|Private limited company|
|Predecessor||Hulme and Booth|
|Founder||F R Burgess & W Leigh|
|William Leigh & Frederick Rathbone Burgess (founders), Edmund Leigh (chairman)|
|Owner||Denby Pottery Company|
Number of employees
Burleigh Pottery (also known as Burgess & Leigh) is the name of a pottery manufacturer in Middleport, Stoke-on-Trent. The business specialises in traditionally shaped and patterned domestic earthenware of high quality.
The pottery occupies nineteenth-century grade II* listed buildings known as the Middleport Pottery. The site, which is next to the Trent and Mersey Canal, has a visitor centre and a factory shop as well as production facilities.
The business was established in 1851 at the Central Pottery in Burslem as Hulme and Booth. The pottery was taken over in 1862 by William Leigh and Frederick Rathbone Burgess, and traded from that date as Burgess & Leigh. The trademark "Burleigh", used from the 1930s, is a combination of the two names.
Burgess and Leigh moved to different works, first in 1868 to the Hill Pottery in Burslem and then in 1889 to the present factory at Middleport, regarded at the time of its construction as a model pottery. Its scale and linear organisation contrast with the constricted sites and haphazard layout of traditional potteries such as the Gladstone Pottery Museum.
In 1887 Davenport Pottery was acquired. It was of interest in part for its moulds. Burleigh retains an outstanding collection of historic moulds which are used today in the production of Burleighware.
Leigh and Burgess died in 1889 and 1895 respectively, and were succeeded by their sons, Edmund Leigh and Richard Burgess. On Richard's death in 1912, the business passed entirely into the ownership of the Leigh family. In 1919 it became private limited company, Burgess & Leigh Limited.
The years between the wars are often regarded as the company's "golden age", with a number of extremely talented designers and artists such as Harold Bennett, Charles Wilkes and Ernest Baily. Perhaps the best known was Charlotte Rhead, who worked here between 1926 and 1931, noted particularly for her work in tubelining. By 1939, the factory was employing over 500 people.
The business took great pains, from as early as 1897, to build up a thriving export network, concentrating primarily on the Empire (later Commonwealth) and American markets, but focussing later also on Europe.
After a run of financial difficulty, the company was sold in 1999 to the Dorling family, Rosemary and William Dorling, and traded as Burgess Dorling & Leigh. In 2010 it was acquired by Denby Holdings Ltd, the parent company of the Denby Pottery.
Conservation status of the Middleport Pottery and current use of the buildings
The Middleport Pottery was listed in the 1970s. By this time six of the seven bottle ovens on the site had been demolished. The surviving bottle oven was given its own listing. In 1988 the course of the Trent and Mersey Canal through Stoke-on-Trent was designated a linear Conservation Area.
English Heritage put the canal Conservation Area on the "Conservation Areas at Risk" Register in 2010, in large part because of urban decay caused by the decline of traditional industries. A 2011 review of the Conservation Area noted that the Middleport Pottery was a building at risk.
The Prince's Regeneration Trust offered to renovate the buildings, allowing their continued use as a working pottery. The project involved a sale and lease-back deal via the United Kingdom Historic Building Preservation Trust (UKHBPT). In 2014 Prince Charles visited the pottery to open a visitor centre.
Burleigh continues to manufacture earthenware pottery in a very traditional way, preserving skills, including underglaze transfer printing, a now very rare form of decoration. Each item of Burleigh ware is made from start to finish at the Middleport pottery and passes through at least 25 pairs of hands.
- Historic England & 1297939.
- "Middleport Pottery (Burgess, Dorling & Leigh)". Retrieved 30 November 2014.
- "Bottle Kiln at the Middleport Pottery". Listed buildings in SOT. Retrieved 30 November 2014.
- "The Trent & Mersey Canal Conservation Area Review" (PDF). Retrieved 1 December 2014.
- Tyler, Richard (2011). "Burleigh pottery saved". Telegraph. Retrieved 30 November 2014.
- "HRH The Prince of Wales officially opens Middleport Pottery after a £9 million restoration". The Prince's Regeneration Trust. Archived from the original on 28 October 2014. Retrieved 1 December 2014.
- Historic England. "Middleport Pottery (Burgess and Leigh) (Grade II*) (1297939)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
- Mckeown, Julie, 2003. "Burleigh: The Story of a Pottery". Richard Dennis. ISBN 0-903685-80-9
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