Monday, 18 May 2009

Etruria Industrial Museum.

With the weather not looking promising we walked up to Festival Park which sounds more glamorous than it is because basically it is a huge retail park with all the usual chain store brands imaginable. We found what we wanted but got a bit wet in the process.

After lunch we went long the towpath to the Etruria Industrial Museum and wouldn’t you know it, because we were under cover the sun came out but it was short lived as it was pouring with rain by the time we left the museum.

Original grinding tanks which had to be re-furbished every 5 months. They are driven by shafts from the floor below.

The museum is now owned by the Stoke on Trent City Council and run by volunteers who run, restore and maintain this working heritage site. The main building guided us through “ The Potteries” with a 15 minute video of old film footage taken in the area, plus the usual names, dates, places and processes etc; but the main thrust of the museum is the Etruscan steam powered Bone and Flint Mill. This had been owned and operated by Jesse Shirley until 1972 when they sold it to the council. Jesse Shirley still operate a modern mill on the opposite side of the canal. The business has been passed down through 6 generations of Jesse Shirley’s the only difference being a different middle name.

The mill sits alongside the Trent & Mersey Canal and had its own dock which would have been capable of holding 8 – 10 boats at a time. We were told that in its hay day there were 700 boats a week passing through the gauging lock (lock 40) next to the mill. It’s hard to imaging how busy it must have been in those days.

The main floor of the crushing plant. The gears are driven from below.The tanks are slurry settling tanks where crushed material and water are separated.

One point of interest was the fact that there had been a large iron and steel industry here as well as the potteries. During WWII this became a target for the German Luftwaffe who on one bombing raid took out the bridge over the canal near the mill. I wonder if there are any unexploded bomb’s still in the canal? Perish the thought.

Two hours just disappeared as we wandered through this time in history taking in all the nostalgia of a bygone age. Another display of woodworking tools amazed us as they had all been used and passed down through the same family for 4 generations until eventually modern equipment superseded them and they were presented to the museum.

Belt driven crusher at Etruria mill.

We will return for the week-end of the 30-31 May as the museum really comes to life with a festival and the steam engine (Princess as she is lovingly known) coming to life with the monthly steam days. The steam boat “President” will be in attendance along with other boats and vintage vehicles.

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