If you wander down Queen Street in Burslem (one of the six towns that make up the city of Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire) you will come across two amazing buildings. One still in use; one empty and neglected! The most ornate of the two buildings is the red-brick Wedgwood Memorial Institute built as a memorial to the great potter Josiah Wedgwood 1730-95.
It stands on the site of the Brick House Pottery Works, owned by the Adams, another local pottery family and which Josiah Wedgwood rented from them during the years of 1762 to 1772. It was also known as the Bell works because of the bell used to summon the workers to the factory each day. It was at the Bell Factory that Wedgwood perfected his famous Black Basalt wares.
A statue of Josiah Wedgwood stands over the impressive doorway. I was trying to see if the statue showed Wedgwood with his wooden leg as the legs looked a bit awkward but couldn't tell from my photos. Wedgwood had his right leg amputated in 1768 after it was weakened by an attack of smallpox in his childhood.
The Wedgwood Memorial Institute was established in 1869 as a centre for art and science, the foundation stone was laid by William Gladstone in 1863. The facade is made up of sculptures, friezes and mosaics designed by many of the leading artists and architects of the day including John Lockwood Kipling father of the author Rudyard Kipling.
The moulded medallions over the doorway show three of Josiah Wedgwood's famous contemporaries and associates - the scientist and fellow member of the Lunar Society Joseph Priestley, Thomas Bentley his partner in the Etruria pottery works and the artist John Flaxman.
With all its wonderful history and associations it is such a shame that this building is closed, neglected and falling into disrepair! In 2010 The Victorian Society listed this building as one of its top ten most endangered buildings in England and Wales. According to their website in May last year The Prince's Trust unveiled plans to renovate the Wedgwood Institute to be used by small businesses - I do hope this happens!
So what is the other building I mentioned at the beginning of this post? Well, exactly opposite the Wedgwood Institute stands the famous Burslem School of Art.
It was opened in 1907 and designed by A R Wood who was architect of many of the important public buildings across Stoke-on-Trent which at this point was still three years away from having city status. The six towns which made up the potteries still having their own identity - in fact they still do in many ways. Burslem was and still is known as the Mother Town and it was the 'Bursley' of many of local author and writer Arnold Bennett's novels including 'Anna of the Five Towns' (I know - he missed one!) 'Old Wives Tales' and 'The Card'.
Many famous artists either attended or exhibited at the Art College including local pottery designers Susie Cooper, Charlotte Rhead and Clarice Cliff, David Hockney and Sir Clough Williams-Ellis founder of Portmeirion village in Wales. Well known local artists like Reginald Haggar and Arthur Berry taught here as did the Scottish ceramic and stained glass designer Gordon Forsyth.
The school of Art closed in the 1970s when all art studies were centralised at Staffordshire University. It was opened again in 2000 as a cultural centre. I love those large studio windows letting in as much light as possible for the students to work in.