Throughout its celebrated history, the women of Stoke-on-Trent have always been a firm, and active, presence around The Potteries, and Burleigh was no exception to this.
From the earliest stages of Burleigh’s inception there has always been a female presence within the business, be they the female factory workers or the wives and relatives of founders Burgess & Leigh.
Today job roles on the factory are more evenly shared between men and women, however in the past certain tasks were reserved specifically for women. Sponging and fettling in the clay departments, decorating work such as painting and aerographing, ware selection, and order picking in the warehouse were almost exclusively performed by women.
The most revered of jobs was that of the paintress. Which was, somewhat jokingly, referred to as the royalty of the pot bank, which illustrates the, at times, baffling class system of the Victorian ‘pot-bank’. Another important task almost exclusively carried out by women, even to this day, is that of the transferrer. This now unique craft of applying patterns using delicate tissue paper elevates each individual item of Burleigh to a piece of art, an art that we are proud to continue today as the world’s only producer of ceramics to still use copper plate transferring.
During both World War I (1914-1918) and World War II (1939-1945) many of the men of Stoke-on-Trent were called into military service, leaving the women of The Potteries to continue their work in the factories in their absence. During this period women played a hugely important role, especially here at Middleport, taking on physically demanding roles across the factory, from the casting and pressing of clay, through to heavy warehouse work. It is thanks to those dedicated, skilled, and strong women that the production of Burleigh ware has continued through even the most difficult of times.
So today, on International Women’s Day, and every day that we operate, we celebrate the achievements of the women of Burleigh, whose hard work, knowledge, dedication and skill made us what we are today. We couldn’t be prouder.