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Gentleman’s Afternoon Tea

It’s not just Mum’s who can enjoy an Afternoon Tea. Here we bring you some ideas for a ‘Gentlemen’s Afternoon Tea’ you can treat your loved ones to this Father’s Day.

You just need to replace the dainty finger sandwiches and cupcakes for a ‘heartier’ selection of delights including cheese, pork pie and pickles.

Why not go for a Staffordshire flavour with cheese from Cheddleton, Branston Pickle (first made in Burton, Staffordshire), Arnold Bennett Omelette, Clay Suzettes (Oatcakes) and Staffordshire Yeoman Pudding.

Round it all off with a local beverage of Titanic Plumporter or Spitfire beer!

Arnold Bennett Omelette Recipe

Staffordshire Yeomanry Pudding Recipe

History of Tea

Potty Gardening Club: Dandelion – Friend or Foe?

Dandelions are one of the most successful plants in the world, they seem to grow anywhere! In the cracks of the pavement, in your lawn and flower bed, at the side of the road – in fact anywhere they can set roots down. We are all familiar with dandelion clocks, like the one in my photograph:

It’s the fluffy seed ball that separates into lots of tiny parachutes carried on the wind. If the tiny parachute seeds can land in a small crack a dandelion will grow. Dandelions are in the same plant family as the Daisy and the Sunflower. They are perennials, which means they will survive over winter and grow again. Their long taproots go deep into the ground where they are protected against the winter weather. The roots store food to provide the energy the plants need to sprout in early Spring the next year. It’s the very deep root of the dandelion which can grow up to 1.5 meters deep that make it so difficult for gardeners to pull the plants out of soil. Strangely these deep roots benefit other plants by mining nutrients deep in the soil, bringing them up closer to the surface where other shallower-rooted plants can make use of them. So, before we class the poor old dandelion as a weed let’s take a closer look.

There is a lot to be discovered about the dandelion. Let’s start with the name. If you hold a dandelion leaf horizontally and have a good look or look at the picture below it may resemble a row of teeth . Well it did to someone in the past, who called it the dent-de-lion which is French for ‘lion’s tooth’. And did you know dandelions can be used as a green salad food? Dandelions used to be praised as a food crop. The entire plant, leaves, stems, flowers, and roots are all edible. Dandelion greens contain important vitamins A, C, E, and K, as well as calcium, potassium, iron, and manganese so are a good food source. They can be eaten fresh or cooked. The flowers can also be used to make tea, wine and pop. During World War 2, dried, roasted roots were ground up and used to make a caffeine-free coffee substitute.

And that’s not all, yellow dye can be made from the flowers and the roots. Dandelions are an important plant for bees and other pollinators that rely on this early flowering plant when no other flowers are blooming as a source of nectar. The dandelion plant was well known and used by the ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, and the Anglo Saxons. Dandelions were prescribed for every ailment from warts and upset stomach to the plague. How can such a marvellous plant with so many beneficial properties be classed as a weed? What do think? The Dandelion, Friend or Foe, Weed it or Grow?

This week we have two colouring pictures – you can download the first sheet here. We also have this dandelion flower with its sunshine dye removed – why don’t you see if you can put the colour back and make it shine again?

Written by Rob Gagliano, Casual Learning Development Leader and Natural Science Collections Volunteer

Spitfire Progress – Dispersed Production

The Coronavirus outbreak halted much of the work on Spitfire RW388 for a number of weeks. Several members have been working on new or refurbished parts away from the main workshop. There are many pieces of the Spitfire which were missing when it came to the city. Replacing these with replicas or authentic spares has been an important part of the overall restoration.

As work to make or restore these smaller components has spread out, it has reminded the team of the ‘Dispersed Production’ programmes of the Second World War, albeit for very different reasons.

During the war, it was feared that bombing raids on factories could severely affect the production of weapons and equipment for the war effort. ‘Shadow Factories’ were established to spread production out – reducing the impact that a single, damaged factory could have.

Local shadow factories included the Rootes Securities site at Blythe Bridge, producing parts for various Bristol aeroplanes, and the Birmingham Small Arms Company factory in Newcastle-under-Lyme producing Hispano cannon.

Here’s a selection of replica or refurbished parts the team have been working on:

Wheel chocks
Oxygen valve
Hydraulic hoses
Generator mounting bracket

Painting Continues

The second colour in the Spitfire’s camoflague scheme has been applied to the fuselage. This dark green and grey scheme was the preferred choice for late-war fighters as it offered better camoflague against a mixture of land and sea. Internally, the cockpit area has been painted with primer following a careful clean-up.

Dark sea green camoflague applied to the fuselage. You can also see one of the refitted armour plates at the back of the cockpit area.
Cockpit area after priming

Building models

For parts that still need to be manufactured, the team have been producing a series of cardboard templates from which accurate drawings can be made for various attachment and support items. 

‘Flight to Ground’ switch resting on a cardboard template for its mounting bracket.

In a first for MAPSL, 3D printing is being employed to make a replica front panel for the radio select controller – having a scanned an original panel kindly loaned by the Biggin Hill Heritage Hanger. A low quality test-print has been done to test the scan – and a second, higher quality print using ABS material will follow soon.

Radio select controller, loaned by the Biggin Hill Heritage Hanger for 3D scanning
Low-quality test print of the radio select controller front panel

Building the seat

Another major assembly that is taking much time and attention is the pilot’s seat.  The seat assembly that is on loan from Biggin Hill Heritage Hanger has been returned to MAPSL from R Lane Engineers.  Using the genuine seat for reference, this company has produced the complicated height adjuster and its associated ratchet and support tubes.

Seat assembly with height adjuster

The numerous brackets attached to the rear of the seat that hold the seat harness in place and the amour plate are in progress too.  It is planned to start manufacture of the actual seat soon.

Wheels and Wings

Since the last report all three wheel and tyre combinations have returned from foam filling at Vaclug and the undercarriage doors have been painted in medium sea grey.

Undercarriage door, painted in medium sea grey

For the wings, fibre glass cannon cowlings are due to be manufactured by Replica Aircraft Fabrications in Cornwall, temporarily on hold due to the lockdown. However, the two brake flaps have been painted in medium sea grey and the rear wing to fuselage fairings have been painted in medium sea grey and ocean grey.

Rear wing-to-fuselage fairing, painted in medium sea grey and ocean grey

The aluminum frame of the gun camera support that fits in the starboard wing root has been thoroughly cleaned, rebuilt, and painted silver.  The bakelite material has been cleaned and lacquered.

Gun camera support cleaned, rebuilt and painted.

That’s all for this Spitfire blog, but as ever there’ll be more to come soon! Including some updates on the construction work on RW388’s new home. I’ll leave you with this image of MAPSL’s ‘Battle Bear’, who has been rebranded in light of recent events. A lighthearted reminder of the continued importance of staying safe wherever you live and work.

Frank Scott Collection of Rolled Pipe Clay Figures.

The Frank Scotty Collection of 26 rolled pipe clay figures by William Ruscoe and students of the Burslem School of Art.

In 2016 The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery’s ceramics department acquired their very own wine butler, shepherd, gardener, conjuror, two strongmen and a drunk! These welcomed additions to the department are of course rolled clay figures and not a new intake of staff members. To be exact the museum was fortunate enough to acquire the Frank Scott Collection of 26 rolled pipe clay figures made by William Ruscoe and students of the Burslem School of Art (BSA) during the 1930s.

William Ruscoe was born at Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England on June 20th 1904, the son of William Ruscoe, potter. After studying art at Stoke-on-Trent under Gordon M. Forsyth he worked as an assistant at the BSA (1938–1942), serving as tutor in the practical side of pottery at the Royal College of Art, London (1939–1940). He then became master-in-charge at Stoke School of Art (1942–1944). He married and moved to Devon in 1944, where he took up a post as assistant master under William Green, A.R.C.A. at the Exeter School of Art to teach drawing and painting and to set up the Ceramics Department. He worked at the college for twenty-five years until his retirement in 1969. He died at Exeter on September 11th, 1990.[1]

Inspired by salt-glazed stoneware pew groups of the eighteenth century, he brought the art of making rolled clay figures to a new level of skill and subtlety. Using both earthenware and porcelain William Ruscoe and other student at the BSA created a wonderful assortment of figures that are naive in design and considerable in their appeal. The rolled clay figures were exhibited at a number of large exhibitions both nationally and internationally highlighting the fact that the figures were appreciated as the work of skilled potters despite their often amusing appearance.

William Ruscoe’s talents extended well beyond rolled clay figures including the creation of many pieces of studio pottery. He was especially interest in glazing techniques, a topic on which he published a book titled Glazes for the Potter in 1974 and which led to the creation of some wonderful and colourful finishes to his pottery.

The collection of figures was gifted to the museum by the niece of Mr Frank Scott. Frank Scott was a potter who trained at the Burslem School of Art during the 1930s and worked alongside William Ruscoe. Scott’s and Ruscoe’s association continued until the outbreak of WWII when Frank joined the army and Ruscoe moved to Devon. Frank Scott was himself an accomplished potter and was offered the opportunity to work as a designer at Royal Worcester, an offer he declined as he wished to remain in Newcastle-under-Lyme. After WWII Mr Scott chose to leave the pottery industry and instead pursued a career in sales. The collection of rolled clay figures were no doubt a wonderful reminder of Mr Scott’s time as at the Burslem School of Art.


[1] http://georgewadamson.com/williamruscoe.html

An Ideal Gift for Father’s Day?

Father’s Day, marked on the third Sunday in June, was ‘invented’ in 1910 in the USA and was only slowly adopted in the UK. Since World War II, however, it has been much more widely celebrated and this year, once again, fathers across the country will be receiving cards and gifts.

What to get men as an appropriate present (apart from socks) can be a problem, but the pottery industry has regularly risen to the challenge. Today a humorous mug may be a popular gift, but in the 19th century, when beards and moustaches were almost universally worn, the potters realised that the challenge of keeping facial hair looking good was a marketing opportunity for them.

Bone china moustache cup with painted and gilded decoration, Staffordshire, 1880s
Collection of the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent

In the early 1870s one Stoke-on-Trent firm, Harvey Adams & Co., of Longton, invented an entirely new item to sell to the public. According to Llewellyn Jewitt’s Ceramic Art of Great Britain, published in 1877, the firm had “the credit of being the first to make and introduce ‘moustache cups’ – an invention that has become so popular as to be adopted by many other firms.”

During the first half of the 19th century many men had been clean-shaven, but by the 1870s beards – and especially moustaches – had become popular. The latter were often waxed in order to shape them and the steam from tea drinking could soften this wax, causing the moustache to lose its shape and droop. The moustache cup avoided this social embarrassment and, as Jewitt noted, within a few years many other pottery firms were making and selling moustache cups.  

These useful and decorative items were ideal gifts for fathers, brothers and husbands. Some, like this one, are decorated with hand painting and gilding and many had additional inscriptions added to personalise them. These inscriptions are usually the recipient’s name, often with the date of the gift’s presentation or the recipient’s birth date, but others have short phrases, such as ‘Remember the Giver’. They are only rarely marked with the maker’s name.

Moustache cups remained popular until the early 20th century when fashions in men’s facial hair changed. After World War I many men chose to be clean shaven or sported a small, neat moustache inspired by movie stars such as Clark Gable or Ronald Coleman. The moustache cup was no longer necessary and ceased to be produced.

Whether or not men chose to sport a moustache, unless they decided to grow a full beard, they needed to shave on a regular basis. In the 19th century some working men would only shave once a week, but white-collar workers would be expected to shave daily. This would have involved a ritual of hot water, shaving soap and, until the introduction of the safety razor in 1903, a cut-throat razor. Potters saw another marketing opportunity and introduced the shaving mug.

Hard paste porcelain shaving mug with printed and painted decoration, German, c.1900
Collection of the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent

This curiously-shaped handled mug allowed the user to froth up the soap with a shaving brush in the top. Hot water would be poured into the mug and the hard shaving soap would rest on the pierced surface. The shaving brush, dipped into hot water, would froth up the soap and the holes in the top allowed the soapy water to drain back into the body of the mug, while the spout allowed the shaver to rest the brush there while shaving, and then to empty the soapy water out.

Like the moustache cup, the shaving mug was a popular gift. Many Staffordshire pottery firms produced them but Continental firms also made them, often at a cheaper price, and large numbers of late Victorian, brightly decorated German porcelain examples, like this one, survive. The introduction of the first shaving cream in the post-World War I period saw the gradual decline in the use of hard shaving soap. By the late 1950s shaving cream was dominant, with new and improved products being constantly developed, and there was no longer a need for shaving mugs.

Personal Stories of the Second World War – Part 1

In the run up to the opening of our new Spitfire Gallery in 2021 we’re starting to collect the personal stories and memories of life and service during the Second World War..

If you have a story to share, contact us at

Les Roberts, one of our Visitor Services Team, tells his family story:

My dad, Leslie Roberts, and his brother, Kenneth, both fought in the Second World War and were some of the few British born black soldiers in domestic regiments. My Grandfather, John Roberts was one of the first black men to settle in Stoke-on-Trent after coming over from Sierre Leone and fighting in the First World War. Later, he was an Air Raid Patrol Warden during the Second World War.

John Roberts

My dad and uncle were both keen boxers. My Uncle Ken’s professional boxing career was stopped by the war. Before signing up he was managed by Jack Fitzgerald who also managed Tut Whalley and Tiny Bostock. He continued boxing while he was a Driver with the Royal Army Service Corps as well as being a PE Instructor.  In 1942 he won a medal for middleweight Inter-Battalion boxing.

My dad was only 13 when the war broke out. He was called up aged 18 and served with the North Stafford Regiment (Prince of Wales). He was part of the D-Day landings in 1944, landing on Gold beach and then fought his way through France and Germany with the Allied forces. He also helped to liberate Nazi concentration camps.

Leslie Roberts (senior)

After being a Driver, my Uncle Ken volunteered as paratrooper with the 21st Independent Parachute Company. He tragically died at Arnhem during the failed Operation Market Garden in 1944. Years later my Grandmother received a letter from another soldier at Arnhem, Peter George Delduca, explaining that Ken lost his life saving a friend who was still on the bridge. He died of his wounds in the Hospital at Jonkerbos on 29th September 1944, aged 23. He is buried at Jonkerbos War Cemetery, near Nijmegen in The Netherlands.

Ken Roberts with other soldiers, back row, 3rd from right

St. Luke’s & Betley Schools

The Key Worker’s children at St Luke’s and Betley First School have been extremely busy creating a range of art work on some local themes.

Arthur Berry Dogs

The children looked at the work of artist, Arthur Berry. We discussed his interest in buildings of the local environment and his use of materials to make them look shabby and old. We looked at one of Arthur Berry’s dog pictures and tried to create a scruffy and friendly version for ourselves. The children got extremely messy with the black graphite pencils and oil pastels and some children added a googly eye for special effect!

Lowry, VE Day 1945

The children have been learning about VE Day. Following the VE Day celebrations this year, we looked at the painting, VE Day 1945 by artist, L S Lowry. Each child drew a row of terraced houses on to fabric and some children looked in greater detail at the painting and copied some of the other buildings. Each child created a small figure from pipe cleaners and felt, bending the pipe cleaners to express movement. Lastly, they created mini bunting which two children very delicately glued on to the string. The children’s art teacher assembled all of the pieces and glued them on to a board. The picture is displayed at the front of school for parents to have a look.

Bottle Kiln Cushions

The children looked at some images of pottery factories.  Some children said that they had visited them with their parents. Each child cut out their own symmetrical bottle kiln shape from paper and then drew around it on to their fabric. Detail was added using a whiteboard pen. Then fabric crayons and fabric dye were used to create an atmospheric effect. The children’s art teacher sewed and stuffed the cushions. The children were very excited to take their cushions home to share with their parents.

Bottle Kiln Canvas

The children looked at images of historic bottle kilns and pottery factories. Some of the children had visited Middleport Pottery with their parents and had seen ‘The Poppies’  First, the children created their own ‘canvas’ from pieces of corrugated cardboard and then they drew the terraced houses and the bottle kilns with whiteboard pens. They used black graphite pencils to create the shadows and atmosphere. The children learned to use watercolour paints, blending and mixing the colours for effect. Finally, the pictures were ‘glazed’ with a mixture of PVA glue and water. 

Clay pottery factory:

Each child created a bottle kiln and a factory building from air drying clay. These were painted with watercolour paints and ‘glazed’ with a mixture of PVA glue and water. The children arranged their pieces on to a base to resemble an old pottery factory.

Middleport ‘calico’ design print:

The children looked at a piece of ‘Burleigh’ pottery with the blue ‘calico’ design. They drew their own flower on ‘polyprint’ and then printed their design on to the fabric. All of the children loved the printing and took their piece of polyprint home but the actual print remains on display in school.

Shared Experiences

Some of your have been kind enough to share your experiences of the Coronavirus pandemic and lockdown. Some of these will be retained in the archives for future generations.

My Experience of Coronavirus Lockdown 2020

Submitted by anonymous

At the age of 73 years I did not expect there to be many things I would be doing for the first time. However, when we were placed in lockdown on March 23rd due to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, that proved to be the case.

There had been feelings of unease over several weeks as the BBC kept us informed of the virus spreading out of China and advancing ever nearer. I remember going on Sunday March 22nd for a walk on Keele campus, not only to exercise ourselves and the dog but also to inspect the progress of the cherry blossoms that adorn the campus. That was the first time I became aware that I was viewing other walkers warily and physically distancing myself when they came into view.

The following day it was official. We were told to socially distance ourselves keeping two metres apart when outdoors, to stay indoors leaving only to exercise, work or shop. I live with my husband aged 78 years, a dog who requires exercise and an elderly cat who only requires food and sleep. Being retired our concerns were simply to shop for food and get our daily exercise. As we are both over 70, we are deemed to be in a high risk category, my husband has high blood pressure and I have a chronic chest condition.

So, I suppose at the early stage my main feeling was one of fear. Every day the news showed many more deaths from this virus which seemed to be spreading as fast as the Australian bush fires of a few months ago! When told you are “high risk” it certainly ensures you keep to the rules because you think “If I get this virus, its likely it’ll kill me.” Both my husband and I sat down and wrote instructions about what we wanted to happen if we died, where we wish to be buried etc. We should have done this years ago, but being faced with such a deadly virus does focus the mind. I checked regularly online to see how many cases were in Stoke but, was relieved to see it remained relatively low.

In March it was my birthday. It felt strange not to leave the house all day but I had many phone calls, emails and post to keep me occupied and in a celebratory mood. We are fortunate to have a garden and the sun shone that day – as it has many days since – as we had a very select tea party outside with just the two of us.

I belong to a correspondence magazine. There are nine of us all over the UK and we have been exchanging monthly letters for over forty years. We decided early on in lockdown that, to prevent journeys to the post office, we would send our letters by email and print and post them to the one member (aged 92) who is not on email. In addition, we would chat using Zoom – a new experience for a 73 year old!

Each Friday now at 2p.m. we have forty minutes to see each other, check we are all well, say what we have been up to and generally make each other feel better for the contact. I am telephoning the member not online each week to update her.

Zoom has also proved valuable for the shared reading that I do as a Stoke libraries volunteer. These sessions have, obviously been cancelled which is very sad as I know they are helpful for the benefits gained from meeting others.       I feel sorry for the group members and wonder when it will be deemed safe enough for the group to resume.

Meanwhile, members of shared reading groups in Tunstall and Longton libraries have started a Zoom group and we now “meet” each Monday morning to share a short story and poem. This is particularly beneficial for those living alone, it helps to talk and to share our thoughts on what we have read. We are not limited to forty minutes and usually 6 or 7 of us talk for about an hour and a half.

On May 11th it was my granddaughter’s 9th birthday but she lives in London. We had filmed a short video of us singing Happy Birthday which featured us together with dog and cat and this was sent to her by WhatsApp first thing on 11th. At 4pm that day we connected with the family using Zoom along with her other grandparents who are in Plymouth. She chatted with us all, showed us some of her presents, asked to see the dog and shared some of the questions she and her friends had been asked when they linked up to do a Zoom quiz together at 2p.m. There were no moans from her about her unusual birthday but I felt it was sad we could not physically give her a hug. Her six year old brother was most concerned about his ever lengthening hair, it reached the stage when his sight was blocked by his fringe so his parents gave in and he now has something we used to call a crew cut!

So, what will I remember of this time in lockdown?

I will remember the feeling of community and offers of help. When out walking with dog, most people now greet me and there is a feeling of all being a community together facing this adversity. The local group on Facebook has had a mixture of posts, some have been quite nasty and paranoid while one person asked for stories in large print and I was able to lend some of mine which felt good. It was also FB that alerted me to the trend of placing teddies in upstairs windows for children to look for when out on their daily exercise.

I will remember having to make lists of any shopping we need, not being able to just pop to Sainsbury’s as usual, having to be more organised. We were lucky to have kind neighbours shopping for us but there were many days when I looked in the fridge and wondered “what I can make into a meal!”

It was frustrating and scary but I have a great deal to be grateful for. We have enjoyed our garden, I have been posting photos of new blooms each week on Facebook, my husband has taken advantage of free time to work in the greenhouse and tackle some overdue weeding. I have read more books than usual; there is time each morning when the Guardian arrives to sit down and read it at leisure and attempt the crossword and we have also used Amazon Prime and Netflix to watch films on TV.

But I do crave a decent cappuccino and I wonder how long my hair will grow before I am allowed to visit a hairdresser!

Time with Pets

Many of us are spending more time with our pets during lock down. So we shared this painting by the Italian painter and photographer Eugenio Zampighi (1859–1944). He specialised in creating cheerful and idyllic images of Italian rural life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

We asked you to share your own pictures and stories of your pets.

Kieran and Co-Co

My little boy Kieran age 6 has been asking for a pet for a while. So during lockdown we’ve allowed him to have a pet hamster. He adores her and really looks after her better than we ever imagined. Her name is Co-Co. She now comes to the cage door for her daily cuddles. Luckily she wakes up at the end of what would be a school day so when he goes school again she will be awake when he comes home. 

Lisa & Hector

Hector is a big dog trapped in a little cat’s body. He likes to play stick and carry his favourite toy ‘Chilli’ around in his mouth. I’m under no impression that I am head of the house – merely a live-in P.A. I get the impression that Hector is enjoying lockdown. The first couple of weeks I was bestowed with ‘gifts’ for my commitment to constant door-opening. Door-opening is usually a thankless task. He considers it more a disciplinary process – like the ‘pick-your-jacket-up’ scene in Karate Kid (2010). Hector is Jackie Chan. Open the door. Sit down. Stand Up. Open the door. Sit down. Stand up. Open the door. Sit down…Nevertheless, he’s my valued lockdown buddy, the reason to get out of bed in the morning. Mainly because he’s a complete and utter nuisance until I get up. Open the door. Sit down. Stand up.

Oliver & Nikko

This is Nikko and our son. They are inseparable!  Nikko is nearly 2 years old and is a white German Shepherd. We have had him from a puppy from a rescue centre. Since having Nikko Oliver has always said he is his bestest buddy but since the lock down he has relied on his canine friend even more. He often talks to him about what is happening in his day and they both let of steam during walks, chasing each other and playing in the garden.