Writing An American Tourist Guide To England some time ago set me thinking about how much many of us take for granted our own country, preferring to visit Notre Dame Cathedral instead of Salisbury, The Prado instead of The Tate, ignoring our wonderful Industrial Museums, and having no idea of the significance of Magna Carta, Mappa Mundi or even where to find them. I suppose it was this sort of ignorance or myopia that led the Labour MP for Wolverhampton Eleanor Smith to sound off about the flag representing The Black Country of the Industrial Midlands of England to be racist!
Today, researching my family history, there is a growing realisation that my ancestors of the 1700s and through the Victorian era lived in a rapidly changing world. Their world was characterised by revolution, a relatively peaceful one of Industry and Agriculture, and it is a world we CAN explore and understand through our many living museums, some of which we have already visited, some we are about to. Here is one from an area we used to live and work in ourselves during the early 1980s as our children were growing up.
The Industrial Midlands, The Potteries
The Gladstone Pottery first opened in 1787 and continued production up to 1974 when it closed as a factory and opened as a Museum. We first visited with our children in the early 1980s having been inspired by Arnold Bennett’s classic Anna of The Five Towns set in a Victorian pottery factory in Industrial middle England. Longton is one of the five towns making up The Potteries, (Stoke is the 6th!) and the Museum with it’s carefully preserved bottle kilns is set right in the heart of the town.
2. The Toilet Gallery
Probably the favourite of the younger visitor however is the Toilet Gallery proving that Thomas Crapper WAS a real person who revolutionised toilets and toilet humour too!