Mapping the Minton Manufactory

Alongside the many new Art & Design images included in our latest catalogue update were a number of additions to other areas of the online catalogue, including a pair of records related to the layout and look of Minton’s China Works in the first half of the 20th century. The first, a copy of an aerial drawing of the Works at SD 1705/MS1217, had been so meticulously drawn that we couldn’t help but wonder how it might compare to a map from a similar period.

The original catalogue for the Minton company records notes that Minton’s Managing Director, J.E. Hartill, dated MS1217 as showing the works no later than 1932 and the 1900 Ordnance Survey Map for this area – Staffordshire XVIII.5 (Stoke On Trent) – seemed to show a very similar layout to that of the sketch. So similar, in fact, that we decided to digitally offer it up to MS1217 to see how the two related to each other… and we were not disappointed!

Staffordshire XVIII.5 (Stoke-on-Trent) reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (CC-BY-NC-SA)

As you can see from the interactive comparison above the placement of the factory buildings, walls, and bridges are perfectly matched – so much so that we wouldn’t be surprised if some sort of map was used in the creation of the original drawing. On top of this super-accurate layout there are all sorts of wonderful details, from the bulbous bottle ovens and spindly chimneys right down to individual windows, doors and stairways.

The China Works is also represented in the photographs of SD 1705/MS1220, though this time the views are (mostly) from street level instead. This volume (which was originally a “Fine Earthenware Scales” book before the photographs were pasted in!) contains images of many of the same buildings shown in the aerial drawing and, although these are dated a little later at circa 1945, we thought that it might be possible to locate the spot on which each photo was taken by using MS1217’s details as our guide and the full drawing as our base map.

Although some were a little trickier to place than others – especially the few that were taken from windows or rooftops! – the excellent level of detail in the drawing meant we were able to calculate the locations for all eleven photographs in MS1220, which you can see mapped out below. Each camera marker represents a photo location and they’re individually orientated to show the direction the camera was pointing when the photograph was taken. Clicking on these markers shows the original photograph as well as the caption written alongside it in MS1220, and of course you can zoom in and move around to see all the features shown on the underlying aerial drawing too!

Zoom in and out with your mouse’s scroll wheel or by using the on-screen controls. Click and drag the image to move it around. On touch-enabled devices drag the image with your finger and pinch to zoom. Select a marker to see the photograph taken at that location; each marker is orientated to match the direction of view.

Frustratingly there are a number of similar records that, despite our best efforts, wouldn’t connect up to the aerial drawing in the same way, including a small collection of factory views at SD 1705/MS3675-MS3679, a slightly distant aerial photograph of the area at SD 1705/MS3188, and another excellent Works plan within the “Miscellaneous file” of SD 1705/MS1218 (An honourable mention should also go to the duplicate Works photographs at SD 1705/MS1219 as well!). At some point we even started eyeing up some of the Minton Patent Oven plans and eventually formed a bit of a hunch as to which building the kiln plans at SD 1705/MS1092 might belong to… (but are we actually right?!)

One further record we will highlight however – even if it’s not mappable – is SD 1705/MS1341, a “Souvenir Book” which includes photographs of the Minton factory and the various stages of ceramic production. Annotated with the date “1932” it neatly ties in with the period covered by the aerial drawing and the factory views and shows what the factory looked like on the inside too. It’s fully browsable within the online catalogue, and also embedded below…

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