Thursday, March 15, 2007

World Heritage?

Council and Tourism officials have decided to apply to UNESCO for Longton, the southern most of the six towns which make up the city of Stoke-on-Trent, to be designated a World Heritage Site. Apparently making an application is a very long and drawn out process; the project has first to be accepted as an eligible site by the Government and then government officials have to put the bid forward to UNESCO. I expect that going through these stages will create a lot of interest in and possibly bring money to the town so it surely can’t be a bad thing; although people are already saying that the money that would have to be spent by the council to even get the project off the ground would be better used on other things and that Longton wouldn’t stand a chance anyway so why bother. When you compare the town with some famous places that have World Heritage Status you may be forgiven for thinking it doesn’t stand a chance, I’m thinking here, Great Wall of China, Grand Canyon, Taj Mahal and Venice. On the other hand, when you compare it with places in Britian that have achieved World Heritage Status, places like Ironbridge Gorge, Blaenavon in South Wales and the Cornish Tin Mining areas then it doesn’t seem quite such a daft idea.

The area around the Gladstone Pottery Museum (known as the St. James Quarter) is rich in the history of the Pottery Industry and as it is only a twenty minute walk away from where we live I thought I would go down today and have a walk around and take some photographs.

The Gladstone Pottery Museum

The Church of St. James the Less

One of the numerous factory shops to be found across the town.

Other nearby factory shops include Aynsley, Hudson & Middleton and Leeds. Not far away on the other side of town are the two big ones- Portmeirion and Wedgwood. If you go into the Wedgwood shop, even on a quiet day, there are at least two or three coach parties visiting at any one time.

I'm not local, I wasn't born here, in fact we've only lived here for the last 10 years but I must admit I felt a little pride in what I saw today.


  1. Dear Rosie
    As you know, I came to the Midlands from London in my mid-twenties, first to Birmingham, then Mansfield to be with Susan, where I met you and Paul, and since 1979 (Susan always says 1980) we have lived in Lenton in inner-city Nottingham and I love the industrial towns of the Midlands, so to read that Longton is being nominated for World Heritage status seems no less than it deserves, as your splendid 'commercial' makes clear.

    Your musings sent me looking up Longton in J B Priestley's 'English Journey' which was first published in 1934, so 2009 will be its 75th anniversary. It's one of my favourite books, given to me by a wonderful, gentle, communist I got to know when I was in the Young Socialists, so I always think of Mr Biskeborn when I see it on our bookshelf or, like now, turn to it for a description of England between the wars (my head is full of Billy Bragg singing an anthem to working people, 'Between The Wars'). This is what Priestley says about Longton and the Potteries:

    'The Potteries must be a grim region for the casual visitor. This district, Bennett's famous Five Towns, consists of six towns, Burslem, Fenton, Hanley, Longton, Stoke and Tunstall, which have now merged into one city, called Stoke-on-Trent. This city has a population of nearly three hundred thousand, but it has no real existence as a city of that size. There is no city. There are still these six little towns. Unless you are wiser than I was, you will never be quite sure which of the six you are in at a given time; but at least you will be ready to swear that you are nowhere near a city that contains three hundred thousand people. What distinguishes this district, to my eye and mind, is its universial littleness. Everything there is diminutive. Even the landscape fits in, for though there are hills, they are all little ones. I seemed to be paying a visit to Lilliput... Even the smoke — and there is plenty of it in the Potteries — does not hang well above the towns like a dark cloud, as it does in other industrial districts, but seems to drift heavily just above the roofs. Its a marvel to me that the cups and saucers turn out the right adult size. I was at once repelled and fascinated by its odd appearance... You feel that nobody comes to the Potteries and nobody — except Arnold Bennett — has left them...'

    My first visit to Stoke was to Longton in the mid-1970s to visit the then proposed Gladstone Pottery Museum which was looking for money from the Midland Area Museum Service, which I chaired. Susan came with me and I loved it. Those wonderful bottle shaped kilns, the door frames and the bannisters worn smooth and rounded by countless bodies and hands. If anything deserves to celebrated as a world heritage site, then somewhere marked by its 'universial littleness' surely qualifies? Doesn't the Bible say something about the meek inheriting the earth? Perhaps this a good omen that it will happen sooner rather than later. You're right to be proud of where you live. Longton and the the other five towns which make up Stoke-on-Trent deserve there place at history's top table.

    Keep up the good work. You always set me thinking about something!

    PS. Glad to hear about the puss cats.

  2. hi robert, thanks for your kind thoughts - your comment should be a blog entry in its own right, I think you have such a way with words and such clear memories of things - thanks for the passage from J. B. Priestley. I too love the industrial Midlands towns as much as I do the countryside - in fact the early industries of iron working, pot making, cloth manufacturing grew from the natural resources of the rural areas they began in, so I think both stand together in their proud industrial heritage - I'm thinking Arkwright's Mill at Cromford in particular but there are many other examples. You always set me thinking too. :)