Gladstone Pottery Museum is in Stoke on Trent, housed in a former pottery works and featuring some of the town’s few remaining bottle ovens.
The factory was originally built in the late 18th century after the sale of the old Longton Manor Estate allowed potters to expand out of neighbouring Burslem – the centre of the pottery industry at the time.
Local family the Shelleys took over a site adjoining the new turnpike road to Uttoxeter and the present day museum is on part of that site. As well as producing their own earthenware the Shelleys carried out contract work for Josiah Wedgwood’s Etruria factory. By 1789, however, their business was in trouble and the site was bought out by William Ward.
He split the area into small plots where a number of potters could work alongside each other. The whole was sold in 1818 to John Hendley Sheridan who let out the site to tenant potters. He also erected new kilns.
One of the tenants was Thomas Cooper who in turn employed other potters and by 1851 he had 41 adults and 26 children working for him. In 1853 he bought the master’s house and began developing the rest of the site.
In 1876 the site was sold on to Hobson and Co who renamed it after the Victorian politician who had visited the Potteries in 1863 to lay the foundation stone of the Wedgwood Memorial Institute.
The site later passed into the hands of Procter, Mayer and Wooley and eventually, in 1939 became Gladstone China (Longton) Ltd.
Mixed fortunes saw the site closed during world war two and in various hands until 1960 when the kilns were closed down. Decorating and packing continued on the site until 1970 when the site was again put on the market.
By that time it was already realised that much of the Potteries heritage had been lost and that an intact factory needed to be preserved. It was one of a number of sites considered for development as a museum.
The Staffordshire Pottery Industry Preservation trust was formed in September 1971 and later the Gladstone Pottery Development Trust was set up to raise funds for the scheme. Phase 1 was officially opened in April 1975.