An eight-week festival has been organised to mark the 40th anniversary of the last bottle oven firing in Stoke-on-Trent.
The Festival of Bottle Ovens will be the first major activity of the Stoke-on-Trent Ceramic Heritage Action Zone (HAZ), which was officially launched today (May 16).
Throughout August and September, Longton’s Gladstone Pottery Museum will celebrate the city’s rich bottle oven heritage through exhibitions, events and films – as well as opportunities to meet the team who took part in the last ever firing back in August 1978.
Stoke-on-Trent was among only eight areas nationally – and two in the whole of the Midlands – to be announced as HAZs by Historic England in December. The five-year scheme, led by Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Historic England, aims to revive Longton, its historic buildings and give a fresh focus on the future of the city’s iconic pot banks. As well as the Bottle Oven Festival, the programme will see:
· Longton receive a boost of up to £4 million through investment by the city council, Historic England and the private sector.
· Longton Town Hall refurbished with city council staff moving in once the work is complete, boosting footfall in the town.
· A HAZ officer recruited and appointed whose job will be to oversee the project during its five-year lifespan, and to seek further funding opportunities.
· An archaeological dig in Longton to examine the site of 19th-century workers’ housing.
· Work to repair and refurbish the main entrance to Gladstone Pottery Museum.
· A collaboration with students at Staffordshire and Keele Universities, who will use state-of-the-art equipment to survey the condition of the city’s remaining 48 listed bottle ovens and document them in 3D for generations to come.
· The physical connection improved between Gladstone Pottery Museum and Longton town centre to enhance the links between the two.
· The possibility of applying to Historic England for a Longton PSiCA (Partnership Schemes in Conservation Areas) in the future, which would provide funding for the preservation and enhancement of the conservation area.
Conservative Councillor Daniel Jellyman, cabinet member for regeneration, transport and heritage, said: “We were delighted to be awarded Heritage Action Zone status by Historic England following a successful bid and the exciting work starts now for Longton.
“We’re committed to supporting all six towns of Stoke-on-Trent and a big part of this scheme will involve bringing the town hall back to life by refurbishing the building and moving council staff in, which will boost footfall in the town and support existing businesses.
“To be one of only eight places across the country to receive HAZ status in the latest round is really encouraging and gives us all a unique opportunity to breathe new life into some of the town’s historic buildings, while supporting and enhancing the existing cultural offer.”