Hit the British Pottery Lottery in Stoke-on-Trent

Hit the British Pottery Lottery in Stoke-on-Trent

by Stacy Roman
Stripes Europe

Without a doubt, one of the most treasured souvenirs of your time in Europe is a piece (or maybe a couple of hundred) or two of brightly patterned Polish pottery. The ceramic ware is so popular, Bolesławiec (the city at the center of it all) hosts a Polish Pottery Festival each August. However, if you’re stationed in the U.K., it can be a little cumbersome crossing the channel and trekking to Poland. But you’re in luck! Some of the world’s finest bone china and porcelain (Royal Doulton or Wedgwood, anyone?) are produced a mere three-hour drive west of RAF Lakenheath in the industrial cities of Stoke-on-Trent.

Located in central England along the winding River Trent, Stoke-on-Trent is actually comprised of six separate towns. With an overabundance of clay and coal, the villages became known as “The Potteries” and was the perfect location for making the beautiful and practical earthenware. In 1759, Josiah Wedgwood opened up his world-renowned factory and the legendary pottery was born. A few decades later, Josiah Spode added a bone ash and kaolin compound to the soft-paste porcelain, effectively inventing modern-day bone china — some of the finest and strongest in the world. By the early 1800s, English potters adopted Spode’s methods and became the main manufacturers of fine china.

Because the factories were spread across the different towns, you’ll want to plot your course before you head out. Start the day at The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery for an in-depth and interactive history of English pottery and the area. Then head to one of the many factories around the area — Wedgwood, Royal Doulton, Spode, Royal Stafford, Dudson, Portmeirion and Burleigh (just to name a few). Or simply head to one of the many discount shops in the area. Peruse discontinued patterns, find a rare treasure hiding on the shelves or pick up the perfect English tea set. You’re bound to find a new favorite piece of pottery to bring home.

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