Charles visits porcelain works

Prince CharlesThe Prince of Wales has toured a historic porcelain works which is being regenerated thanks to one of his charities.

Charles spent Tuesday morning at the Middleport Pottery site, which was secured by the Prince's Regeneration Trust (PRT) two years ago after a lengthy funding drive attracted public and private donations.

The future of the Stoke-on-Trent site, built in 1888, had been in doubt until the PRT stepped in, as the principal tenant, porcelain-maker Burleigh, had been planning to leave the works altogether.

Since the PRT bought the site, however, the company's sales are up 16%, and more staff have been hired, bringing the total employed at the site to 60, while work to regenerate the area continues.

The red-brick canalside Victorian buildings making up Middleport are in the Burslem area Stoke, in the heart of Staffordshire's Potteries, famed around the world for its quality porcelain.

Tuesday is the second of a two-day UK tour Charles is undertaking to champion British business, engineering and craftsmanship. He has shown a close interest in the Middleport site since 2009 when plans were first discussed for the Prince's charity to step in and regenerate the works.

Charles met staff from Denby-owned Burleigh, as well as project engineers from the PRT, which is in the process of overhauling the site in a £7.5 million project to make it a community attraction.

He was shown the Victorian offices which are undergoing a spruce-up - in 2011 the wooden flooring was blighted with dry rot - and looked at the original bottle kiln, which is also being refurbished.

Among those he chatted with was Shirley Davies, who has worked in the trade for 30 years, and was so nervous at meeting the Prince that she barely slept a wink all night.

She said: "I didn't want to fluff my words, that's the only thing I could think about, I was so nervous. He asked me what I was doing, and I explained my job is preparing the biscuitware before its gets sent upstairs for decoration. We have to make sure the quality of the ware is good, checking it hasn't cracked in the kiln. Then we rub down any lumps, and get it nice and smooth, and good enough for what we call 'perfect'."