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The Wedgwood Institute

Case study: Queen Street, Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire ST6 3EG (West Midlands)

List entry number: 1195840

The Wedgwood Institute building at risk, south elevation
The south side of the Wedgwood Institute forms the principal entrance elevation. It is symmetrical, arranged in twelve bays and on two levels. The richly decorated frieze of terracotta panels depicts the processes of the pottery industry.

Background and history

The Wedgwood Memorial Institute is located in the centre of Burslem. It was built between 1863 and 1869 as a place to run courses for the working men of Burslem on science, business and the arts. 

It was financed by public subscription. The design was the subject of an architectural competition. G.B. Nichols' winning entry was modified to include elaborate terracotta decoration on the front elevation. This was the work of Robert Edgar and John Lockwood Kipling.

Shortly after the official opening in 1863, a reference library, reading room and school of art were added. A further wing containing a museum and picture gallery was added 10 years later. Lesser changes and modifications took place in the early 20th century. In later years, most educational functions were transferred elsewhere leaving only a local lending library on the ground floor.

Is it at risk?

The building is at risk and was first added to the Heritage at Risk Register in 1998.

Due to the manner in which the building was developed, there is a complex configuration of roofs at different levels. These were poorly designed with no access for maintenance. Lack of routine maintenance led to the failure of rainwater goods and roof coverings. Water penetration has resulted in widespread dry rot.

What's the current situation?

A strategy and plan to save the building has been agreed in the last two years. This draws in funding from Historic England, Stoke on Trent City Council, the European Development Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The Institute is now leased to The Prince's Regeneration Trust. The Trust plans to convert the Wedgwood Institute into an enterprise centre for the local community. This involves conserving the original building, demolishing additions to the rear and building a new extension. The extension will provide additional accommodation on the same building footprint.

Historic England grant aid of over £200,000 has enabled a first phase of repairs. These include re-roofing and are due to be completed shorty.

The second phase of works to complete the conversion should start in 2017. This exciting project will see the Wedgwood Institute providing space for over 20 businesses and creating up to 150 jobs.

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