Roundhouse, Etruria

The Roundhouse is a curious, Grade II listed circular building quietly hidden in the corner of the Bet365 car park, adjacent to the Trent and Mersey Canal at Etruria near Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent.

This neglected building, built around 1769, with round windows and tiled dome roof, represents the last remaining link with the famous Etruria pottery factory headquarters of the great Josiah Wedgwood, but what it was used for remains somewhat of a mystery.

The roundhouse as it would have looked next to the Canal

It is suggested that these buildings at various times have been used for grinding ceramic raw materials and colours, as counting houses, as stables, and to house the factory’s fire engine.

View of the roundhouse

In 1766 Josiah purchased the Ridge House Estate for £3,000 and began building a new home and factory in what were then rural surroundings.

The factory was called Etruria, after the old Etruscan pottery in Italy, and opened on June 13th, 1769. A further development of this complex was the building of a village and school for his workers.

View of the famous Etruria works from the canal bridge with the roundhouse being visible on the left

Probably Josiah’s greatest contribution to the industry was the invention of Jasper in 1774, and his most successful work, the Portland Vase, in 1790. The adoption of a classical theme for his Jasper ware contributed to the fashion of that period, harmonising with the work of contemporary architects and designers. In 1790 he went into semi- retirement, but his health progressively worsened and he died on January 3rd, 1795, aged 64. His second son, Josiah II, a partner in the firm since 1790, inherited the works and estate of 380 acres.

The factory finally ceased production in 1940 when new premises were opened at Barlaston.

This fascinating relic of this place from a bygone age is nestled next to and almost below the busy A53 road running to festival park and in the corner of a car park used by the city’s largest employer. It is surrounded by trees and easily missed if you were not aware of its presence.

Hundreds if not thousands of people will walk, cycle or pass by here on the adjacent canal and path but I wonder how many take the time to really notice this intriguing piece of history?

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