On day 2 of my work placement with Stoke-on-Trent Tourism, I went to visit and take a tour of the working Victorian factory of the famous pottery name Emma Bridgewater. Arguably one of the most recognisable brands of pottery from Stoke-on-Trent, due to the prominence of the polka dots on most of the plates and mugs that it handcrafts.
Firstly, the Emma Bridgewater Factory is located at approximately a 10 minute walk from the newly built Hanley Bus Station on Lichfield street, and is easy to spot due to the large, comical polka-dotted sign on the side of the building. The factory has free parking for visitors, so it is easy to get to, whether you are arriving on foot, by car or even by public transport, due to its close proximity to the bus station.
One of the first things I noticed about Emma Bridgewater when I arrived was that the staff were warm and friendly, and a staff member offered me tea or coffee as soon as I walked through the door, into the (what can only be described as cosy) café area. As I was due to go onto a factory tour at 10am that morning, I was required to read a passage and sign my name, which is in place to make you aware that this is a working factory so there maybe some hazards in place.
The factory tours at Emma Bridgewater are at regular intervals throughout the day and on Monday through to Thursday’s, they take place at 10am, 11:30am and 1:30pm, and on Fridays at both 10am and 11:30am. I thought the factory tours were very reasonably priced and I was, if I’m honest, surprised at the low-cost. They are £2.50 per person, and children under the age of 16 can go on the tour for free. Even though this is not a free attraction, the £2.50 the visitor pays for their ticket is redeemable against any purchase in the Emma Bridgewater Factory shops.
Now – onto the tour itself! It started very promptly, and we were taken down to where the pottery is made straight away, where the guide told us a brief history of Emma Bridgewater herself, and how she came to obtain the factory.
The tour lasted for roughly 1 hour, and myself and the rest of the tour group were shown every aspect of the factory, from the casting of the pottery, right through to the decoration. There were opportunities to find out about how each piece of pottery is made, and also to meet the people who work on each stage of the production, and how every aspect of the product is made by hand. In my opinion, there was a really nice atmosphere amongst the factory workers and this really captured the essence of what Stoke-on-Trent is famous for, and how it has claimed the title of being the World Capital of Ceramics. I also found it particularly interesting to see how exactly everyday items which we all use (such as mugs and bowls) are made, and to appreciate the tremendous amount of work that is involved in the production of each product.
During the tour, the tour guide was very informative, answering any questions the tour group had about any aspect of the factory. It was also clear that Emma Bridgewater pride themselves on being an all British company, as the tour guide proudly stated that all materials were bought from UK destinations such as Wales, Cornwall and more locally, Staffordshire. All of the designs on the pottery are designed personally by Emma Bridgewater herself, along with her husband Matthew, which adds to the homely feel that the company are evidently trying to create with their products.
We were also shown some new designs which are due to be released soon, and we were also invited to mould our own plates!
Other facilities in the factory include a café, which serves a selection of food and drinks throughout the day, along with a selection of cakes which I just had to try (one word – yum!). There is also a factory shop which sells seconds from the factory, and also products suitable for gifts.
Events are held throughout the year, with lots of activities available, especially for families with children who are looking for a great day out. The factory has its own decorating studio open to the public, which gives you the opportunity to decorate your own piece of pottery, and to ‘Spot your own mug’. In addition, other events taking place at the factory are summer tea party packages, a courtyard party to celebrate our Queen’s Coronation, and packages for Father’s Day in June this year.
Overall, I would highly recommend the Emma Bridgewater Factory to anyone looking for a fun day out, and anyone who wishes to explore Stoke-on-Trent’s rich pottery heritage, as the Emma Bridgewater Factory is a prime example of this.
You can either book your factory tour by telephone or for more information visit our web page on www.visitstoke.co.uk