Winkhill Mill

Part of Stoke’s industrial history

I haven’t been back to Winkhill Mill in Stoke for a few years. When I did it was a thriving pottery making artistic tiles or other ceramics. I went to an exhibition about Minton tiles there. I do wonder if it’s still working after the pandemic. I was pleased with this photo that I took as the sun was starting to set.

Dereliction

I was listening to the Queens’ Speech today (the state opening of Parliament). The government announced that they would be trying to do something about the cost of living and ‘levelling up’, spending on improving the country across the UK. But it never seems to happen. Seeing our once industrial city collapsing in ruins, losing historic buildings. Being overcome by the cost of energy so that factories and shops cannot afford to run. Yes we need to reduce our use of energy, but there seems little effort to do anything about it. Our government are talking about bringing back fracking and opening new oil and gas wells. Yes it is complex, but after twelve years in power we don’t seem to be getting a good result.

Dereliction of duty?

Local industrial archaeology

Pottery bottle oven, Longport, Stoke-on-Trent. Next to the Trent and Mersey canal. I can’t remember the name of the pottery sorry. I think there are only 32 of these old pottery ovens left in Stoke-on-Trent. A few, like at Middleport pottery and the Gladstone Pottery museum are preserved and in good condition. Others are derelict or semi derelict. A few are just the bases of them left on the ground. Some are being rescued and repurposed, but others are dreadfully neglected as this one is.

Bottle ovens/kilns and enamel kilns burn at different temperatures. They were different shapes, the enamel ones are thinner. The outside bottle shape has a doorway into it and surrounds a cylindrical kiln where the pottery is placed. The pottery itself is stacked in ‘saggars’- round or oval shaped covers that protect the ceramics as the kiln is ‘fired’. These old fashioned kilns were heated with coal. The clay and fires lead to lung diseases, which were also found in local miners. As coal firing was stopped because of the clean air act many of these potteries closed or converted to gas firing in modern kilns. Old photos from the turn of the 19th century show many bottle ovens all over the city and the pall of smoke they created.

Stoke-on-Trent has clay, water and coal in abundance which is why the pottery industry set up here as well as a few other places in the UK. There are many books about the industrial archaeology of the area are available. Other information can be found at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in the city centre (Hanley), Stoke-on-Trent.

Remembering the BCB

The BCB, British Ceramic Biannual, was on in the Spode China Halls last year. Fine China and art pottery cheek by jowl. I do hope it happens again next year. Bringing art into Stoke-upon-Trent and the rest of the city of Stoke-on-Trent and spreading creativity that sadly seems to have been forgotten by government during this pandemic.

Art has just as much a right as any other industry to continue in this world. Creativity and the power of the mind are linked. Science can go hand in hand with art. What we need to do is try and support everyone, not be selective towards the richest and devil take the hind most.

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Structure

Today’s prompt

View of the fire escape stairs across the road. We live opposite a pottery and of course it looks industrial. The superstructure allows people to come and go at various floors. The doors are always open in hot weather and sometimes people stand on the platforms during hot weather. They have gardens and trees around the grounds. At least they are trying to green the area.

Sun through cloud

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The sun was shining through the clouds at Spode this afternoon giving everything a moody look.

Grey clouds, leaden

A glimmer of sun

Bright, yellow, hot

Sizzles through the clouds.

Humid heat festers

Industrial view languishes

Only a few plants

And a cat sleeping in the dust,

But alive,

Better than ruins.

 

Windows…

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No not the trade marked version. But old windows at Spode. Dusty and dirty and empty of footsteps, no faces staring out of them, no lights behind them, no shapes of pottery stacked. Life is quiet for the factory, silent. The place is shunned, surplus to requirements. How can it still exist?

Time passes, new movement as people take up spaces. Shift of light, shift of direction. Art and theater, people sleep on site now in the hotel. The chance to regenerate like a time lord. The site has age and power behind it. The ghosts look on, seeing the lights, wondering what will happen next. Will they be evicted from the deep soft clay dust that coats their footprints and hides their breath.

Grey brown and blue

Your bricks and windows are staring down at me,

a cold wind picks up the few scattered leaves that have invaded the space.

As the sun sets the air glows frozen grey blue,

Pouring cold into green grey tarmac surrounded by factory buildings.

Water droplets frost the car windscreens sitting on the parking lot,

“We are watching you” you seem to whisper, and, I look up to see what may be there.

But just blank and broken windows look back in a long black stare.

Getting in my car I carefully wash away the mist, old buddlea branches scraping the paintwork,

left and left again, into the street, and away from old creeping ghosts and memories of Clay.