The China Hall is one of those buildings that on first stepping inside elicits gasps of wonder – with its high barrel-vaulted ceilings, immense space and visible remnants of its former industrious past. The original Spode factory was established in Church Street, Stoke town in 1776 making thousands of wares each day until its final closure over 230 years later in 2008.
It was Josiah Spode in 1796 that honed what we now know as Fine Bone China on the original Spode factory site, and he is now also recognised for producing the first printed ‘Willow’ patterns from 1784-90s. When the Prince Regent visited the factory in 1806 he appointed Josiah Spode II the ‘Potter to the Prince of Wales’. According to the Spode Museum Trust who are based on the Spode site: ‘Spode’s blue and white transfer printed wares were generally considered to be among the finest ever made’ and the most famous pattern ‘Italian’ is still made to this day.
Following the demise of Spode, local company Portmeirion bought the Spode brand and now produces a range of Spode products using original patterns, including the ever popular ‘Blue Italian’.
It was for the second BCB festival in 2011 that we approached Stoke-on-Trent City Council to support our aspirations to create a festival hun at the original Spode factory site. We have continued to present work in the China Hall for every festival since 2011. We have established a fully operational ceramics studio on site, managed by our Studio Managers Jo Ayre and Sarah Fraser, which supports our community and education activity year-round.