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Stoke-on-Trent: The Potteries

The area known as the Potteries, about 55 miles southeast of Liverpool, is still the center of Britain's ceramics industry, though production is increasingly being transferred overseas. There are, in fact, six towns, now administered as "the city of Stoke-on-Trent." Famous names such as Wedgwood, Royal Doulton, Spode, and Coalport carry on, though they’ve been taken over by other companies.

The most famous manufacturer, Josiah Wedgwood, established his pottery works at Etruria, near Burslem, in 1759, and created the cream-color ware (creamware), which so pleased Queen Charlotte that in 1762 she appointed him royal supplier of dinnerware. More recent innovators include the very collectible Clarice Cliff, who strove to brighten plain whiteware in the 1920s with her colorful geometric and floral designs. Also bold and colorful were the classic art deco pieces of Susie Cooper. Museums portray the history of this area, and there's still plenty of shopping, with good prices for seconds.

Emma Bridgewater. This highly successful local firm is known across Britain for its whimsical pottery designs. The 45-minute factory tour shows how Emma adapted 200-year-old techniques. Another highlight is a visit to the decorating studio, where you can try your hand at creating some designs of your own. There's also a gift shop and a little café. Lichfield St., Hanley, ST1 3EJ. 01782/201328. www.emmabridgewaterfactory.co.uk. £2.50; refunded when you spend £13 in gift shop. Mon.–Sat. 9:30–5:30, Sun. 10–4.

Gladstone Pottery Museum. The country's only remaining old-style Victorian pottery factory, the Gladstone Pottery Museum's traditional bottle kilns are surrounded by original workshops where you can watch the old skills of throwing, casting, and decorating in action. The Flushed with Pride galleries tell the story of the toilet from the 1840s onward. There are daily workshops, too. Uttoxeter Rd., Longton, ST3 1PQ. 01782/237777. www.stokemuseums.org.uk. £7.25. Apr.–Sept., Tus.–Sat. and holiday Mon. 10–5; Oct.–Mar., Tus.–Sat. and holiday Mon. 10–4; last admission 1 hr before closing.

Potteries Museum and Art Gallery. The modern Potteries Museum and Art Gallery displays a 5,000-piece ceramic collection of international repute and is recognized worldwide for its unique Staffordshire pottery. Other highlights are an original World War II Spitfire plane and works by Picasso, Degas, and Dürer. Bethesda St., Hanley, ST1 3DW. 01782/232323. www.stokemuseums.org.uk. Free. Mon.–Sat. 10–5, Sun. 2–5.

Wedgwood Museum and Visitor Centre. At the Wedgwood Museum and Visitor Centre you can learn about the history of Wedgwood and see samples of its finest pieces. The visitor center has craft demonstrations and also displays Doulton and Minton ware. Both the museum and visitor center have shops where you can buy firsts and seconds. There's also a buffet restaurant serving hot lunches and afternoon tea on—you guessed it—Wedgwood china. Wedgewood Dr., Off A5035, Barlaston, ST12 9ER. 01782/371900. www.wedgwoodmuseum.org.uk. £6 museum, £10 museum and visitor center. Weekdays 9–5, weekends 10–4.

Updated: 2013-10-15

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