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The Spode Factory, Stoke
The Spode Factory, Stoke
pen drawing by Neville Malkin - Sept 1974

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Listed Buildings in Stoke-on-Trent and area

Spode Pottery Factory, Church Street, Stoke

Church Street, ST4 1BS
Heritage No.
Date Listed
21 Dec 2007
Building: Spode Pottery Factory, buildings 15, 16, 17 & 18
Location: STOKE ON TRENT, Stoke  Grid Ref: 387625E  345285N
Description:  Group of factory warehouses and the Courtyard of the Spode Factory.

Group of factory warehouses forming an ensemble marking the principal entrance and the `China Bank' Courtyard of the Spode Factory. Post 1829 with later alterations. Red Brick with slate roofs, with some stone detailing.

Entrance to Spode Pottery Works, Stoke
Entrance to Spode Pottery Works, Stoke

photo: Espresso Addict  April 2007

For clarity the description adopts the building numbering in the 2007 Historic Assessment by Wardell Armstrong. Overall the listed buildings on this large site comprise the entrance group and the principal courtyard to the east of the entrance, and date from the early years of the Copeland epoch of the firm's history.

Building 18 is a distinctive bow fronted counting house or lodge in brick of two stories under a slate roof which forms part of an ensemble of buildings defining the principal entrance to the Factory site. It has a continuous multi-pane window which curves around at ground floor level with two six by six sliding sashes at first floor level. There is a dentilled eaves cornice and string course between the ground and first floors. The south west fašade of the building appears to have been refronted as the dentilled eaves do not continue around on this face, although an eight over eight pane sliding sash on this facade appears to be original.

The remainder of the building has had new window and door openings at both ground and first floor levels. A curving external stair provides access to the first floor and connects the building to Building 17 which lies adjacent and opposite Building 18 and is also connected to it by a carriage arch.


Building 17 is also largely of this earlier 1833 date. It is also of brick with a dentilled eaves cornice under a pitched slate roof. There are a series of two- and four-light top hung casements under segmental arches at ground floor and a variety of C20 windows in original flat arched openings at first floor. A door and window opening and window under a concrete lintel have been inserted at ground floor level. Internally the building has been altered.


Building 16 is a long warehouse building in brick under a slate roof with three truncated stacks. It is single depth and built on an undercroft, possibly the foundations of the building which formerly stood on the site, which is slightly deeper and contains examples of Copeland tiles which are fixed on built-in benches within the undercroft. The building was originally three stories with a fourth storey added later in the C19. As original built, the building was symmetrical with a regular pattern of windows and doors under segmental arches at ground floor which was repeated at first and second floor. The third floor which was added is taller with a series of nine tall three light top hung paned casements. As originally constructed the building was fireproofed to all floors (jack-arched construction is still in situ).

Building 16 has been extended on a diagonal to connect if with an earlier range on the north west side. This extension is also of three stories under an apparently flat or shallow pitched roof. It has a door and window at ground floor level and paired windows under segmental arches at first and second floor. A single tall three light window on the third floor matches reflects those on the main range of Building 16.

This extension connects the long south western range of Building 16 with an earlier two storey brick range under a slate roof. This is of seven bays and curves to join Building 15 via a carriage arch. It has a series of six over six pane sliding sash windows under stone lintels, set within recessed blind arches separated by brick pilasters; all over a brick pediment defined by a projecting string. The first floor windows are recessed four over eight pane sashes with stone lintels set on a continuous projecting string. This range has a delicately moulded eaves cornice.

Some internal detailing survives including a stone stair (thought to have originally been an external stair) within the three storey extension and some ceiling roses, cornicing and joinery although the Building 16 is much altered internally. 


Building 15 The final notable building of this phase (1840-60) is Building 15 standing to the north east of Building 16 and connected to it via a three storey extension over a flat arched passageway. The principal range of Building 15 is of three storeys and has an eight bay, roughly symmetrical fašade of brick under a hipped slate roof. A projecting flat roofed entrance porch has been added at the north west of the building as part of the 1930s refitting of the showrooms within the building. There is a further door placed centrally flanked by paired windows under segmental arched heads; windows at first floor are also segmental headed whilst those at third floor have stone sills and lintels. There is a slight projecting string course immediately above the windows at ground floor. An arched passageway formerly provided access around an adjacent bottle oven.

Building 15 houses the present showrooms for the company (replacing the earlier ones fronting Church Street). This includes the `Blue Room', a long room at the front of the building, open to the braced king post roof and housing the famous blue transfer collection of the firm. The 1930s porch gives access to a stair hall, panelled to dado height in light wood with a sweeping stair with a panelled wreathed balustrade surmounted by a brass handrail and lit by a tall arch-headed stair window with marginal glazing. This leads to the imposing first floor showrooms. The showrooms accessed through paired double doors and are panelled with wood block parquet flooring. The doors are rich wood with a contrasting inlay to give the impression of a door panel and have brass door furniture. A deep, gently curving cornice provides a transition to the recessed skylight which occupies most of the ceiling. A series of recessed glass-fronted and panelled niches provide display space for some of the fine collection of Spode pottery retained by the firm, including exceptionally rare examples of their best work. Adjoining the southern end of the building is the base of a bottle kiln: the only visible reminder of this essential component of a pottery works.

Stoke on Trent is synonymous with the pottery industry. There has been a pottery on the site of the Spode Factory from at least 1751 when documentary sources record that Benjamin Lewis transferred a `newly erected' potworks to his son, Taylor Lewis. The site passed through several hands until Josiah Spode purchased it from Jeremiah Smith on the 29th February 1776 (the adopted foundation date for the factory of 1770 is incorrect).

Josiah Spode, father of the company, was born at Lane Delph, Staffordshire on the 23rd March 1733. Josiah went to work in a local pottery and by 1849 was apprenticed to Thomas Whieldon, a well-respected master potter in the district.

By the 1760s Josiah I had begun his own small pottery and he entered into several partnerships before finally acquiring the present Factory site.

Spode, like his neighbour and rival Josiah Wedgwood, rapidly recognised the value of a more direct access to markets in London and in 1778 sent his son, Josiah Spode II (1733-1827) to take premises at No. 29 Fore Street, Cripplegate.

William Copeland joined the firm in 1784 and, following the death of Josiah I in 1797, Copeland became an equal partner in 1805. Copeland became the sole owner of the firm in 1829, whereupon the factory underwent extensive rebuilding and enlargement: the listed buildings date largely from this heyday period, and reflect the scale of the enterprise at its height.

The earliest plan of the site dates from 1833 {company archives) and shows some of the buildings as standing. The precise use of the various buildings has changed over the years, and their original function awaits identification.

The firm remained in the Copeland family until 1966, trading under a number of names. The firm was merged with the Carborundum Group of Companies in 1966 and in 1971 reverted to the original name `Spode'. It was subsequently merged with Worcester Royals Porcelain Co to become Royal Worcester Spode Ltd in 1976.

Throughout its history, Spode has been at the forefront of innovation in pottery production: Josiah I is widely credited with perfecting the manufacture and successful marketing of bone china and in 1784 he perfected the technique of transfer-printing on earthenware from hand-engraved copper plates, essential to the phenomenal growth of the English tableware industry.

Renowned as a commercial enterprise, the firm also won a high reputation for its high standards of design and innovation. They have also received a number of Royal Warrants since their first as Potter and English Porcelain Manufacturer to HRH The Prince of Wales in 1806, becoming Manufacturers of China to HM Queen Elizabeth II in 1971.

Throughout its history Spode has produced a variety of wares including bone china, stoneware, earthenware and Parian ware. Spode's designs, particularly the original and much-copied Willow pattern, remain extremely popular both here and abroad and are still produced today. Astute marketing through their London premises and negotiated contracts such as that with the Hudson Bay Co to be their sole suppliers of earthenware from 1835 until the 1870s assured the success of the firm and have ensured that it is seen not just as a national, but as an international institution.

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION: The entrance and inner courtyard buildings at Spode are designated for the following principal reasons:

* the national and international renown of the Spode/Copeland firm, one of the world's leading pottery concerns.

* Its unique status as the only one of the internationally famous potteries in the area to remain on its original site.

* The contribution which the firm made to key technological developments within the industry, specifically the perfecting of bone china manufacture and the development of the blue underglaze process which revolutionised the tableware industry, and which took place on this site.

* As a reflection of the phenomenal growth of the British pottery industry in the late C18 and C19.

* As a reflection of the historical development of the pottery industry in Staffordshire.

* As a cohesive survival of buildings in a single area of an otherwise much-altered site, which together reflect the scale and character of this notable enterprise, and which read as an inter-related group.


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