Mill repairs to protect nationally-important heritage site for future generations

Published: Friday, 22nd March 2019

Refurbishment work has started to preserve and protect a 162-year-old potters’ mill that is the only one of its kind left in the world.

The project at Jesse Shirley’s bone and flint mill, which is part of Etruria Industrial Museum, will include improvements to the windows, brickwork, roof and floor at the grade II* listed site.

There will also be repairs at the museum’s forge – which is used for blacksmith demonstrations during special events.

The scheme is part of a wider £1.5 million joint project - between Stoke-on-Trent City Council and the Canal & River Trust - to improve the local canal network and key sites along the area’s waterways.

During the mill improvements, teams will use traditional materials such as wood and cast iron to complement the historic buildings.

Councillor Daniel Jellyman, cabinet member for regeneration, transport and heritage, said: “This is a fantastic project which will help to make the most of a wonderful historical gem. Jesse Shirley’s bone and flint mill is one of the most important parts of our city’s heritage and we want to preserve and protect it for generations to come.

“The buildings will be meticulously refurbished in the right way to celebrate the site’s rich history and recognise its significance to Stoke-on-Trent and beyond. 

“This work is part of the wider canal corridor improvement project across Stoke-on-Trent and we’re delighted to be working with the Canal & River Trust as part of this. Our canal network and the locations along it are hugely important to Stoke-on-Trent and we want to make the most of these for everyone who lives, works and visits here.”

Simon Papprill, enterprise manager at the Canal & River Trust, said: “It is fantastic to see this important renovation project get off the ground. The canal network around Stoke-on-Trent is incredibly important.

“The Trent and Mersey and Caldon canals have found a new lease of life in the 21st century as a wonderful leisure resource for people and a haven for wildlife. Research shows people feel happy and healthier when they are by water, so anything which encourages more residents and visitors to explore the rich local industrial canal heritage is to be applauded.”

The mill was built between 1856 and 1857 near the junction of the Trent and Mersey and Caldon canals.

It was used to create ground bone and flint that could be added to clay to make earthenware and bone china products.

Production at the mill ended in 1972 and three years later the Government listed the site on a schedule of ancient monuments – meaning it is recognised nationally as a vital part of the country’s heritage that must be preserved.

The bone and flint mill is now owned by volunteers and leased by the city council as part of the industrial museum. It is the only remaining steam-driven potters' mill in the world.

Councillor Anthony Munday, cabinet member for a greener city, development and leisure, said: “The museum is a wonderful attraction which provides spectacular events for our city. The highlight of these popular occasions are the steaming weekends, where visitors can see the mill working as it would have in Victorian times.

“This investment will help to protect and preserve the mill, ensuring many more Stoke-on-Trent families and visitors can come to the museum and enjoy seeing a rare working example which brings our city’s industrial heritage to life.” 

The canal corridor improvement project is helping to fund £120,000 of refurbishments at the site. The city’s council’s Community Investment Fund has also contributed £35,000 to the improvements at the forge.

Tony Green, trustee of Shirley's Bone and Flint Mill Volunteers CIO, said: “Our team of volunteers have been working alongside the city council for the past 40 years in the restoration and preservation of the mill. When the freehold of the site was put up for sale we raised funds to purchase it to ensure its future is protected.

For all media enquiries please contact the press office at Stoke-on-Trent City Council on 01782 233653.

“The work which has now started on site is great news, ensuring the future of this scheduled ancient monument is secure, well maintained and helps to keep our heritage in the Potteries alive for future generations. We’d like to say thanks to all those involved in making this work possible. If anyone would like to join our team of volunteers, please call in to see us or contact us at info@etruriamuseum.org.uk."