The Middleport Pottery is an outstanding model factory of the late nineteenth century for which new uses have been found. Frederick Rathbone Burgess (died 1895) and William Leigh (died 1889) took over a pottery in Burslem in 1862, and subsequently moved to the Hill Pottery before establishing themselves in a model factory alongside the Trent & Mersey Canal at Middleport in 1889. There were originally three biscuit and four glost bottle ovens, and facilities for the work people were some of the best in North Staffordshire, including ovens for heating midday meals.
Middleport Pottery became a limited company in 1919 and prospered in the 1920s and 30s, exporting to many countries, particularly to those in the British Empire, and employing as many as 500 people. The company declined, as did many others in North Staffordshire, and the buildings could easily have fallen into dereliction.
In June 2011, The Prince’s Regeneration Trust (PRT) stepped in to save Middleport Pottery from closure and to ensure that Burleigh stayed in Burslem. After buying the Pottery, PRT embarked on a £9 million, three-year project to regenerate and revitalise the site and has leased approximately half of it back to Burgess & Leigh for pottery production. As a result, 50 jobs have been saved at Middleport Pottery and a further 66 created have been since 2011.
In June 2014, HRH The Prince of Wales, Patron of PRT, opened the refurbished Middleport Pottery, containing the Burleigh factory, a visitor centre, tea rooms, shop, activity areas and workshops and offices for creative businesses. The Pottery is now a major visitor destination and has won eight awards, including a RIBA National Award and a Europa Nostra Award, since it opened.