Burslem – Reflections on a town’s heritage

A Second World War Liberty Ship

Like all the towns in our area, Burslem has a proud heritage.

In the 18th century, its master potters brought the Industrial Revolution to North Staffordshire.

The old town hall is one of the finest examples of civic architecture erected by a local board of health.

Burslem born architect, Absalom Reade Wood designed the Woodhall Memorial Chapel, the Drill Hall, the Art School, the Wycliffe Institute, Moorland Road Schools, Longport Methodist Church and Middleport Pottery.

Created by local craftspersons, the Wedgwood Institute has a unique terracotta façade which is an inspiring tribute to the skills of the men and women who worked in the pottery industry.

During its long history, the Wedgwood Institute has housed several schools and colleges whose alumni have played a significant role on the world stage in the fields of literature, science and technology.

They include:

  • Oliver Lodge, the first principal of Birmingham University, who invented the spark plug and perfected radio telegraphy;
  • Arnold Bennett whose novels vividly described life in North Staffordshire and immortalised The Potteries;
  • Summers Hunter, one of the world’s leading maritime engineers, whose firm designed the engine that powered the Liberty Ships* which helped to keep the supply lines between Britain and North America open during the Second World War; and
  • Reginald Mitchell, the 20th century’s leading aircraft designer, who created the Spitfire which saved the world from Nazi domination.

*The photograph shows a Liberty Ship which was powered by a marine engine designed by Summers Hunter.