the local history of Stoke-on-Trent, England

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Focus on - The Wedgwood Institute, Burslem 
one of the ten 'most threatened' buildings in England and Wales

In October 2010 The Victorian Society released a list of what it says are the 10 most endangered buildings in England and Wales.

It follows a public appeal by the charity to find the most threatened Victorian and Edwardian buildings. The buildings are in Leicestershire, Birmingham, Stoke-on-Trent, Sheffield, Grimsby, Liverpool, Manchester, London and Vale of Glamorgan.

In order to be on the list, a building has to be at risk, whether from demolition, insensitive development or years of neglect. 

  • The Wedgwood Institute in Burslem in Stoke-on-Trent has also been included on the list. Until recently, it was home to Burslem's public library, but closed two years ago due to structural problems, the society said.


the Wedgwood Institute  is also on the English Heritage at risk register



The Wedgwood Institute, Queen Street, Burslem
The Wedgwood Institute, Queen Street, Burslem


Former Wedgwood Institute, Queen Street, Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent
(1869, G.B. Nichols, John Lockwood Kipling, Robert Edgar, Grade II*)

"Until recently the Wedgwood Institute was home to Burslem's public library. In 2006 the council pledged money to restore this exceptional Grade II*-listed building but instead it closed down just two years later, without warning, due to structural problems. 

The library's books have moved elsewhere and only small parts of the building are in temporary use. 

Outside its highly decorative façade is a homage to work; above the main entrance is a figure of Josiah Wedgwood and elsewhere terracotta panels depict the different processes in the manufacture of pottery - this is a building which is crying out for a real use. In the meantime the structural problems will only get worse if urgent repairs aren't carried out."



Key facts......

  • Josiah Wedgwood I (1730-1795) was born in Burslem.

  • The institute is built on the location of the 'Brick House Works' which Wedgwood operated from 1763 to 1772. 

  • The street on which the institute stands is called Queen Street after the fact that at this site that Wedgwood produced the tea and coffee service which earned him, in 1766, permission from Queen Charlotte to style himself ‘Potter to Her Majesty’. 

  • The idea to combine the need for a Burslem School of Art and the desire to provide a permanent memorial to Josiah Wedgwood was first proposed at a Public Meeting in January 1859.

  • The winning design was by Robert Edgar and John Lockwood Kipling

  • Foundation stone laid 26 October 1863 by William Gladstone MP, the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

  • The building was opened 21 April 1869

  • The statue of Josiah Wedgwood was not added until 1873.

  • The institute is a grade II* listed building. 

  • Above the upper windows, there is a series of terracotta panels set in arcading illustrate the months of the year, and over them, a further arcade with mosaic signs of the zodiac.





"This is not part of a sumptuous palace in some sunny Venetian square but the facade of the Wedgwood Institute, Burslem. The central character of this architectural spectacular is Josiah Wedgwood, who, from his vantage point over the tiled entrance, surveys the rush of traffic and pedestrians. 

His background consists of a colourful wall, richly decorated with carvings depicting the various stages of pottery manufacture; figures that represent the months; inlaid signs of the zodiac; arches, pillars, foliage, and many interesting examples of mosaic and brick work. 

The design and plans were by Mr. G. B. Nichols who was obviously influenced by the work of 15th century Italian architects; the terracotta details were by Rowland Morris and William Wright, national scholars from the Potteries School of Art."

Neville Malkin 13th July 1974



the highly decorative façade is an homage to work






Related Pages..

  index page for 'focus on'

see more on the design of the Wedgwood Institute
see more on the Wedgwood Institute listed building status


250 years of Josiah Wedgwood

External Links..

English Heritage

Victorian Society