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Burslem - Wedgwood Institute (Geograph-2410804-by-Dave-Bevis).jpg
Burslem - Wedgwood Institute
Population 11,314 (2011.Wards)
OS grid reference SJ875495
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Stoke-On-Trent
Postcode district ST6
Dialling code 01782
Police Staffordshire
Fire Staffordshire
Ambulance West Midlands
EU Parliament West Midlands
UK Parliament
  • Stoke-on-Trent North
List of places
StaffordshireCoordinates: 53°02′33″N 2°11′16″W / 53.042621°N 2.187889°W / 53.042621; -2.187889

Burslem is one of the six towns that amalgamated to form the city of Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England.


Burslem is sited on the eastern ridge of the Fowlea Valley, the Fowlea being one of the main early tributaries of the River Trent. Burslem embraces the areas of Middleport, Dalehall, Longport, Westport, Trubshaw Cross, and Brownhills. The Trent & Mersey Canal cuts through, to the west and south of the town centre. A little further west, the West Coast Main Line railway and the A500 road run in parallel, forming a distinct boundary between Burslem and the neighbouring town of Underlem (Newcastle-under-Lyme). To the south is Grange Park and Festival Park, reclaimed by the Stoke-on-Trent Garden Festival.


The Domesday Book shows Burslem (listed as Bacardeslim) as a small farming hamlet; strategically sited above a vital ford (crossing) at Longport, part of the major pack horse track out of the Peak District and Staffordshire Moorlands to the Liverpool/London road. As far back as the late 12th century a thriving pottery industry existed, based on the fine & abundant local clays. After the Black Death, Burslem emerges in the records as a medieval town - the 1536 stone church is still standing and in use. Until the mid-1760s Burslem was relatively cut off from the rest of England; it had no navigable river nearby, and there were no good & reliable roads. By 1777 the Trent and Mersey Canal was nearing completion, and the roads had markedly improved. The town boomed on the back of fine pottery production & canals, and became known as 'The Mother Town' of the six towns that make up the city. In 1910 the town was federated into the county borough of Stoke-on-Trent, and the borough was granted city status in 1925.

Many of the novels of Arnold Bennett evoke Victorian Burslem, with its many potteries, mines, and working canal barges. The Burslem of the 1930s to the 1980s is evoked by the paintings and plays of Arthur Berry.

Burslem contains Britain's last real working industrial district (i.e.: where people live within walking distance of the factories of a single heavy industry - in this case, the potteries); and thus much of the nineteenth-century industrial heritage, buildings & character have survived intact.

Disused Bottle ovens of Acme Marls on Bourne's Bank, Burslem
Disused Bottle ovens of Acme Marls on Bourne's Bank, Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, with St. John's Church, Woodbank Street, in the background whose sandstone tower dates from 1536 (Photographed May 2008)

A recent report suggested the concentration of pottery-based heritage makes the area the richest stretch of canal for industrial heritage in England.

Trade journals

"BURSLEM, an ancient town, with a market held for a long period by custom, and subsequently sanctioned by an act of parliament, is about three miles from Newcastle and two from Hanley, entitled to the precedence of other towns in this district, as claiming to be the mother, as it is the metropolis, of the Staffordshire Potteries." 1828 journal

"In the Doomsday Survey - for even in that early date Burslem was a place of some importance - the town appears, as "Burwardeslyn;" and frequent mention is made of it in ancient documents during the Middle Ages." 1893 journal

Population and housing

At the 1991 census count, the population of Burslem was 21,400. A study by consultants Atkins, working from the United Kingdom Census 2001 data, showed that the Burslem population is steady and has not declined despite a manufacturing decline during the 1980s and '90s.

Traditional Victorian architecture and Edwardian period terraced houses dominate the town. New housing developments are underway on the Sadlers Factory site and around Woodbank Street.

Heavy industrial employment (mines, steel and pots) has left a legacy of ill-health among many older people, but there is the Haywood Hospital (High Lane, Burslem) and the new £300-million University Hospital of North Staffordshire is just three miles away by road.

Burslem is a multicultural area of Stoke-on-Trent with a significant Asian population.


Old Town Hall, Burslem - - 272797
The old town hall, Burslem, built in 1854. Architect: G.T. Robinson.
Clayhanger Street, Burslem, by the side of the Wedgwood Institute showing the clock tower of Burslem Town Hall in the background, May 2008

Around 5 million tourists visit Stoke-on-Trent each year, supporting around 4,400 direct jobs. Stoke shows its popularity through the number of repeat visits; around 80 percent of visitors have previously been here. Burslem has a variety of strong tourist attractions; Burleigh, Moorcroft, Festival Park, its many pubs, and the Trent & Mersey Canal. Ceramica is one of the largest buildings in Burslem, and was once the town hall.

It also has the legacy of novelist Arnold Bennett, who refers to the town and many of its streets with thinly disguised names: e.g. Burslem/"Bursley", Swan (Square and Pub)/"Duck". It is the setting for one of his most famous works, the Clayhanger trilogy. Burslem's centre benefits from having an almost-intact medieval street-plan and countless fine old buildings, and a townscape which almost-totally escaped re-development during the 1960s and 1970s.

After being under-used for years, the Burslem School of Art has been refurbished at a cost of £2.1m and offers several large free art galleries. The free Public Library is currently based in the School of Art, after the Venetian Gothic Wedgwood Institute closed for safety reasons early in 2009. Ceramica was a new award-winning ceramics family attraction, based in the imposing old Town Hall and funded by Millennium Lottery money but due to the loss of council funding has been closed. The Queen's Theatre has regular concerts and an annual pantomime.

There is a traditional Friday street market, and street carnivals in May and December.

The environment

The town is elevated and is not prone to flooding.

Burslem has a Victorian park designed by Thomas Hayton Mawson, and a large amount of reclaimed green space, such as the Westport Lakes and the later legacy of the 1986 National Garden Festival, which imaginatively reclaimed part of the Shelton Bar steelworks site. The Peak District National Park begins just ten miles north-east of Burslem.


The nearby A500 gives access to the M6 motorway. Longport railway station offers direct connections south into Stoke, east to Derby and Nottingham, and north to Crewe & Manchester. The town is straddled by two major off-road cycle paths, part of the National Cycle Network.

The Trent and Mersey canal is said to see over 10,000 narrowboats a year using it. The former Burslem Canal was constructed in 1805 and remained open until 1961 when it was breached. The Burslem Canal was a branch of the Trent and Mersey Canal running from the junction near to Newport Lane (opposite the old steel works) though to Furlong Lane area of Middleport.

The nearest international airports are Manchester & Birmingham International; each is about 60 minutes away by train.

Burslem was served by a railway station which was opened by the North Staffordshire Railway on 1 November 1873.

In popular culture

George Formby's first sound film, Boots! Boots!, got its world premiere in Burslem in 1934.

The film adaptation of Arnold Bennett's The Card was partly filmed on location in the town.

Robbie Williams included the song "Burslem Normals"' on his album Rudebox, released in 2006. A short film, "Goodbye to the Normals" was made.

A song "Waterloo Road" performed by Jason Crest was written (by Mike Deighan and Mike Wilsh) about the Waterloo Road in Burslem. The song became very popular and even reached no. 1 in France when the French singer Joe Dassin covered it under the title "Les Champs Élysées".

The guitarist Slash, the former lead guitarist of Guns N' Roses, was also an inhabitant of Stoke-on-Trent in his early years. Ian Fraser Kilmister, known as Lemmy, was an English musician, singer and songwriter who founded and fronted the rock band Motörhead.

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