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Another 'Grand Tour' of the Potteries
- David Proudlove & Steve Birks -

buildings in Burslem

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No 18 -  Burslem 
Fountain Court

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'In Praise of Conservation' 

"In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught."



Baba Dioum



Enoch Wood’s former Fountain Place Works, now Fountain Court 
– a development by Staffordshire Housing Association

photo courtesy: Gary Sheldon


The decline and destruction of historic buildings across the Potteries has been a recurring and depressing theme for many years now, and it shows no sign of letting up. 

As the city’s economy nosedived over the past thirty or forty years, so has the quality and state of its built environment. And even where buildings don’t appear to be at risk, they often meet a sad end: witness the demolition of the former St Paul’s Vicarage in Middleport earlier this year, a building supposedly protected by its location within a Conservation Area. Its permitted destruction seems particularly perverse when you consider that it was renovated in recent times, underpinned by public money.

Despite the almost wilful neglect of the city’s historic environment, there has also been some excellent examples of conservation-led regeneration, particularly in the Mother Town.

Burslem Town Centre was one of the city’s first Conservation Areas, retaining much of the town’s original street pattern, and preserving a diverse and eclectic range of buildings in many architectural styles. It is also home to the greatest number of Listed Buildings in the city.

Over the past fifteen years or so, there has been much investment in the town’s historic fabric, with many fine projects delivered such as the refurbishment of the Liberal Club on Market Place.

Arguably the finest scheme involved the refurbishment and adaptation of Enoch Wood’s former Fountain Place Works by Staffordshire Housing Association to create an excellent affordable housing scheme of 22 apartments.

Wood built his works in 1789, and therefore the site is one of the oldest potbanks remaining. Its original form and configuration was quite spectacular, and if it still remained, would form a distinctive edge to Burslem, almost like Chester-esque town walls. As it stands, just the site’s main range remains.


Fountain Place Works c1840

Enoch Wood was one of the city’s most prominent potters in the late 1700s and early 1800s, and was once compared favourably with God. He also made significant contributions to the town’s civic life, and was a talented sculptor. He established his business in Burslem with his cousin Ralph Wood at the age of 24, and as Wedgwood wound down their operations in the Mother Town, rose to dominate the Burslem economy. Enoch Wood and Sons became renowned for earthenware at Fountain Place Works, and at its peak, 1,000 people were employed on the site.

Wood passed away in 1840, and his funeral was a huge local event, with the town grinding to a halt as a huge crowd gathered to pay their respects.

Within five years of Wood’s passing, Enoch Wood and Sons was wound up, with the Fountain Place Works passing into other hands, the site sub-divided for use by smaller potters.

Demolition of parts of the works saw various redevelopment proposals, such as the neighbouring NatWest Bank, and eventually just the main range was left.

In 1951, Fountain Place Works became one of the city’s first Listed Buildings at Grade II, but eventually fell into lower value uses, disrepair, and saw the insertion of a hideous shop front as it became used as a warehouse.

Staffordshire Housing Association acquired the site in the late 1990s and set about its restoration and conversion, and they did an excellent job, with residents moving in during 2000. It provides a simple template for the residential conversion of former potbanks, but one that isn’t often followed.

In some quarters the city’s heritage and conservation generally is seen as holding us back and preventing progress. However, a change in mind-set is required as the opposite is in fact the case. The cities that have most dramatically transformed their economies in recent times have recognised that heritage can be a key economic driver, with Castlefields and Ancoats playing a key role in Manchester’s renaissance, and the Albert Dock and the Baltic Triangle doing similar for Liverpool.

Conservation-led projects continue in Burslem, including the planned transformation of the Old Town Hall by the Haywood Academy, and the Prince’s Trust tackling the Wedgwood Memorial Institute.

This is the good news. Wedgwood’s Big House is fast deteriorating, the Queen’s Theatre is facing an uncertain future, the St Modwen owned Hill Works seems to spontaneously combust on a regular basis, and I am simply amazed that buildings such as the Wedgwood Printing Works and the Central Hotel are still standing.

More conservation is a must, but not to protect the buildings, but to breathe new life into them and set them free. And the resurgence of the Fountain Place Works provides a fine example of what can be achieved with care and vision.



Dave Proudlove - December 2014




next: Burslem -St. Joseph's RC Church
previous: Burslem -St. John's Square
contents: index of buildings in Burslem



Related Pages

Burslem - one of the Six Towns of Stoke-on-Trent 

Enoch Wood's Fountain Place Works, Westport Road, Burslem
"Enoch Wood was a man of great stature in the industry having started business in 1783, and having erected most of his works by 1789, together with a windmill to draw water and prepare clay for the potter."

Listed building details for the Fountain Place Works

C. T. Lycett - the great Cycle and Motor Agent, Gramaphones, phonographs and records, Window blind manufacturer
Lycett's shop was in the old Enoch Wood Fountain Place pottery works.