoke was originally built in 1929 as a cinema and hosts some of the biggest touring shows such as War Horse, Mamma Mia! and Jersey Boys. However, as our visit was just before Christmas we were treated to the Sleeping Beauty pantomime. Starring Jonathan Wilkes and Christain Patterson. Having not seen a panto in a few years I was really looking forward to the slapstick comedy and hidden jokes. It was spectacular! I laughed so much, especially during the lip sync segment.

Premier Inn Stoke Trentham Gardens

After a busy, yet productive day it was time to head to the Premier Inn Stoke Trentham Gardens for dinner. The original plan was to eat before the pantomime, however, we managed to overrun at the potteries today so opted for a late-night dinner. A chance to chat about the day whilst enjoying the Premier Inn meal deal (dinner and breakfast for a set price – fantastic value). After which was time to head up to our rooms to rest up ahead of another day exploring Stoke.

Trentham Estate

A wooden bench sitting next to a body of water
Trentham Lake

Having driven past the entrance to the Trentham Estate as we arrived for our overnight stay at the Premier Inn (conveniently located next door). I have to confess to underestimating the size and wonder of the Trentham Estate. Which became more visible in the morning light and whilst we walked through the entrance down towards Trentham Gardens.

Trentham Gardens

A large tree
Fairies at Trentham – Wishes do come true…
A tree in the middle of a field
Fairies at Trentham

An award-winning garden which has seen a contemporary revival of its famous Italian gardens led by renowned designers and multi-Chelsea gold-medal winner Tom Stuart-Smith. Visiting in December I wasn’t sure how wowed I would be by walking around the mile-long Trentham Lake. However, Trentham Gardens was beautiful with each new area we discovered making me fall in love with the gardens.

The Fairies at Trentham, created by designer Robin Wright of FantasyWire based in Staffordshire – has to be the most loved segment of my visit to the gardens. Keep your eyes peeled as you walk around our beautiful mile-long lake, and through the woodland and gardens where the Fairies at Trentham live. Truly stunning and such amazing attention to detail.

Trentham Shopping Village

This is no ordinary shopping village, with the retail outlets housed within timber lodges. Covering an array of genres from clothing, travel accessories, homewares and gifting. Somewhere you could spend hours exploring – with us all managing to pick up a little something for our Christmas shopping.

Middleport Pottery

A sign on the side of a building
Middleport Pottery

Before we knew it we were making our way over to the last stop on our Stoke visit. Middleport Pottery is an award-winning visitor attraction featuring Burleigh Factory Tours (available Mon-Fri only), Heritage Trail, Steam Engine, Grade II listed bottle kiln and a ceramic design archive.

Mould Store

A wooden shelf
Middleport Pottery – Mould Store

An opportunity to step back in time and explore the largest collection of ceramic moulds in Europe. As well as taking an inside look at the potteries huge bottle kiln, one of the few remaining in Stoke.

Middleport studios

A room that has a sign on the side of a building
Middleport Pottery – Middleport Studios

The Middleport Studios features an array of studios to explore both contemporary and traditional arts and ceramic businesses. With the opportunity to purchase pieces that catch your eye.

factory shop

A vase of flowers on a display
Middleport Pottery – Burleigh Pottery Factory Shop

Home to the world’s largest collection of Burleigh Pottery the factory shop gives you an opportunity to browse the incredible designs and patterns available. Personally, I fell in love with the large jugs and cute tea sets available. As well as the most gorgeous Christmas dinner service I have ever seen.

Tea Room

A person holding a plate of food, with Tree and Christmas ornament
Middleport Pottery Tea Room – Cream Tea

A visit to the Middleport Potteries Tea Room was the perfect way to end our visit to both the pottery and Stoke. Refuelling on a beautiful ciabatta & chips followed by a delicious cream tea. A chance for us to chat about our weekend in Stoke and share our highlights.

Plan your trip to Stoke

If I have inspired you to take a trip to Stoke to discover the potteries, please take a look at the Visit Stoke site for up to date information on news and events in the area.

Discover more from the #BlogOnVisits Stoke team

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