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TAKE A WALK WITH US... (KEEP ON SCROLLING)

Since the first lockdown in March, Factory Tours have been suspended to ensure visitor safety.


Our guided tours provide an exclusive insight into the skill and craftsmanship of pottery production.

Visitors from all over the world have enjoyed this experience. Through paid admission they have actively supported the work of our charity Re-Form Heritage, helping us to raise vital funds to maintain our fascinating Grade II* listed pottery factory.


Whilst we're unable to explore the factory in person, tread the creaky boards, hear the blungers or smell the clay, we would like to invite you on a virtual walk...

Come take a sneaky peek inside the pottery factory...



please make a donation to support our work.

Factory Tours admissions are usually £9.50 per person. If you are able to, please make a donation to our #HelpForHeritage appeal by clicking the link below.

We are looking to raise £12,000 by Christmas to support us through this uncertain winter.

Thank you.

click here to make a donation online - thank you!

RAW MATERIALS AND THE "MODEL POTTERY"

Middleport Pottery is described as the "Model Pottery" because it was so cleverly designed to streamline the production process.


Raw materials required for pottery manufacture; clay, flint and feldspar came in via the wharf area, by narrowboat, on the southern end of the canal.


And, at the northern side of the building, finished goods were packed, loaded and distributed... more on that to follow.

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THE STEAM ENGINE

When installed back in 1888, the purpose-built William Boulton steam engine was cutting edge technology and the heart of the factory.

This engine drove shafts which then turned the blungers in the Slip Room, powered the pumps to transport slip and turned the cogs to drive the Paternoster Lift. This lift ran between floors and transported wares from casting to the biscuit kilns.

Residual heat from the Lancashire Boiler also warmed the pipes to dry the 'green ware' (wet, slipcasted ware).

THE SLIPHOUSE

As the title suggests, this is where the slip is made. The blungers (machines with paddles that mix clay, flint, feldspar and water) turn continuously, 24/7. If the blungers stop, the slip would solidify into a solid mass!


The mix of clay to feldspar and flint is a unique combination - every pottery factory has their own secret recipe. The sliphouse worker has a vital job and should they get the mix wrong, it would ruin production all along the chain.

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THE MOULD MAKER

For slipcasting, a mould must be made. Mould making is a highly skilled, four-stage process.

1. A model must be made of the item. This is usually carved from wood.

2. A hollow block mould is made from the hand-made model

3. Then a case mould is made from the block mould.

4. A hollow working mould is then made. As these working moulds are made from plaster, they require ongoing maintenance and sometimes need replacing.

We have nearly 19,000 block and case moulds in our collection. Some of these date back to 1851.

SLIPCASTING

(or 'casting')

Slipcast pottery allows the maker to create intricate and asymmetrical pottery. It also allows the maker to create multiple copies of an identical shape in a short space of time.

Slipcasting involves pouring slip (liquid clay) into a plaster mould. The plaster material absorbs moisture from the slip which forms a layer of solidified clay within the mould. When the piece is at the required thickness, the Slipcaster discards excess slip and the mould is separated to reveal the clay form.

FETTLING AND SPONGING

The process of slipcasting leaves joint-lines on the clay where the two halves of the mould meet.


In fettling and sponging, the dried ware is 'fettled' with a knife then 'sponged' to remove any joint lines and blemishes.


As the ware has not yet been fired, the clay can be softened with water.


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BISQUE FIRING

Before pottery can be decorated, the material needs to go through a transformation - to turn it from clay to ceramic.

This is the process called Bisque Firing and creates what is known as, 'biscuit ware'.

UNDERGLAZE TISSUE TRANSFER DECORATION

Tissue transfer decoration is a process by which a pattern is placed onto biscuit ware using oil-based inks.


The pattern is created by inking a pre-etched copper cylinder and then ‘transferred’ onto special tissue paper via a press.


The inked tissue is then applied to the ware and vigorously rubbed with a brush and soft soap.


The paper is then washed off leaving the pattern transferred onto the item. These items are then ready for glazing and the final firing.


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DIPPING, GLOST FIRING AND SELECTION

Each piece of ware is dipped in glaze.

After the glaze has dried, the ware is fired for a final time in the Glost Kilns at 1062 degrees centigrade for 11 hours. The ware emerges with a beautiful, shiny finish.

The products are then selected and graded into best, seconds or rejects. The final process is to pack the ware for distribution or transport them to the Burleigh Factory Shop.

DISTRIBUTION AND FACTORY SHOP

It's no mistake as to why the pottery factory is located next to the canal. When Middleport Pottery was built in 1888 the canal was the highway of its day.


The canal provided a secure and smooth way to transport wares and, at the time, an easy route to access the UK's major ports, Liverpool to the west and Hull to the east.


Today, Burleigh's Factory Shop stocks the largest collection of Burleigh ware. And, we're proud to say that all the products are made, by hand, just metres from the shop's entrance.

Buy online - visit the Burleigh Factory Shop

WE HOPE YOU ENJOYED YOUR WALK WITH US....

We can't wait to welcome you on our Factory Tours again.

If you can, we'd love your support to help us get through this winter, protect our heritage and help us raise £12,000.

DONATE CLICK HERE

#HelpForHeritage