It’s a bit of a surprise when you first see the bottle ovens between the trees. There are very few of these structures left, but they are generally in the middle of urban areas – not in the middle of a forest. The works here were once part of a whole string of factories producing china wares and tiles in the area. Now converted to a museum, you can go inside the ovens, watch demonstrations of china flower making – and have a go yourself. There is a children’s trail and exhibition which tell the story of the works, and craftspeople produce modern wares in its small workshops.
Even the toilets are interesting, with their huge communal sinks. But they used to be terrible: young girls working at Coalport in the early 1900s would only visit them in pairs, because they were afraid of the rats. This didn’t put them off smuggling beer through the riverside windows of the factory. They thought that beer would protect them from ‘Potters Rot’ – a common ailment which could paralyse the victim. In fact, lead in the coloured glazes used to decorate the china was the cause. Painters used to put their brushes in their mouths to make a fine tip for detailed work – and so were poisoned by the lead.
There are no rats today, but there is fine collection of china, and a wonderful shop.