The Prince’s Regeneration Trust has come to the rescue of the Wedgwood Institute, once listed among the top ten most endangered Victorian and Edwardian buildings in the country.
The Grade II listed building in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent has been allowed to deteriorate since its closure in 2009, due to structural problems. At one point the partial demolition of the property was mooted due to the cost of the extensive repairs required.
Now the City Council is to hand a long-term, cut-price lease to the charity run by Prince Charles, which plans to restore the former ceramics school and library and bring it into commercial use. The proposal is to transform the building into an enterprise centre with a focus on small businesses and the creative industries.
The Wedgwood Institute is a striking example of the Venetian Gothic style endorsed in the writing of eminent nineteenth century art critic and social thinker John Ruskin. The foundation stone was laid by future Prime Minister William Gladstone in 1863 with the building work funded entirely by public donations.
The facade features an elaborate decorative scheme of moulded figures, mosaics and friezes depicting the months of the year and processes involved in the manufacture of pottery. Upon including it on its endangered list in 2010, the Victorian Society described the institute as an “important historic building” that was “crying out for a real use.”
Now there is hope that this can be delivered by the Prince’s Regeneration Trust which has already played a crucial role in restoring the fortunes of the nearby Middleport Pottery factory. In 2011 the works was threatened with closure due to the poor condition of the property.
The trust put together a funding package to acquire the site and carry out a restoration scheme. Today the Prince of Wales visits the building to mark the completion of the £9m project which has made him a popular figure in the city.
“Prince Charles deserves enormous credit for what he’s done here,” a pottery worker said. “He’s saved the factory and he’s saved local jobs.”
Ross Kerslake, the chief executive of the Prince’s Regeneration Trust, says their interest in the Wedgwood Institute pre-dates their involvement in Middleport Pottery and that they have been searching for a solution for some time.
“It’s tragic to see such a beautiful building not being used and we hope the centre could boost the local economy and continue the good work we’ve done in Middleport,” she said.
The Prince’s Regeneration Trust plans to begin work on emergency repairs to the property before the end of the year.