House Beautiful featuring Middleport Pottery

Home with a Heart

Article from this month's edition of HouseBeautiful Magazine - reproduced here with permission.
 
A royal regeneration project has given one mum the chance to return to her childhood community 
 
WORDS KERRY FOWLER PHOTOGRAPHY BILL KINGSTON 
 
One of Jodie Hancock's favourite family outings since moving into her home in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, is walking along the canal with her two daughters. Tucked behind the impressive redbrick pottery opposite her Victorian terraced home, the canal isn't just a pleasant place to walk, it also reflects the start of some positive changes in the local scenery. In the past three years the Victorian Middleport Pottery, which fills the view from Jodie's front-room window, has been saved from dereliction and become commercially successful again, producing the world-famous Burleigh pottery. It's also been completely refurbished as a visitor destination, with a lively Potteries' museum and canal-side café. This lifeline came from the Prince's Regeneration Trust, which aims to rescue heritage buildings and, in the process, bring new opportunities for local people in areas where there's a real need for investment. With f8.5 million being spent on the project it's the Trust's most ambitious to date, and after opening officially this summer, with Prince Charles arriving at the pottery for the ceremony by canal boat, it’s beginning to create a new buzz and feeling of pride in the area. 
 
For starters, the neat row of terraced houses that was originally built to house the pottery workers, or pot banks as they're called locally, has been given an impressive exterior makeover by Stoke Council, leaving the street looking fresh. Jodie's house has new sash windows and a glossy Victorian-style panelled front door and its brickwork has been smartened up, leaving no trace of the years of black soot blasted out from the old kilns. 
 
In the past the potteries employed hundreds of people in the area, so even if you didn't work there, you knew someone who did. Jodie's mother worked there and her aunt still does. It's that sense of belonging that has been a big pull. 
 
‘I came here last October to be nearer my family,' says Jodie, 23, mother to Nya, four, and Ashanti, 10 months, 'I was living just a few miles away but I'd grown up in Middleport and missed having my family round the corner. When this property came up through the housing association Midland Heart I took it straightaway. 
 
'It's so nice to be back here near my mother. She loves to have us around and I really appreciate having her support. My sisters live just a couple of streets away, and Nya can go to the local school with her cousins now.' 
 
Some of the houses on the street have been extensively remodelled internally to provide larger family homes and smaller one-bedroom properties, but all have retained the uniform exterior appearance. Jodie's terrace has the traditional layout with two good-sized, high-ceilinged living rooms and two bedrooms, and she's already making her mark with bold purples and feature wallpaper in Nya's room. For Jodie the home is very much a place for the children to enjoy. 
 
'I've turned the dining room into a playroom for the girls,' she says. 'I like modern style even though the house is older but that seems to work. 
 
'Not all the houses are lived in, but we have good neighbours next door, which is great for us. The downside is that the garden is small and just concrete, but there's a park about two minutes down the road and you can walk along the canal, which is much better now it's been done up.' 
 
As Middleport Pottery Visitor Centre manager Teresa Fox-Wells explains: 'We're working with volunteers to tidy up the canal and we've already created a mural, which looks a lot better than the graffiti! We want to make it a really nice place that people will use.' 
 
Anyone who loves china or collects ceramics will be captivated by the pottery's new museum with its stories from the people who worked there through the decades— from the highly skilled, dangerous work of stoking the kilns, to the prettier business of handpainting the plates, jugs and platters. As a visitor now, you can stand next to skilled workers as they fashion the pottery with the same handcrafting methods used in the 1880s when the pottery first opened. They're still creating lovely tableware, such as the blue and white Burleigh pottery, but in a modern, safe environment. 
 
'If we'd moved out of here it would have ended up being another derelict building,' says Teresa, 'and derelict buildings don't attract 30,000 tourists or a workforce. They just attract trouble.
 
'This positive building for the future will have a knock-on effect for the area. We work with local schools on pottery projects and have events in the evenings, which give it a more pleasant atmosphere for everyone, and local people as well as visitors come to the café for a coffee by the canal. Its totally changing the way the area works.' 
 
For Jodie the first year in her new home opposite the pottery has been a time of enjoying family relationships, finding new pleasures and watching her children grow up in the place she knew when she was little. 'It's great that the pot banks are still working,' she says. 'This is my home.' 
 
For more information on Midland Heart housing association, visit www.midlandheart.org.uk
 
A PRINCELY REGENERATION Middleport Pottery employed up to 500 people at its peak, producing the world-famous Burleigh pottery, but by 2011 orders were drying up and the building looked likely for demolition. At this point the Prince's Regeneration Trust stepped in, leasing half the property to the pottery and half to small creative businesses, and establishing a fascinating heritage visitors' centre, canal-side café and factory shop. To find out more or book a factory tour visit www.princes-regeneration.org/middleport-pottery
 
A HERITAGE makeover 
* Local firm CTD Architects worked with Stoke-on-Trent City Council on the terraced houses. One of the firm's directors Chris Hesketh says: 'We wanted to make the houses more appealing without changing their character, so we removed any rendered facades and repainted the whole street: it's now a completely refurbished row of properties. 
 
The council asked for a range of housing within the street no some pairs of terraces have been knocked into one to make family homes, although they still have two front doors for continuity, but one is a dummy. Others are spacious one-bed homes ideal for people working in the new business units in the pottery. 
 
We're very pleased with how it worked out and think it's made the street and properties much more desirable. The relationship with the Middleport Pottery is a key element of the regeneration for the whole community.' 
 
House Beautiful NOVEMBER 2014 173