Spode Potteries in Stoke Town, Stoke-on-Trent

Sitting prominently in the centre of Stoke Town, one of the six towns that make up Stoke-on-Trent, Spode Potteries is Grade II listed. Stoke-on-Trent’s special historic interest is synonymous with the pottery industry and Spode Potteries’ first incarnation began in 1751, changing hands regularly until the 1770s when Josiah Spode purchased the pottery.

Black and white photo showing Spode pottery at the height of production, with horses and carts and smoking pottery chimneys in the background and a line of children, some carrying buckets, in the foreground.
Spode pottery works

Spode Potteries has always been at the forefront of pottery production but with the dwindling pottery industry, Spode Potteries faced significant challenges and ceased trading in 2008. With the pottery site dominating the landscape of Stoke Town - it is nine acres in size and is formed of around 90 buildings - new ideas were needed for re-using the site.

New commercial use of the historic buildings

Initially, the Spode Works Visitor Museum was created with the help of City of Stoke-on-Trent Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund which helped to celebrate the Spode pottery and china collection.

In 2012, following a collaboration between the Council and Arts Council England, Acava (Association of Cultural Advancement through Visual Art) Arts converted two floors of Spode Potteries into 43 artists’ studios alongside four more units at the original Church Street entrance. The studios have been hugely successful, becoming home to painters, ceramicists, web designers, graphic designers all adding to the creative dynamic of the area.

The Council has ambitious plans to transform the whole site into a hub for the creative industries. The vast China Hall has even been used as a film set and hosted art exhibitions with other redevelopment ideas for Spode Potteries such as hotel accommodation, a wedding venue, retail space, tea room and offices.

The China Hall which is used for gallery space and film making
The China Hall which is used for gallery space and film making

Regeneration of the wider historic area

In 2014 Historic England partnered with the Council to deliver the successful Stoke Partnership Scheme in Conservation Areas grant which pumped over £600,000 into the regeneration of the Stoke Town conservation area and Spode Works, by supporting heritage-based improvement initiatives.

Locally, there is a real appetite for this type of creative commercial activity with Stoke-on-Trent keen to be seen as an arts hub in the Midlands. Spode Potteries is also being used as a festival venue with key local stakeholders such as Keele University and Staffordshire University utilising the vast space on offer.

Entrance to Spode Pottery Works with decorative wrought iron sign saying 'Spode Works' above the entrance.
The Council has ambitious plans to transform the whole site into a hub for the creative industries

Contribution of the historic elements of the building to its new function

Far from being a deterrent to the businesses, the heritage aspect of the site has enticed people and companies to use the site for commercial purposes. Acava actively seek unusual and historic buildings which can be converted to studios for artists. This unique aesthetic and flexible space, which has been underused for a long time, is now thriving and continuing Stoke-on-Trent’s creative industry for the new age.

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