Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Burleigh's Rebirth

Manchester Tart atop at Burleigh plate (Blue Asiatic Pheasant pattern)
Continuing the ceramic theme this month, I wanted to share a very good piece of news with you about the pottery company Burgess, Dorling & Leigh (AKA Burleigh). In my book review of The Lost City of Stoke-on-Trent, I made mention of Burleigh and the fact that they are still producing at their factory in Stoke-on-Trent.

Established in 1851, the business moved their centre of operations to a newly constructed factory at Middleport in 1889 - a handsome, red brick building overlooking the Trent & Mersey Canal. Burleigh have continued to manufacture there ever since, creating the underglaze transfer printed ware for which they are famous. Traditional blue-and-white floral, chintz and Asiatic Pheasant designs are their staple, but colour-ways now vary in keeping with modern tastes - reds, pinks, greens and blacks now feature, as well as plain white bakeware. The Victorian process of printed tissue transfer, using hand-engraved copper rollers is still the method of choice today, thus making Burleigh a very special place where many of the skilled processes of old still prevail.

Despite the popularity of Burleigh ware, the future of the nineteenth century factory itself hung very much in the balance. In desperate need of repair, its future was sadly uncertain. Fortunately, this month it has been announced that The Prince's Regeneration Trust have stepped in to acquire the building, and will inject £7.5 million into the restoration and regeneration of the factory. What this means is that Burleigh ware will continue to be made at the site using traditional techniques. Not only this, the plan is to also create a visitor centre, new factory shop and café, as well as restoring and letting surrounding buildings to small craft businesses.

This news is an immense boost to the area, and can only stimulate further interest in both Burleigh and its surroundings. The Middleport factory is a truly remarkable place. Stepping through the gates feels like a step into the past - offices, shop floors and outbuildings have remained largely unchanged for years. With the help of The Prince's Regeneration Trust, Burleigh can look forward to an exciting future which also salutes the beauty of its past.

Photo by me.


  1. It is a very pretty plate especially as I adore anything blue and white. But, since I am hungry as I write this, I had to wonder, what is a Manchester Tart?

  2. It is very pretty. Check out their website - they do so many different patterns, also in blue and white if that's your favourite.

    Now to the most important question,"what is a Manchester Tart?" Let me enlighten you...

    It's usually served as a big pie cut into slices, but I got this cute mini-pie at The Teacup on Thomas Street in Manchester. It's a baked pastry shell filled with a layer of strawberry jam on the bottom, and then a vanilla custard on top, sprinkled with dried coconut. Some people (like when my mum bakes it) add sliced bananas to the bottom, too. The custard isn't baked - instead it goes into the fridge to set. I have to say, the mini one was great, but I prefer my custard a little more solid. It does originate in Manchester, but I have now idea how or when!