Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke on Trent

Family Day Out: Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent

A Family-Friendly Museum in Stoke-on-Trent

The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent was officially opened in 1956 and was reopened by Prince Charles in 1981 after being renovated and enlarged. I have lived in the area for most of my life and am proud to have “Stoke-on-Trent” on my birth certificate but, I must admit, The Potteries Museum isn’t somewhere that I have appreciated or made use of enough.

“My Stoke Story”

The children and I visited The Potteries Museum as part of our role as ambassadors for “My Stoke Story” (#MyStokeStory), an engagement campaign to promote everything that Stoke-on-Trent has to offer, aiming to bring cultural and tourist organisations across the city together.

Entering the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery

The first thing that strikes you about the museum is its exterior. I’ve walked past many times but never really stopped to take notice of the frontage: a long relief made from over 6000 shaped bricks, with images of the history and industries of Stoke-on-Trent. The images include a pottery factory, with kilns and potters at work; a mine with miners and a pithead; a horse and cart carrying coal, and some canal boats. In front of the museum is the Light Source Statue which was unveiled in 2010 to commemorate 100 years since the coming together of the six towns which formed the borough of Stoke-on-Trent: Tunstall, Burslem, Hanley, Fenton, Stoke and Longton. Slightly further down the pavement is a bronze statue of novelist, playwright and essayist, Arnold Bennett who was born and lived in the city.

potteries museum exterior

As you enter the museum building, the Welcome Desk is straight in front of you, where you can find out more information about the museum and the city and pick up activity sheets for the children. There is no entrance fee to the museum (which is amazing!) but you can make a small donation if you wish.

What Is There To See at the Potteries Museum?

The Potteries Museum is home to a very large collection of objects and artwork, all with a link to the area. The different galleries are packed with various displays of local history, archaeology, natural sciences, art and the world’s greatest collection of Staffordshire ceramics. I really was surprised at how much there was to see, all under one roof!

Ozzy the Owl, the rare Staffordshire slipware jug, made in the Potteries about 1600-1700 and discovered by the BBC Antiques Roadshow team in 1990.

The Museum also hosts temporary exhibitions and up until 3rd November 2019 there is a Space Exhibition, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the first manned Lunar Landing, which my 7 year old especially enjoyed. Our favourite area within the museum however, was the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Mercia Gallery, home to parts of the Staffordshire Hoard.

What is the Staffordshire Hoard?

The world-famous Staffordshire Hoard, discovered by a metal detectorist in a field in Lichfield in 2009, is the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver metalwork ever found. Archaeologists believe that the Hoard, which is made up of over 4000 items, was buried when the region was part of the Kingdom of Mercia, during the 7th Century. The hoard is unique because it is almost entirely made up of war gear and over 1,000 pieces are from a single, ornate helmet. This helmet is the grandest example to have been found from the period and would have been fit for a king.

A very striking and impressive replica of the helmet is on display in the gallery in the Kingdom of Mercia Gallery at The Potteries Museum, along with original objects from the hoard amongst other Anglo-Saxon items, telling us more about Anglo-Saxon life and death. In the centre of the display there is a raised wooden-floored mead hall with columns, a replica fire pit and a king’s chair. The children enjoyed sitting in the chair and pretending to be Saxon royalty and I enjoyed meeting the museum’s resident Anglo-Saxon Warrior!

Anglo Saxon Warrior
Family-Friendly Museums Award

The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery has been shortlisted for the upcoming Kids in Museums “Family Friendly Museum Award” and it is easy to see why. It is obvious that the museum has really thought about their younger visitors and I was pleased to see that in every gallery there were areas set up for children with activities linked to the artifacts on show. My children followed one of the museum’s activity trails that we had picked up at the welcome desk which was a bit like a treasure hunt, meaning that they took notice of all of the exhibits, trying to find the specific items to tick off on their sheets. The museum also holds different events for children, such as their monthly Messy Museum sensory craft sessions which are specially created for under 5s and inspired by a different theme each month, their Fairytale Afternoon Tea where children can enjoy an afternoon tea in the company of fairytale princesses such as Cinderella and Snow White, and their Potty Gardening Club for children aged 7-11. Additionally, schools can book for specific hands-on interactive workshops which are designed to support learning in the classroom and allow pupils to get up close to the museum’s various collections.

There have been lots of different drop-in craft sessions for children throughout the Summer holidays, linked to items in the museum. When we visited children were invited to make space hats, which was great fun! The staff were very attentive and there were lots of different materials to use, allowing the children to be imaginative and artistic with their creations.

crafting at potteries museum
Where is the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery?

The Potteries Museum is located on Bethesda St, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, ST1 3DW and is open daily (Monday to Saturday: 10am – 5pm. Sunday: 11am – 4pm) Find out more here.

Our Verdict

The Potteries Museum is a fabulous family-friendly museum and perfect for a free family day-out, both for those from the area and for those from further afield who are visiting the city. We spent four and a half hours there (we had a lovely, good-value lunch in the cafe) but could easily have spent longer. Definitely somewhere that we in the Typical Mummy family suggest that you add to your ‘to-do’ list!

Have you visited the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery? Let me know about your visit in the comments section below!

Other Things To Do in Stoke

There are lots of things to do in and around Stoke-on-Trent! Here are some of our favourites:

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