In June 2011, we stepped in to save the Victorian pottery site from closure and to ensure Burleigh stays in Burslem.
The historic site was constructed in 1888 for a well-known local ceramics company, Burgess & Leigh Limited, nestled in the heart of Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, the world-renowned centre of ceramics. The Grade II* listed site is a red-brick maze, containing historic machinery, archives and collections in every corner.
Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, called the site a "national treasure."
The Pottery produces beautiful Burleigh ware each piece is touched by 25 pairs of hands. The production process is extensive, careful and the skills used are extremely rare. Many of the workforce have been there for decades; often their families worked in ceramics, passing down local craftsmanship through the generations.
A few years ago, the site was at serious risk of closure, the historic fabric was in a state of disrepair and it seemed Burleigh might move out of Burslem, losing a precious piece of British industry. Much-needed local jobs would have been lost, buildings possibly abandoned and Stoke-on-Trent suffering another huge blow to its proud industrial heritage.
In June 2011, we saved the site. We put together a private and public funding package that allowed us to acquire the site and embark on an ambitious restoration and regeneration project.
Burleigh will now remain onsite, saving local jobs and craftsmanship. The unused buildings are being developed to provide attractive accommodation for workshops, enterprise space, craft and community areas, a cafe, a gallery and a heritage visitor centre. It will be a hub of creativity and craftsmanship working for the benefit of Burslem and beyond.
We are also embarking on a varied and extensive programme of training and educational activities to support the local community in skills provision with an emphasis on traditional British craftsmanship. This beacon of heritage, enterprise and community will be relevant and inclusive for all.
Ros Kerslake, our Chief Executive, says: "We believe that to create a truly sustainable and viable regeneration project, we must work with an area's unique character and community, often locked in its heritage. This is a working, authentic, busy Victorian pottery it is living, breathing, industrial heritage that still very much has an active future within the community."
The site is not a relic to be viewed at from behind a red rope, but instead is a traditional British pottery being developed to restore pride, create possibility and unlock the area's potential for growth.