The Wedgwood Institute, Burslem

Mid-19th century site with important artistic detail, built by public funds for adult education.


The Wedgwood Institute was built in 1865 as a place to run courses for the working men of Burslem on science, business and the arts. It was built in memory of Josiah Wedgewood, the 18th century potter and philanthropist and has deep-rooted community significance, as its construction was funded entirely by the public.

The Institute’s architectural significance lies in its decorative façade of elaborate brickwork and rich terracotta decoration. There are moulded figures showing the months of the year and the processes of pottery making, and also mosaics, friezes and a life-size sculpture of Josiah Wedgwood.

The building has been used as an educational institute, a university and, most recently, as a public library. When the library closed in 2008 the building was already deteriorating and its future was uncertain. It is on the English Heritage Buildings at Risk Register and in 2010 was listed as one of the top 10 most endangered Victorian buildings.

Our involvement with Wedgwood Institute started when we organised a planning day in May 2009 for key stakeholders to brainstorm potential new uses. The Burslem Regeneration Company subsequently identified the building as a priority for regeneration and is working with us to develop a viable scheme. In 2012 we set up a project team with English Heritage, the Prince’s Charities and Stoke-on-Trent Council. Working together, the team produced a design which will conserve the original 1860s building and revive the institution’s raison d’être of supporting enterprise and delivering education.

In September 2015 we completed the first stage in the Institute's restoration, working with contractors William Anelay. Costing approximately £850,000, we have opened up the Institute’s ground floor for temporary public use, and it is currently home to the Burslem School of Art. The aim has been to safeguard the structure while a funding package is put together for the second, more extensive phase of the project. The initial stage of the project has been made possible thanks to funding from the European Regional Development Fund, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic England and Stoke Council.

We have now secured funding for the Development of the Main Phase Works (through an HLF Heritage Enterprise grant and SCC funding). HLF has also earmarked an additional £2.15m for the Delivery (Construction) Phase. The Development Phase started in early January and we aim to complete it by November 2016; the Delivery Phase (a.k.a Construction on site) will then start in summer 2017 and will be completed in spring 2019.

As part of the Development we have appointed a Project Officer, Sarah Richardson, who will be leading on Community Consultation and Activities and will also be responsible for the interim tenants (Burslem School of Art Trust and Haywood Academy), who moved into the building at the beginning of March as the School of Art is currently being refurbished.

We also started the OJEU procurement of a Design Team and Quantity Surveyor. Architects, Panther Hudspith; Quantity Surveyors, Greenwood Projects; and Heritage Interpretation Consultant, Far Post Design Ltd. have been appointed to complete the development phase works.

In the meantime, we are currently working the Conservation Management Plan and securing the match funding (c. £3.7m from ERDF and £0.5m from Trust and Foundations and corporate funders). We aim to secure the capital funding by spring 2017.