Gladstone Pottery Museum in Stoke on Trent is the last Victorian pottery factory in the UK. Making it a fascinating place for a day out with kids in Staffordshire. Where better to learn age old techniques and try your hand at your own spot of pot throwing.
We were gifted tickets to the museum during the October half term holidays and spent a wonderful morning reliving what life was like for the potters of Stoke. Gladstone focused on day to day ceramic items for the mass market to be shipped worldwide, an ideal place to experience real life in the Victorian era.
We began our visit with a short video describing the history of the potteries and Gladstone’s part in the industry. Then you are free to explore the factory and its various exhibitions at your own pace. You’ll be given a numbered map showing you where to find each area, you can explore by number order or head to which area interest you the most. We approached it in a slightly haphazard fashion as we wanted to visit some of the timed activities which worked well.
Gladstone Pottery Buildings
I absolutely fell in love with the beautiful old buildings at Gladstone, the towering bottle kilns and cobbled courtyard. Most of the original bottle kilns are open to enter and set up for the processes they were used for – glazing, firing etc. I can only imagine what the heat felt like when in use! Most of the buildings are open to look inside and full of machinery and information from Gladstones operational days.
Getting hands on at Gladstone
This was Pipers favourite part of the museum, she’s a very creative kid so it was wonderful to see her get hands on and practice a new skill. There are various opportunities to do so around the museum.
Throwing a pot
At the end of our visit we were able to try some pot throwing and learnt how to make our own vase. Skilled instructors talked Piper through the process, carefully showing her how to shape the clay from a lump on the wheel to the finished product.
She was so proud of her creation. Once she’d finished the shaping process, and washed off the clay, her vase was boxed up and left for collection near the exit. The clay will not be fired so will not be as sturdy as normal, we left it to dry out for a few days then had fun painting it at home. It cost us an extra £3 to throw the pot.
Painting some ceramics
We also visited Gladstone’s painting room which is set up on the first floor of one of the buildings. They have a selection of premade object ready for painting and plenty of paints, brushes and tiles for you to get started. Being Halloween, of course Piper chose a gargoyle! The objects range in price from £2 to £10 and whilst I’m not normally a fan of having to pay extra when we visit somewhere, but entry tickets were such good value, I thought these prices were perfectly reasonable. It was also lovely to have a little souvenir to take home.
You can also learn how to make a pottery flower at Gladstone for just £2. This looked like a great activity, unfortunately we didn’t have time to take part.
Exhibits at Gladstone Pottery Museum
The exhibits at Gladstone are well thought out and cover many years of the potteries. I think most kids favourites will be the old street area with the stinky sewer, part of the toilets exhibit.
Weirdly the area dedicated to toilets through the ages was fascinating. Aptly called “Flushed with Pride”.
Piper insisted on sitting on every one she could and even got hands on figuring out some age old toilet paper alternatives! Yuck but a total child pleaser!
The museum also has rooms full of old machinery and some interactive exhibits, ideal for getting little ones engaged.
I really enjoyed the informational videos in some of the rooms, it really bought alive the tough lives of the potters of Stoke and the complicated process required for each and every piece of pottery created.
Special events at Gladstone Pottery Museum
We were visiting Gladstone over the October half term and were there for their Halloween fun day. They had magic shows, face painting and balloon modelling which added to the fun of the day.
There are plenty of child friendly areas around the museum with interesting books to read, jigsaws and pictures to colour. It’s a nice touch and great to offer little ones a bit of down time.
They hold various other events across the year, their upcoming Victorian Christmas event sounds fun. Check for upcoming events at Gladstone here.
Useful Information about visiting Gladstone Pottery Museum
Admission prices for Gladstone
Children: £5.40 (4 – 16 years)
A family ticket for for two adults and two kids is £23. If you plan on visiting more than once then it’s well worth getting an annual pass, it’s just £11.50 for adult and £9.50 for kids.
Where to eat at Gladstone Pottery Museum
The museum has a sweet onsite tea room serving hot and cold food on china made in Stoke on Trent. They also have kids snack packs with various activities on the boxes. It looks like a lovely place for lunch with great views out to the factory. We stopped for a coffee and ice cream before leaving.
Opening times of Gladstone
Tuesdays – Saturdays and Bank Holidays
October – March: 10am – 4pm
Tea room: 11am – 3:30pm
April – September: 10am – 5pm
Tea room: 11am – 4pm
How to get to Gladstone
Gladstone Pottery Museum is located in Longton and is well signposted off the A50. The nearest train Station is Longton, just a mile away from the museum.
Gladstone Pottery Museum
Parking at Gladstone Pottery Museum
The museum has a large onsite car park on Chadwick Street. Just drive past the main museum entrance and follow the signs to the car park on your left. Make sure you get a token from reception when you get your ticket so you can get out.
How long to spend at the museum
We covered most of what we wanted to see in 2.5 hours but leave more time if you want to stop for lunch or take part in extra activities.
If you’re after an entirely different pottery experience, then make sure you visit the beautiful World of Wedgwood.
Make sure you pin for later when planning your visit to Stoke on Trent with kids.
I was provided tickets to Gladstone Pottery Museum as part of my role supporting #mystokestory, an initiative to highlight the many amazing cultural activities Stoke has to offer. All opinions are as always my own. I am proud to be an official ambassador of this wonderful campaign, and am really enjoying all the wonderful activities Stoke has to offer. If you’re looking for more fantastic ideas, events and things to do in Stoke make sure you take a look at the Visit Stoke website for inspiration.
If you visit somewhere fantastic in Stoke, make sure you use the hashtag #mystokestory to join the community or search the hashtag on social media to find more great events in Stoke on Trent.