Old window, light pouring through. Old packing room at Middleport pottery. It’s now the cafe. How different it must have been. I presume that plates and pots would have been packed in straw or hay so they didn’t move about too much. It would have then been put in packing cases so that the pottery could be transported on barges. The packs would have been lifted onto the boats using an old wooden crane which sits on the side of the canal. The crane was hand cranked and used a set of gears, a ratchet and a band brake to slow down the boxes of pottery as they were lowered down into the holds of the barges. I’m imagining the packing room bustling with people as the orders went out.

One advantage of the canals was that larger amounts of ceramics could be transported safely, with less breakages than would have happened on a rutted and uneven road in the back of an old horse drawn cart. It also helped speed up deliveries.

The smoke around the potteries must have caused a dark and gloomy atmosphere as the people worked there. The sunlight would not have shone into the window as it did today and the glass was probably filthy with soot and clay. The air was poor and people suffered from breathing difficulties and illnesses. The mortality rate was very bad. Life was difficult and short. I would like to suggest the book ‘When I was a child :Growing up in the potteries in the 1840’s’ by Charles Shaw, which gives an idea of the reality of the time.

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