Following weeks of planning and collaboration between our two societies, a full coach of visitors from historic Wavertree in Liverpool arrived at Stoke mid morning on Saturday 23 July.
The forty-or-so visitors were welcomed at the Spode site and led to the newly-refurbished function room, part of the Spode Works Museum which occupies a significant proportion of the factory buildings. Our visitors were welcomed first by Heritage Champion, Cllr Dan Jellyman, on behalf of the Stoke-on-Trent City Council, then by Potteries Heritage Society’s Chair, David Williams.
PHS Treasurer, Andy Perkin, gave a short presentation outlining the Society’s aims and significant projects and invited the Chair of Spode Works Trust, Paul Wood, to set out the context for the visit, the site’s 250-year history, the challenges facing its conservation and the ambitious regeneration projects already starting to reposition Spode as a tourist attraction, business hub, conference and exhibition centre.
The visitors were then given a presentation about the Revealing Voices project and were treated to a preview of some of the archive of audio clips around which the project is based. Snippets included talk of washing days, Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, workhouses, slaughterhouses and the regeneration of collieries that led to the creation of Central Forest Park.
Our visitors were then given a choice of guided tours. Spode Museum manager, Michael Escolme, led a tour of the Spode site and buildings. Andy Perkin led tours of Stoke, taking in the history of the town’s development, some challenges to be tackled and how local people are using neighbourhood planning to shape its future. There was also a tour highlighting initiatives that use arts-led regeneration by Oliver Sherlock of B Arts – the local arts charity that also provided our visitors with a delicious soup and bread lunch from their Bread in Common bakery.
By 4:30pm on the hot July afternoon, many of our visitors were worn out but were full of praise for the efforts our team had put in to the event. Before returning to their coach, Robert Zatz, who organised the day on behalf of the Wavertree Society, said that this had been the best visit the group had experienced. The Society were keen to return to explore more of the Potteries towns and invited Potteries Heritage Society members on a reciprocal visit to Wavertree in the near future.