Breaking the Mould. Stoke.

Royal Albert Pottery

Royal Albert Pottery erected 1882. Alfred Meakin. Partially restored during 2008- 09 with intention to return building to new use as apartments. Restoration unsuccessful, pot bank demolished in 2009 through lack of funds.

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Royal Albert Pottery Diary

Photoshoot diary by Mary Wardle

PARSONAGE STREET, TUNSTALL. 16/03/09

ROYAL ALBERT POTTERY
ERRECTED 1882
ALFRED MEAKIN

The plaque is/was set in red brick under the apex of the roof. New timbers covered in tar paper make the bones of the roof. Tiles, now removed are stacked on a planked walk-way, supported by scaffolding running the length of the complex of buildings that make up the pot bank that once, Prince Albert visited.

An industrial size skip, muddy blue, sides punctured by a history of heavy loads, was wedged in between the three storeys of pot works and a small brick workshop. The pot bank was quiet, grey with winter light, wet from a thin drizzle that had made slurry of the cinder yard.

There were men working under the new roof, but their activity was intermittent, enough to make them feel absent from the scene.

Snatches of quiet conversation could be heard from the yard. A man wearing a hard hat and high vis. vest walked passed a window, empty of glass and frame. Moments later, a shocking cacophony ripped through the air. We turned rapidly. The man with the hard hat was twisting a wheel barrow back onto the third floor - I could see the wheel as it disappeared into the building. But window space, black with emptiness, gave nothing away.

The muffled sound of a rough rearrangement of heavy but fragile materials came from deep within the third floor. It repeated itself, several times, then stopped. We waited- the next chapter. The wheelbarrow reappeared at the empty window. With a heavy shove the handles were jolted to the vertical.

A short avalanche of gritty noise ripped through the quiet. Silence followed, as a rush of white biscuit ware platters spilled through the air. Disappearing behind the tall metal wall of the skip, they landed, shattering on top of a growing heap of white ware at the bottom of the skip.

The skip had been recently placed outside the window. It was far from full. Plates, cups, tea-pots, sugar-shakers, as they spilled into the skip, swilled heavy echoes around its emptiness, sounding like quarry stone exploding away from a freshly dynamited body of rock - the yard seemed to shake with each ejected load of ware from the pot bank. The shattering shards settling to the timbre of cracked bells.

There were three floors of perfectly formed biscuit ware waiting decoration, glazing, then firing. The wide doors of the kilns were propped open, their interiors cold. Water dribbled through the roof where the new tiles had been removed making a slip of the clay dust that covered the floors. Broken crates failed to support tumbling cups once stacked neatly, waiting the next step in their production. A collection of slightly smaller than life size hands had been gathered in a large rectangular dish, pairs pressed together - a collection of supplicants imploring forgiveness for an unknown sin - all were being eroded into soft white bodies by the rain dripping through the holed roof.

The tiles were being removed from the roof because the pot bank was being demolished. One hundred and thirty years of history and a partial conversion of this building to new use was being razed to the ground. The owner could not pay £60,000 in council tax levied against an empty building, nor could he afford to continue with his plans to convert it into apartments.

Later on in the day we went into the building to take photographs. Across the yard walked a young man, hard hat, high-vis. vest, heavy boots and a tee shirt with a hood. He was hugging to his damp chest a large jar with an ornate lid. "I don't care what they say; I'm taking this home for my mum." The jar had only been biscuit fired, was very fragile and would probably break before he got it home.

- and though the townsmen, absorbed in strenuous daily struggle, may forget their heirship to an unbroken tradition of countless centuries, the seal of their venerable calling is upon their foreheads. If no other legacy is to be seen in these modernised sordid streets, there is at least the living legacy of that extraordinary kinship between workman and work, that instinctive mastery of clay which the past has bestowed upon the present. The horse is less to the Arab than clay to the Bursley man. He exists in it and by it; it fills his lungs and blanches his cheek; it keeps him alive and kills him. His fingers close round it as round the hand of a friend. He knows all its tricks and aptitudes; when to coax and when to force it, when to rely on it and when to distrust it.

Anna of the Five Towns. Arnold Bennett

Employed to empty the building of all its wares the young man seemed overtaken by a sense of dereliction of purpose - the sheer waste of 'manufactory' and the manufactured. He'd gathered what he felt he could in response to the destruction he was employed to carry out.
...

APRIL 06/09
PARSONAGE STREET, TUNSTALL -standing outside the site of Prince Albert Works.

Three circular windows containing broken glass are all that are left in the wall that once held the plaque that announced the Prince Albert works.

Free standing walls, three storeys high, stand as pinnacles - nothing supporting them, how do they remain standing?

Brick dust fills the air. Fires made of old timbers make acrid smoke that wraps around what is left of the brick workshop.

Mounds of brick rubble piled up against the cast iron gates prevent access.

The blue spring sky can be seen through all upper floor windows - all roofs are gone.

A land agents sign has been attached to a boundary wall -

For Sale.
Prime Developement Site.
All enquiries ...

 

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