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Tony Grist

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The Potteries [Mar. 3rd, 2007|09:45 pm]
Tony Grist
Stoke-on-Trent is where they make pots.  It's where Wedgewood set up his factory. And Spode. And Minton 

I've been meaning to visit for years.

Stoke-on-Trent is actually six towns: Hanley, Burslem, Stoke, Fenton, Longton and Tunstall. Arnold Bennett reduced them to five. He thought "the five towns" sounded better. And why should geography or history be allowed to interfere with an artist's work?

Memo to self: must read Bennett. 
 
We went to the Gladstone Pottery Museum. It's got so many ghosts they filmed an episode of  Most Haunted here. The manager of the tea-room says he hears them banging about, mainly in the mornings and evenings, before and after the tourists arrive. 

Life in the Potteries was hell. You were on piece work, you got drunk at night and turned up in the morning- every morning-  wiith a hangover. The factory owner docked your pay for the slightest thing and you passed it on down by beating up on your apprentice (who was just a kid).  And all against a backdrop of flame and smoke and Primitive Methodism. 

19th century Stoke was the kind of ecological disaster area you'd have to travel to China to experience today.
 
And out of this hell came all those pretty things.

The Gladstone is the only complete Victorian pottery still in existence.  It oughtn't to be beautiful, but it is- all that weathered brick- and the bottle shaped kilns show how architecture can achieve perfection without really trying when form follows function. 



Then we went to The Wedgewood factory. Wedgewood moved to the country in the 1930s to escape the pollution and the flooding. I think Josiah Wedgewood was a hero but I'm not entirely sure. He was an abolitionist (and that goes a long way) and also- of course- an artist and a scientist and an entrepreneur of genius. "Fashion" he said, "is infinitely superior to merit." I'm still trying to work out what this means- and whether or not he was joking.

So I've spent two days looking at  pots. I've seen where they make them,  I've seen how they make them, I've seen cases full of famous ones and racks full of factory seconds and- Ailz loved this- a gallery dedicated to the history of toilets.

Pot-pot-pottity-pot.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: pondhopper
2007-03-04 12:18 am (UTC)
In Seville there is an old Carthusian Monastery. This is the place that Columbus stayed for many months planning his voyages. In the 19th Century, when many Catholic Church properties were seized by the government, the monastery became a pottery (porcelain) factory called "la Cartuja de Sevilla". It produced typical English style products and was, indeed, the property of an Englishman, Pickman.
http://www.lacartujadesevilla.es/index.php?len=1

The factory still exists in another location but my point is that the bottle kilns still exist at the old Monastery site and are considered monuments. They´ve even been copied as perfume bottles.






A history of toilets museum! That would be interesting...they are porcelain after all!





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[User Picture]From: shullie
2007-03-04 09:27 am (UTC)
looks like an intresting place too...

btw love your icon :)
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[User Picture]From: pondhopper
2007-03-04 11:04 pm (UTC)
The icon is in honor of the total eclipse of the moon last night.
:D
The Cartuja de Sevilla is now the Andalusian Center for Contemporary Art. It´s been beautifully restored and is used as a place for art exhibitions, apecial shows, workshops etc. The Monastery is visitable and bottle kilns preserved.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-03-04 09:30 am (UTC)
Fascinating.

Mr Pickman looks like my idea of Mr Pickwick.

There are very few bottle kilns left in Stoke. It's sad.
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[User Picture]From: airstrip
2007-03-04 02:34 am (UTC)
Have any more pictures of the place?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-03-04 09:30 am (UTC)
I do. I'll post them today.
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From: athenais
2007-03-04 05:27 am (UTC)
I quite enjoyed visiting Stoke and the Wedgwood factory several years ago. It's so easy to forget what hell it would have been 150 years ago.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-03-04 09:33 am (UTC)
The Gladstone Pottery is a beautiful place. It's strange how historical distance lends enchantment to the view.
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[User Picture]From: shullie
2007-03-04 09:27 am (UTC)
I saw the epidose on Most Huanted, but I think your picture and your potted history has intrigued me more. May have to plan an excusion :)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-03-04 09:34 am (UTC)
There's a lot to see. They recommend you set aside two or three hours for the visit.
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[User Picture]From: momof2girls
2007-03-04 09:14 pm (UTC)
Wow! Thanks for posting this. The history of toilets - who woulda thunk it? And the picture of the factory is wonderful.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-03-04 10:05 pm (UTC)
Cheers.

Did you know that the first flush toilet was invented as long ago as the 16th century? Queen Elizabeth was impressed, but the system was too cumbersome and expensive to catch on.
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