Stoke-on-Trent's potteries

Burslem provides the perfect introduction to Stoke’s cultural heritage.




3 miles (4.8kms)

262ft (80m)
1hr 15min

About the walk

The City of Stoke-on-Trent, known as ‘the Potteries,’ actually consists of six towns, each with its own sense of history, character and identity: Burslem, Fenton, Hanley, Longton, Tunstall and Stoke itself. All six owe their existence to the rich seams of coal and clay in the area which originally would have been mined at or near the surface. Both coal and clay were mined by the Romans, and excavations at Trent Vale in the 1950s uncovered a pottery kiln and workshop dating from the first century ad. But it was in Burslem in the 16th century that the pottery revolution got under way, thanks largely to the efforts of one man, Josiah Wedgwood.

In addition to being a talented craftsmen and an astute businessman, Wedgwood was also an innovator – he was the first to establish a factory for making fine pots. Until then pottery had been a cottage industry, but Wedgwood’s Burslem factory set a new standard, and before long similar buildings were springing up all over Stoke. Today, Burslem still boasts the highest concentration of potteries in the city, several of them visited on this short walk. The first is Moorland Pottery, based on the historic Chelsea Works site, while a little further on near Market Place is the factory shop for Royal Stafford, whose ceramic tableware is still produced locally.

Despite economic downturns and changing markets, Burslem retains its industrial core and a long-standing reputation as the ‘Mother Town’ of Stoke-on-Trent. This is an urban landscape of period factories, small warehouses and historic canals, as well as grand municipal buildings, some in better shape than others and many now given over to bars and shops. Although a few of the large ceramic producers have gone, many that remain are small in scale but high in value, producing sought-after tableware and collectables. New business parks have been established around the town’s fringes to cater for this growing business.

Heading down Nile Street you pass the site of the former Royal Doulton works, where the Staffordshire tradition of china figurines was first established. In 2005, the factory closed when production was switched overseas, and the site is being redeveloped. A little further on is Dudson Factory Outlet, where you can browse a wide range of high-quality but reasonably priced tableware that the firm has been producing for the catering industry for well over a century. Next up is the Moorcroft Factory Shop, while a little further on is their Heritage Visitor Centre, complete with original bottle kiln and open Wednesday to Saturday. Moorcroft has been making fine china for over 100 years and each piece is hand-crafted by skilled craftsmen. The guided factory tour (check times available) allows you to watch the unique processes at first hand, including the application of the design onto the pot which is known as tube lining – they say it’s like icing a cake, just a little more difficult.

Walk directions

From Burslem Park head down Moorland Road past Moorland Pottery into the town centre. At the busy junction at Swan Square turn right and walk uphill for 100 yards (91m) to visit the Royal Stafford factory shop on the left, which includes a small café.

Retrace your steps to the junction and keep going straight over, downhill past the war memorial on Swan Bank. Take the second left, just past the imposing George Hotel.

Walk down Nile Street, past the site of the former Royal Doulton factory on the left. Go past Dudson Factory Outlet and continue along the road. Just before the bridge go right onto a ramp up to the leafy Cobridge Greenway cycle trail, a former railway line. Turn right and follow this to the end. Turn left, then quickly left again on to Sandbach Road to reach the Moorcroft Heritage Visitor Centre.

After visiting the Heritage Centre continue along Sandbach Road and keep going over the traffic lights. After 400yds (366m), just as the road eases round to the right, turn sharp right up the gravel path into Sneyd Hill Park. Immediately take a left fork straight up the hill, following the steep slope to the top for excellent views.

From the top of the hill start to walk back down the way you came, but soon bear left on an obvious trail contouring round the hill to the left. Follow this round and down to the bottom, near the cemetery. Turn left and follow the grassy track around the base of the hill until it rejoins the road. Turn right and walk up the broad pavement to the junction at the top of the hill.

Turn sharp left, then left again at the final mini-roundabout, past the Moorland Inn and down Moorland Road. After about 500yds (457m) turn right onto Park Road, then immediately left to enter Burslem Park and an excellent spot for a picnic to end the walk.

Additional information

Pavement and hill trail

Streets and urban parkland

Must be on lead near roads

OS Explorer 258 Stoke-on-Trent & Newcastle-under-Lyme

Ample parking on Moorland Road by Burslem Park

On Market Place in town centre and in Burslem Park

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