Today I visited the museum dedicated to the world famous Potter Josiah Wedgwood. Situated in quite a beautiful country setting, this attraction is surely one of the most interesting and in-depth museums that Stoke-on-Trent has to offer, showcasing the amazing work of one of the world’s most famous potters, whose innovative products are still sold worldwide.
Expecting to be in the typical lively city atmosphere that Stoke-on-Trent boasts, I was somewhat surprised to discover that the Wedgwood Visitor Centre and Museum was surrounded by fields and situated on a country lane, with people taking early morning strolls. Despite this, I found that the attraction was sign posted on brown and white signs and was very easy to get to. There is also a bus link from Stoke-on-Trent station if you are arriving by train. Or if you are more adventurous and are arriving by canal, the Wedgwood Visitor Centre and Museum is close to Bridge 104 on the Trent and Mersey Canal. When I arrived, there was a huge car park on site which hosts free parking for visitors, and everything was very easy to find due to the appropriate signage as you drove in.
I went to the visitor reception, where I was greeted by friendly staff, and explained of the procedure for the factory tours. Factory tours at the Wedgwood Visitor Centre and Museum are very frequent, and there are up to 15 tours a day. So, at whatever time you arrive, there is sure to be one being held around that time. Or if not, there is plenty to occupy yourself with in the meantime.
The tour that I was on started at 10.15am and lasted for roughly 45 minutes. Anyone can take part in the Factory Tour, whether you are an adult on your own or if you have young children, making this an excellent family friendly day out. Firstly, we were taken on a minibus to the factory itself, as the Wedgwood Visitor Centre is quite large, so the factory was about a 3 minute drive away. Whilst on the minibus, the tour guide explained to us a few facts and some history about Josiah Wedgwood himself, and how the brand that he created is still world-renowned today.
Once inside the factory, we were shown every department and each stage of pottery production. A nice touch that I found was that due to this being a working factory and therefore quite noisy, the tour guide spoke with a personal microphone which enabled us to hear what she was saying over the machine noise. As we went around the factory, we even got to touch some of the pottery while it was still in production, as well as the finished piece. I must say the tour guide that we had for the tour was very humorous, often making jokes and at one particular time claiming she designed one of the most famous pieces of Wedgwood pottery – which would probably make her more than 100 years old by now – somehow I didn’t think that was true, and obviously she explained she was joking afterwards!
The tour was very interactive and you are very much involved. As we went around, the tour guide was always speaking to us personally, and doing fun things such as asking us to guess how much some products were, to see who was the closest. To be honest, I wasn’t very shocked at how pricey some pieces were, as most of them had actual Gold on them! It was interesting to see how some pieces have stood the test of time and are still on sale today.
After the factory tour had ended at about 11:00am, we were taken on the minibus, back to the reception area. Whilst we were driving, the tour guide explained in detail other things we could do to occupy our day, and where on the site we could find each activity.
A good place to start and where I started after I had been on the factory tour was the film theatre. In the film theatre, a 20 minute film about Josiah Wedgwood himself and the innovations he made is shown on a loop all day. I would recommend starting here, as this gives you a good piece of background information about the man behind all the pottery showcased in the museum.
The interactive theme continues throughout the whole museum, which is where I visited next. Unfortunately, you cannot take photographs inside the museum. An in-depth view of Josiah Wedgwood’s life and company awaits, beginning on his birth date of 1730, right through to today, with a series of artefacts showing how pottery has changed over time, including the changing fashions through Wedgwood’s time and beyond. There is also a display of the very first innovation he made, namely a teapot manufactured and designed when tea was becoming more prominent in England, and was shifting from being a wealthy drink that only the rich indulged in.
I found that the museum was interactive and informative throughout, boasting various things such as TV touch screens where you can do various things like take a tour of Etruria, and find out more about different aspects of Josiah’s life and work, along with displays that you could ‘touch and feel’. For example, you can feel how a piece of pottery feels at various stages of the production. You were also invited to press a button, and then an audio piece was played, where you hear words spoken by Josiah Wedgwood himself, along with other influential people related to him and his work. Another fascinating thing I found at the museum was that it displayed pieces which Josiah Wedgwood had written himself. One aspect of the museum which I found absolutely stunning was the display of a map, which was detailing Wedgwood’s prominence during the Grand Tour era of the 18th century. It was also in the museum where I found out that the famous naturalist Charles Darwin is actually the grandson of Josiah Wedgwood!
The Wedgwood Visitor Centre has a range of activities available for you to try out yourself – such as throwing a pot, turning, lithography, painting a plate or a mug and ornamenting. There are also demonstrations of all of these skills on site, which are very interesting to watch. I had a go at throwing a pot myself,and this was extremely fun but is a skill I have yet to master!
The museum has an award-winning café and restaurant, serving home cooked food including traditional and international favourites using locally produced food where possible, along with a selection of freshly baked cakes and scones (which were delicious!). Also served are a selection of salads, sandwiches and soups. To accompany your meal or to just relax and chill out, you can have a glass of wine or one of the Wedgwood Visitor Centre’s local beers. However, if it’s something more special you are looking for, the Wedgwood Visitor Centre also offer an afternoon tea service, served on a three-tiered stand – made by Wedgwood of course!
If you want something to commemorate your visit to Wedgwood, and to take a piece of world-famous pottery home with you, I discovered there are two shops at the Visitor Centre; including a factory outlet store, which offers a range of discounts on Wedgwood pieces. I thought the main shop next to the museum was particularly worth a look, as it is very beautifully arranged, and the ambience is lovely and relaxing whilst you are having a browse.
You can also take a walk in the largest area of Woodland in Stoke-on-Trent from the Visitor Centre – which would be lovely if you are an active person or if you enjoy walking (better when the weather is good though of course!)
Admission is £10.00 for an adult, £8.00 for a child between 5 and 16 years and concessions. Wedgwood also offer you family tickets, for up to 2 adults and 4 children for £32.00. Tickets for factory tours are £2.50 per person, and are additional to the admission price. Group bookings can also be made. The Wedgwood Visitor Centre and Museum is open 7 days a week, at 10am until 5pm Monday to Friday, and from 10am until 4pm on Saturday and Sunday.
With enough to do to occupy a whole day, I would really recommend this attraction to anyone, whether a family or an independent visitor. I think that it is a really special, value for money experience that will definitely enhance your stay in Stoke-on-Trent. Finding out about the man behind the pottery which can be found all over the world, and pottery which has been used by the Royals, will surely be an unforgettable experience.
For more information about this insightful attraction, visit our web page at www.visitstoke.co.uk