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  • Ironbridge

  • Blue Wedgwood plaque, after a design by Lady Templetown, c. 1785-90

    Public domain via Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

  • Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron

    Image by GeorgeIronBridge on Wikimedia Commons via CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED

  • Wedgwood teapot, c. 1790

    Public domain via the Art Institute Chicago

  • The Orrery, Joseph Wright of Derby, c. 1766

    Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

  • Jackfield Tile Museum

    Image by The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust on Wikimedia Commons via CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED

Fitness / Practicalities
Tour Director

  • Study the rich history of the ceramics industry in Staffordshire and Shropshire, with visits to Gladstone Pottery, the Wedgwood Museum and the Emma Bridgewater Factory

  • Discover the unique assembly of architecture and museums that charts the story and legacy of the Industrial Revolution

  • Visit the Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron and view the world’s oldest iron bridge, listed by UNESCO

“Totally brilliant”

– ACE customer on a previous Industrial Revolution tour led by Lars Tharp

Britain’s Industrial Revolution saw extraordinary cultural and social change as well as technical innovation and entrepreneurship, and this is nowhere more evident than in the rich heritage of industrial architecture, decorative arts and ceramics visible in the counties of Staffordshire and Shropshire.


Exploring areas that inspired and provided contexts for the entrepreneurship of important figures such as Abraham Darby and Josiah Wedgwood, we will encounter several industrial icons that illustrate Britain’s 19th century heritage and showcase its pioneering technology, particularly in the field of ceramics production.


The development of steam power revolutionised the mining, iron, textile and ceramics industries. The Etruria Industrial Museum is the site of the only operational steam-driven potters’ mill in the world, and we will also visit the flint mill at Cheddleton, a pre-industrial water mill that was converted to flint grinding for the production of ceramics in the 1780s.


A highlight of the tour will be a visit to the World of Wedgwood Museum, home to the V&A Wedgwood Collection and the site of the Wedgwood Factory, which has been manufacturing its famous ceramics since 1759.


We will also chart the rising fortunes of the ceramics industry during the Victorian age, examining innovations and styles during a dedicated lecture and with a visit to the Gladstone Pottery Museum – the last complete Victorian pottery factory, with displays of ceramic techniques and bottle ovens. The Jackfield Tile Museum, meanwhile, contains a collection of decorative tiles in the former Craven Dunhill factory, which produced tiles from 1840-1960.


We will also enjoy a visit to Middleport Pottery, home to Burleigh (historically Burgess and Leigh) since 1889; it is located in a brick canalside building in Stoke-on-Trent, and has been used as a filming location for The Great Pottery Throwdown and an episode of Peaky Blinders.


Emma Bridgewater’s contemporary earthenware is much loved for its colourful designs and use of traditional techniques; the company can be credited with reviving the previously common British technique of sponge painting which had fallen out of practice. Bridgewater purchased a former Victorian factory site in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, in 1995, with production beginning the following year. The site is now a thriving modern example of how the fortunes of the Stoke potteries have been revived, with 1.9 million items produced each year, and we will enjoy a tour of the factory, bringing our understanding of the ceramics heritage of the area up to the present day.


This tour will be based at the four-star DoubleTree by Hilton Stoke-on-Trent Hotel, which sits in the grounds of Josiah Wedgwood’s mansion.


Ceramics Industry


During the 18th century, ceramic makers in places such as Stoke-on-Trent helped to define the tastes of Georgian England and its new commercial empire. Innovators such as Josiah Wedgwood supplied dinner services to country houses and to the court of Catherine the Great. We will have the opportunity to see superb displays of ceramics, and to explore some of the processes involved in the development of the area as the world’s leading producer of ceramics in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

This tour will be led by Lars Tharp, MA, FSA, an art historian, lecturer and broadcaster who is particularly well known for his work on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow. Lars is a ceramics specialist and a former Director of the Foundling Museum, as well as the author of several works including Hogarth’s China and The Little Brown Encyclopedia of Antiques (with Paul Atterbury). He has also worked with the York Art Gallery. Lars looks forward to introducing another ACE group to the history of the ceramics industry in Staffordshire, Shropshire and Derbyshire.

Tour Code

Fully booked - please contact the office on 01223 841055 to be added to the waiting list.

Included: accommodation based on sharing a twin or double bedded room, four breakfasts, one lunch, four dinners with water & coffee, excursions & admissions, gratuities & all taxes.

Not Included: travel insurance, double room for single use supplement £125.

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