There are few things more British than afternoon tea; a custom started in 1840 by Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford. To fully understand and enjoy one of the most deeply rooted traditions in Britain, it is necessary to travel to Stoke-on-Trent, a city in the West Midlands region.
The Wedgwood pottery company, founded in 1759, and one of the most famous firms in the country, plans to open a visitor center in Stoke-on-Trent, next April. The new facilities, which are part of a development program, will have elegant lounges to enjoy the afternoon tea served on the finest china. Interactive tours of its legendary factory, visits to the Wedgwood Museum and dinner at the restaurant will also be available for guests.
The experience begins in an outdoor setting with fountains and gardens that lead to the main building. Throughout the year, musical events and other activities for the family will be held in the gardens. Once inside the world of Wedgwood, guests will be able to tour the new factory and observe the potters at work. A guide will be on hand to explain how the famous dishes and gift items are made and decorated.
Visitors can learn about Wedgwood’s extensive heritage and history, dating back to the 18th century when Josiah Wedgwood founded the firm. They may even have direct contact with the expert artisans, test their pottery skills, dip their fingers in the mud or decorate their pieces. Sandwiches, cakes and pastries with their afternoon tea–prepared on the premises–will delight the guests. And for a more formal lunch or dinner, the new Wedgwood restaurant serves dishes made with local products.
The exquisite experience may include a visit to the Wedgwood Museum, opened in 2008 and awarded the 2009 Art Fund Prize for originality. The imaginative galleries house one of the largest ceramics collections in the world. The curators zealously preserve the past of the Wedgwood firm, documented through manuscripts, correspondence and even obsolete machinery once used by the legendary company. ■