Today I want to show you one place that you can visit in Stoke on Trent. It is the Etruria Industrial Museum which houses the only remaining steam-driven potters’ bone and flint mill in the world – Jesse Shirley’s mill from 1857. The museum opened in 1991 and is run by volunteers.
Situated in Etruria on the Trent and Mersey Canal, it is also a part of The China Cycle Trail. I visited the museum last December during one of selected days when the staff runs the mill. For entrance fees check their website (link at the bottom of the post).
Before your tour starts, you can spend some time around the canal, or in the café at the property.
The tour begins downstairs from the entrance where there is a small exhibition room. The guide will explain the history and importance of the canal and the mill to the local (mainly ceramic) industry. You will have a chance to read about the differences of various types of ceramics, touch the ingredients and ask about anything related. If you want to come prepared, you can read about the various parts of the museum here.
After the introduction the guide will take you to the steam room itself and you will see the mill at work. The mill used to process bones and flint. You will be guided through some other rooms. You will see how the mill works, how the machines are interconnected.
The staff is very friendly and if you are interested, they will talk to you long after the tour has finished, unless they need to get ready for another group, of course. If you are really interested, I would advise you to plan your visit to come for the last steaming of the day.
There is also a café should you be interested. Outside the complex, the blacksmith’s is also usually open.
The museum is open only a few days in a year, so make sure you check the opening times. The weekends when the mill is running are called Steaming Weekends. The following Steaming Weekends are:
- 5 – 6 August: Making Crafts at Etruria
- 9 September: Stationary Vintage Engines
- 10 September: Classic Vehicles Rally
- 3 – 4 December: Christmas at a Victorian Potters‘ Mill