Day Trip: Stoke-on-Trent

Day Trip to Stoke-on-Trent

                                     Get up at 5:30 for a 6:30 meeting across town?  Heck, yes!
Although it is awfully dark (January sunrise is 8am here in London),  here I am, wiping the sleep from my eyes to meet Thirty-nine American Women's Club members on a bus, for a day of pottery shopping in  Stoke-on-Trent, the historical home of English Pottery.

                                                                   Quick History lesson!
Stoke is known as "the Potteries", and its residents are "The Potters". There are 6 towns that comprise Stoke-on-Trent, and its residents even have their own dialect. Stoke-on-Trent is known as the British capital for china and pottery, and dates back to the 1600's. The area still produces china and pottery, and you will probably recognize some of these famous brands, originating here--Wedgwood, Royal Doulton, Spode, Burleigh, Aynsley, Royal Stafford and Portmeirion.

I'll just start by saying that my expectations were quite different than reality on this trip. Since I'm taking a pottery class in London, I thought I'd find some craft fair cups and bowls which might inspire me. Perhaps there are some hidden amongst the 60+ working potteries, but I didn't see them on this trip.  What I did see was beautiful china and tableware like the photos here.

Ellen DeGeneres tableware at the Wedgewood/Royal Dalton Outlet

I was told I'd want to bring a shopping trolley (a tall backpack on wheels with a handle) to fill up with my purchases. hmmm.  I think to myself,  I'm probably not purchasing anything, but I will bring it for my veggie plate, since we are apparently having a boozy potluck on the bus ride home.

 So, was just a little surprised to find that at the first stop, I had purchased more than would fit in my trolly.
          Yikes... luckily these stores will ship for free or a marginal amount, so now I can buy more!

my first purchase--Gordon Ramsey dinner set for £35 (or $45), in denim blue

I'd show you the pictures of all my wares, but they are in the Royal Mail somewhere on the way to London.... let's just say I did really well. Waterford crystal whiskey glasses for Jeff, next year's Christmas presents for the girls, a cute baby-blue tea set for me, and a blue denim dish set...This was the first stop, and there are 3 more to go.

Next stop, Middleton Pottery, home of Burleigh. This was my favorite for pictures and the for the private historical tour that guide Timothy gave me of the factory while everyone was shopping. This place was merchandised so adorably, and people went crazy here!

beautiful presentation at Burleigh
teapot making process
Wares, and view of the river outside Burleigh

Prince Charles supports the pottery trade and he recently financed the restoration of this factory, completing it in 2017.  In the process, they found 20,000 moulds dating back to the turn of the century, including moulds of the famous Toby Mugs, which I wrongly assumed were from Germany.

Toby Mug mould of Toby Filpot
the 20,000 moulds found when restoring Burleigh

Third stop is Portmeirion, which is the home of Spode, Royal Worcester, Pimpernel and Sophie Conran.  It was a zoo in there, as they were having their 50% off sale. But, still, it was impossible to get away without buying something :)

Portmeirion outlet
And, while waiting in line, I had the added bonus of being entertained by a fairly toothless local gentleman shopping with his wife. He kept me in stitches with his stories about why most of his family is deaf (marrying cousins!), and with his lessons in Stokes vocabulary, which I will share for you here, in case you wish to learn the language before your visit!

Ay up, Ow At, Orate? - Hello, how are you doing?
Arint - Around
Narn in cheese - Nine inches
Box Harry - To do as you like
Neck eat dine - Drink quickly
Buzzed - Late for work (definitely a different meaning here)
Canst? - Can you?
Bin yer? - Are you well?
Orts - Leftover dinner
Owd that - Can you hold that?
Fried frogs - French fries
He's proper narky - He has a temper.

As you can imagine, after that, I was looking forward to getting back onto the bus and off to our last stop, which was Emma Bridgewater, someone I had never heard of but is quite famous here in the UK. (the photo at the top of the blog is also from her shop)

Emma Bridgewater chickens

Her factory was charming, and you can even paint your own pottery here and send it home! or special order your own personalized special set just because you can, lol.

pottery painting studio at Emma Bridgewater

Well, the bus driver disappeared and it was freeeeeezing outside, so what better thing to do but to sit down for a British afternoon tea with the most wonderful lemon cake imaginable. It was served so beautifully, I just had to take a photo!

Emma Bridgewater tea.... not bad for £1.70 ($2.00)

Well, that's the last stop of our day... it's starting to get dark, and we have a long drive back to London.  Plus, we have a boozy potluck to partake in, which was the most fun I've had in a long time! Food and wine being passed up and down the aisles, games being played. These girls know how to make a day of it!
Now I just have to figure out how to sneak all my purchases into the house.... and then figure out where to put them!
                                                        Happy Travels!

                                     Fancy a Weekend in Stoke-on-Trent?
1. Visit the Trentham Estate---
               Monkey forest , home to 160 macaques who wander freely
               Catamaran cruise or miniature train ride
               Beautiful Trentham Gardens--725 acres
               Take a muddy barefoot walk, the first of it's kind in the UK

2. Peak Wildlife
               get face to face with penguins, lemurs and meerkats

3.  Take in a show at the New Vic Theatre, home to the first in the round theater in the UK.

4.  Paddle the Heritage Canoe

5.  Enjoy a leisurely Canal Boat

6. Tour the Gladstone Pottery Factory---the only working Victorian pottery factory.

7. Visit "World of Wedgwood", try your hand at wheel throwing, and have an afternoon tea!

                                 How to get to Stoke-on-Trent:
Train: From Euston Station direct to Stoke-on-Trent, 1 1/2 hours
Driving: Can be anywhere from 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours to get there, depending on traffic. check times.


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