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Wetheriggs Country Pottery

Founded in 1855 - with 2005 marking its 150th anniversary - Wetheriggs Country Pottery is the nation's only remaining steam-powered pottery, and has been, since 1973, scheduled as a National Industrial Monument. Originally it produced bricks, tiles and pipes for the burgeoning industrial revolution that affected even the furthest and most remote regions of the nation, but now provides facilities for more artistic endeavours with potters on hand to help you make your very own ceramic masterpiece!

The pottery was located at Clifton Dykes because they had access to a rich seam of red clay there. Coupled with coal from nearby West Cumbrian pits for power, it was the ideal place. Founders John Schofield and Margaret Thorburn (from the North East) then found a market for house wares in the 1860s, which carried the business forward for nearly a century. After the Second World War decorative ware became more important as did the idea of the Pottery being an attraction in itself.

The original Beehive Kiln, which required coal to power it, was withdrawn from use in the 1960s when Dr Beeching's railway-line cull meant that coal couldn't be easily transported to the pottery. The impressive kiln is now the centrepiece of the museum at Wetheriggs, which traces the pottery's history and charts the change in tastes of the pottery it produced. This is where you can view and learn about the blunger, the rotating steam-driven beam that turned the mixture of clay (left out over the winter for the frost to break it down) and water (from what is now the newt pond) that allowed stones and sand to sink before the clay was siphoned off, drained and left to dry before use.

In 1994 the pottery was restored, with late TV personality, engineer and steeplejack Fred Dibnah restoring the steam machinery the following year. It continues as a working pottery, still producing handmade traditional and contemporary earthen- and stoneware as they have been for the last 150 years. As well as getting a guided tour around the exhibits, visitors can throw their own pots and watch Wetheriggs' potters at work, led by Mary Chappelhow, who trained at Wetheriggs. There are also pottery courses (both evening and daytime) in which to enroll.

With ten acres of grounds and gardens, the pottery is also home to a veritable menagerie of local wildlife, not only including three types of native newt, but also over 30 species of birds and nocturnal visitors such as badgers and foxes.

Wetheriggs Country Pottery from the air

Wetheriggs Country Pottery Information

When: Daily

Where: Penrith

Cost: Free

Opening Hours: Sep-Easter 10am-5pm; Easter-Aug 10am-5.30pm; Closed Christmas holidays

Address: Clifton Dykes, Penrith, CA10 2DH

Hotels near Wetheriggs Country Pottery

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