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.
A unique piece of heritage
The Institute’s architectural significance lies in its 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 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.
Plans for the future
We have now produced a business plan for a project to conserve and convert the building into an enterprise centre with flexible workspace for rent, event rooms to hire, and business support, training and education facilities. The plan compares the feasibility of a range of design options and includes a financial appraisal of each. From this analysis, the business plan recommends a preferred design option which is both achievable and viable.
The plan will create jobs and support businesses in one of the most deprived cities in the UK.
Phase One Works
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.