The Olympic Games, the Diamond Jubilee, 200 years of Dickens and 50 years of James Bond: it’s going to be a special year for Britain, and one which will put the country under the spotlight like never before. So where – in Stoke-on-Trent and “The Potteries – can visitors expect to find the “Best of British”? Well here’s our very own “Top 12 for ‘12”.
1. Emma Bridgewater. No other ceramic designer has captured the traditional mood of Britain quite as well as Emma Bridgewater. So it’s not surprising to learn that she won gold in the “Best of British” category at the recent House Beautiful Awards. Her range of Jubilee ware has just been launched – and universally acclaimed. Best (of British) of all, you can go behind-the-scenes at her factory in Stoke-on-Trent to see it actually being made www.emmabridgewaterfactory.co.uk
2. The Wedgwood Visitor Centre and Museum. Created well over 200 years ago, Wedgwood has become an icon of British design, and now boasts an award-winning Museum and Visitor Centre at its headquarters in Stoke-on-Trent. An official supplier of merchandise for the London 2012 Games, they are also producing a fabulous range of ware for Her Majesty’s Jubilee.
3. Jan Constantine at Trentham Estate. Yet another great contemporary British designer, Stoke-on-Trent based Jan Constantine led from the front when it came to putting the Union Flag on the textiles and soft furnishings of a nation. More recently, she has opened her very first flagship store, in the Trentham Shopping Village.
4. The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery. As well as boasting one of the finest ceramic collections in the world, The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery is now also home to the Staffordshire Hoard – the finest collection of Anglo-Saxon treasures ever found in this country, and an incredible piece of British history.
5. Moorcroft Heritage Visitor Centre. A British ceramics factory, with British artists, and all made in England! Said to be the finest art pottery in the world today with a Global Collectors’ Club of around 10,000 people, Moorcroft pushes the boundaries of British ceramic art. The Moorcroft Heritage Visitor Centre in Burslem, meanwhile, is a ‘must see’ for anyone interested in art history and the living world of the applied arts.
6. The Titanic Brewery (and its real ale pubs dotted around The Potteries!). Named after the ship which was skippered by Hanley-born Captain Edward Smith, it offers the very best of British real ales.
7. The Wizard of the Dribble. At No.7 (what other number could it possibly be!?), the first knight of British football, Sir Stanley Matthews is one of The Potteries greatest ever sons. And while Potters fans might argue that their beloved Premier League side are still the Best of British, visitors to the Britannia Stadium these days will be treated to the sight of one of the very best football statues commemorating the Wizard of the Dribble in full flight.
8. Burleigh. Another iconic British brand, this is the last working Victorian pottery factory in the UK. Still using techniques from yesteryear, all of the ware is hand-made in Stoke-on-Trent, the world capital of ceramics. The Prince’s Regeneration Trust, meanwhile, is embarking on an ambitious and long term conservation and regeneration project of the site over the next couple of years.
9. Paddington Bear. Yup – a good old marmalade-eating bear from South America, but as British as a nice cup of tea in London town! Just look at the latest range of Spode ware
10. The Spitfire Galley. Do we really need to say anything more? Stoke-on-Trent was the birthplace of engineer and aircraft designer Reginald Mitchell CBE, who designed arguably the most famous combat aircraft in British history – The Spitfire. Step inside the renowned Mitchell Gallery in the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in the city centre and you’ll actually come face-to-face with a Mark XVI Spitfire. The story of this remarkable aircraft and its Stoke-on-Trent designer is one you’ll remember forever.
11. Trentham Gardens. In four years time the whole Olympic Games circus will have moved-on from London, to Rio de Janeiro. And while Brazil celebrates the greatest show on earth, Britain will focus (amongst other things) on the 300th anniversary of the birth of the great British garden designer, Capability Brown…one of the famous names behind the magnificent Trentham Gardens, in Stoke-on-Trent. But you don’t need to wait four years. Come any time, and you’ll be able to see his influence on an estate which now boasts one of the most-visited gardens in the UK.
12. Moorland Pottery. Step inside any gift shop, or departments store in a UK city, or town, and chances are you’ll see an example of Moorland Pottery’s designs which capture the very essence of Britain. If you’re not familiar with their ‘Stokie’ ware, ‘Scouser’ ware, ‘Geordie’ ware, ‘Brummie’ ware, and ‘Yorkie’ ware, take a look at their website, or visit their showroom in Stoke-on-Trent, to enjoy some Best of British humour!