Today, I visited The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, which is one of the main visitor attractions in the Stoke-on-Trent area. With plenty of exhibits on display across 3 floors, this museum is a detailed insight into the historic and interesting past of Stoke-on-Trent and it’s pottery industries.
I found that the museum is easy to find, due to its location on Bethesda Street within Stoke-on-Trent’s City Centre – Hanley. There is plenty of parking nearby, and the closest car park I found to the attraction was the multi-storey car park on John Street (almost directly opposite the museum). This car park is just £3.50 to park on for the whole day, although you can pay cheaper prices for shorter times. If you are arriving by public transport and not by car however, the museum is also a very short walk away from the new bus station.
The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery is open to the public 7 days a week – 10am until 5pm from Monday to Saturday and 2pm until 5pm on Saturday. Admission to the museum is free; however you are encouraged to give donations if you wish to, as these are subsequently used to improve the Museum and Art Gallery and it’s collection.
I arrived at the museum just after 10am, and found out that you are allowed to take photographs anywhere in the museum, apart from inside the Staffordshire Hoard exhibition.
Beginning on the middle floor, I entered the first section of exhibits, which contained an informative look on wildlife and insects of past and present times, which reside in Staffordshire. I noticed that this section is very interactive, especially for children. There were games, quizzes and things to touch and guess. In my opinion, these aspects will make this attraction a great one for children and families, as there are plenty of opportunities for children to learn about local and general history in a fun and interactive environment. Also in the wildlife section, there was information on things such as common birds, which can be found in home gardens, entitled the ‘Discovery Zone’.
The next section of the museum consisted of archaeological displays, that archaeologists have discovered in the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire area, including pottery and old ceramic pieces. Along with this, there are also old pictures of places in Stoke-on-Trent, which is very interesting as it enables you to see how iconic places looked in the past. In this section, there is also information on the Romans and Victorians, and how they lived. This was also interactive for children, and all cases had information attached explaining where the piece came from, and a brief history.
Next, was the Spitfire Gallery. Probably one of the most famous objects from Stoke-on-Trent built by Reginald Mitchell who lived in the city, this gallery in the museum features an actual Spitfire model on display, and fascinating information about it dotted around the room. You can also take photographs of the Spitfire, and can ask a member of the museum staff for assistance if you wish to take a picture from an elevated view.
A football theme is also prominent in the museum, appreciating the two football teams which reside in Stoke-on-Trent – Stoke City and Port Vale. Football strips from the past are on display, including a detailed history of both teams. There was also a TV showing video clips of Stoke-on-Trent’s teams, and interviews with local people about their memories. You can take away information sheets about Stoke City and ‘the £10 team’ of the past.
The following section of the museum was displaying what Stoke-on-Trent looked like in the past, and how the local people lived. In possibly the most interesting aspect of the museum in my opinion, there were replicas of different locations such as a traditional fish and chip shop (‘chippy’), a chemist, a pub and a typical family terraced house living room and kitchen. These displays were shown to represent what they would have looked like many years ago, which gives an interesting insight into the city and the reality of local people’s lives back then, when the pottery industry was thriving.
One of the main exhibitions in The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, and now a permanent fixture is the Staffordshire Hoard. The largest Anglo-Saxon hoard in the world, this exhibition is owned in conjunction with the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, and has a selection of recently unearthed Anglo-Saxon treasure on display. There is plenty of informative information about the Anglo-Saxon people and the actual unearthing of the hoard. Around the hoard, as with the rest of the museum, there were various members of staff on hand to explain any aspect, and to answer any questions you may have, along with information sheets and iPads giving a detailed description of each piece included in the hoard.
As expected, the museum also has an Art Gallery, showcasing art work from many local artists, and including more famous names such as Lowry and John Currie. Ceramics are also on display – including a history of the pottery industry. There is information on how it is made, along with things such as a model of a famous ‘bottle kiln’, which in the past made up most of Stoke-on-Trent’s skyline, and there are still a few around today.
The Potteries Museum can also be enjoyed if you are in a group; however you have to book a group tour in advance. The museum offers a café service, selling a wide selection of hot and cold drinks, along with a lunch menu. Additionally, if you are looking for something to take away with you, the museum also has a shop located in the foyer, selling Stoke-on-Trent souvenirs including a selection of mugs, cards, stationary, key rings and badges.
Overall, I would highly recommend including this attraction in your visit, as it is a very interesting and informative insight into the many aspects of the history of Stoke-on-Trent and the local areas, from the famous pottery industry, right through to the local people, football clubs and Anglo-Saxons.
For more information and to see a full list of events and exhibitions taking place at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, visit www.visitstoke.co.uk