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Guide to Stoke on Trent

Stoke-on-Trent is a city and unitary authority area in Staffordshire, England. Together with the neighbouring boroughs of Newcastle-under-Lyme and Staffordshire Moorlands, it is part of North Staffordshire. Stoke-on-Trent is the home of the pottery industry in England and is commonly known as the Potteries, with the local residents known as Potters. The city’s ceramics collection is housed in the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in Hanley. Etruria Industrial Museum on the Caldon Canal, and Gladstone Pottery Museum in a former potbank in Longton are dedicated to the city’s industrial heritage.

Most of the major pottery companies based in Stoke-on-Trent have factory shops and visitor centres. The Wedgwood Museum visitor centre opened in the firm’s factory in Barlaston in October 2008. The Dudson Centre in Hanley is a museum of the family ceramics business, which is partly housed in a Grade II listed bottle kiln. It is also a volunteer centre. Burleigh in Middleport is the world’s oldest working Victorian pottery. There are also smaller factory shops, such as Royal Stafford in Burslem, Moorcroft in Cobridge and Emma Bridgewater in Hanley. In addition, there are ambitious plans to open the huge Chatterley Whitfield Colliery as a mining museum, since it has been given scheduled monument status.

Spitfire in Stoke

Work is now under way to start the process of moving Stoke-on-Trent’s famous Spitfire to its stunning new multi-million-pound home, at The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in Hanley. A team from GJD Aerotech, who specialise in the disassembly of aircraft, will then arrive to begin taking the plane apart piece by piece. And once that is done, the parts will be taken to Medway Aircraft Preservation Society, which will begin the process of restoring it to its former glory.

The city is forever linked with the Spitfire thanks to one of its most famous sons – the aircraft designer Reginald Mitchell who was born in Kidsgrove in 1895, and was educated at Hanley High School in Stoke-on-Trent. At the age of 16, he gained an apprenticeship at the local locomotive engineering works Kerr Stuart & Co, where he then worked, while studying engineering and mathematics at night school. In 1917, he joined the Supermarine Aviation Works at Southampton, where he quickly advanced within the company. Between 1920 and 1936 he designed many aircraft. But he is best remembered for his racing seaplanes, which culminated in the Supermarine S.6B and the iconic Second World War fighter, the Supermarine Spitfire. Hanley High School, Mitchell High School in his honour in 1989, while the Kidsgrove primary school just by his birthplace was dedicated to him as Reginald Mitchell County Primary School.

In addition to housing one of the world famous Spitfires, The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery also has a statue of R.J.Mitchell just outside the main building.

Seven of the least expected attractions in Stoke-on-Trent

World famous for many of its leading attractions – including the World of Wedgwood, The Trentham Estate, nearby Alton Towers, and The Staffordshire Hoard – the City of Stoke-on-Trent can also boast the UK’s only Monkey Forest, a tribute to the toilet, and the “home” of the Great British Pottery Throw Down. Here’s a round-up of seven of the most unusual attractions around The Potteries…

Get naked from the knees down

The Barefoot Walk on The Trentham Estate in Stoke-on-Trent is one of the most unusual experiences on offer in any Capability Brown landscape in Britain. Using the science of Sebastian Kneipp, The Barefoot Walk – over an array of testing textures including (lots of) mud, bark, babbling streams, grass, pebbles – is based on therapeutic principles. But it’s also simply great fun – for all ages.

Spend a penny, or two, at Museum of the Loo

Flushed with Pride is a remarkable gallery within the historic Gladstone Pottery Museum, dedicated to the history of the toilet. Lifting the lid on the role that potters played in its development, it tells visitors the story of the WC from the time of Queen Elizabeth I through to the toilet of our future. A fun, noisy, touchy-feely display for kids of all ages, the gallery features the sights, sounds and smells of a Victorian slum and encourages visitors to discover some of the unusual historical alternatives to toilet paper.

Go potty with a name you can Trust

For over 200 years, Spode made some of the world’s finest ceramics ceramics in its original factory in Stoke. Its demise in 2008 was seen by many, as the passing of one of the greatest names from the British Industrial Revolution. Fortunately the Spode brand, was bought by Portmeirion, another local pottery company and Spode wares continue to be made elsewhere in Stoke to this day. What few people know, however, is that the Spode Museum Trust was able to raise the finance to remove a large ceramics collection into safe storage away from the Spode site and then – in 2012 – supported by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, open the Spode Works Exhibition in one of the buildings on the original Spode site. The City Council has now purchased the entire Spode factory site and has prepared detailed plans for its regeneration.

Walk with 140 barbery macaques

Trentham Monkey Forest is the only place in the UK where it’s possible to walk amongst 140 Barbary macaques. The monkeys live in total freedom; and a woodland trail allows visitors to walk amongst the them and watch their everyday antics – as they swing from the trees, lounge on the grass and even walk straight past you. Guides situated along the way provide you with interesting information about the monkeys, and will keep you up to date with what they are getting up to.

Enter the home of BBC TV’s Great British Pottery Thrown Down

In 2015 Middleport Pottery, in Burslem, hosted the crew and stars of the BBC TV show, which went in search for Britain’s best amateur potter. The Great Pottery Throw Down presented by Sara Cox, made by the same production company responsible for The Great British Bake Off, became an instant hit – and a second series filmed in 2016 has just been aired. Middleport Pottery itself recently reopened to the public, following an £8.5-million restoration project.

See fairies in a garden

Everyone knows that fairies live at the bottom of the garden. At Trentham, however, they live all over the spectacular gardens. The Fairy Trail, featuring 14 beautifully sculptured creatures, is included in the price of admission to the award winning Trentham Gardens. The latest fairy to fly in is “Spring”, who is seen springing from one giant dandelion to another.

Meet the first knight of football on a city-wide sculpture trail

A statue to the Wizard of the Dribble, the first knight of football, Sir Stanley Matthews is just one of many outstanding pieces of public art, which can now be seen on a Potteries-wide Sculpture Trail in Stoke-on-Trent. Three nine-foot statues were made by local artists, showing Sir Stanley at different stages of his football career, which spanned more than 30 years. The location of the statue is Stoke City FC’s home stadium, but it points towards the club’s old Victoria Ground where Sir Stanley used to torment visiting defenders.

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