Bicester U3A trip to the World of Wedgwood – 14th April 2016
After a pleasant drive up the motorway(s) we arrived at the Wedgewood Factory around 11.30 am to collect our tickets for the tour and organise ourselves for the day.
Some of us felt in need of a coffee and belated breakfast / early lunch so we took ourselves off to the dining room to partake and discuss our plans. Should we tour the factory first or visit the museum? Then, of course, there was the afternoon tea which some had booked and last but not least, shopping.
Some of us chose to tour the factory; it was possible to do this with or without a guide. The guided tour lasted about 45minutes and took in most of the production processes. We were surprised by how much of the waste material (slip, which is the “clay” mixture) was recycled after the base product was formed. Much of the firing, at about 1250degrees C, is done overnight, as the building becomes very warm and uncomfortable to work in. We were told how bone china is manufactured, with ground cattle bones collected from abattoirs!
Perhaps the most fascinating part of the tour was watching the decoration of the various pieces. One lady was painting freehand, a gold rim around the tops, base and handles of cups. Another was decorating various items with flowers. The range of Prestige ware is mostly decorated by hand, a slow, painstaking process which requires a very steady hand and a great deal of concentration. One bowl on display was worth £750 and formed part of an order for an overseas client. There was even a bag behind the desk for “reclaimed gold”
Wedgwoods’ famous Jasperware requires the raised decorations to be produced in special moulds. The clay is very thin and removing the items from the moulds looked easy but must take years to perfect. Our guide told us that there are only two members of staff who are able to place the “cameo” decorations on to the individual pieces.
At the end of the tour we were able to watch a young lady “throwing” a small vase using a potters wheel. She made it look so easy!
I would have enjoyed wandering around again, taking more time to view each individual process. Unfortunately, to do this would have meant missing out on the museum.
This was divided into three areas, the 18th century, the 19th century and then the 20th and 21st together. Luckily we had been given a map which showed us where the 36 most iconic objects were located. We would never have found them amongst the hundreds of items in the museum. We could have wondered around all day absorbing the fascinating history and viewing the amazing items on display.
After the museum we went to taste the three teas which they were offering that day. My favourite was the Pashmina, which had a slightly orangey flavour. Then into the shop where you could buy any of the current ranges of Wedgewood pottery. There are a great many beautiful items on display. Some with quite staggering prices and others a little more affordable. I had my eye on a bowl, but at £200 I will have to think about it.
During the afternoon a group of 10 of us went off for 'Wedgewood Afternoon Tea Experience' which was super. The room was decorated superbly and the tables set with real Wedgwood china. We appreciated the china after seeing how much went into making it on our trip around the factory. We were treated to a lovely selection of finger sandwiches and individual small cakes and scones with jam and real clotted cream. We could choose from an vast assortment of teas to drink which were brewed specially for each individual. A really lovely time was had and we came out really full from our delicious' tea'.
We then walked over to the factory outlet centre which was selling discounted items. Luckily this was next to the dining room where those of us not having afternoon tea settled down to have a cup of tea and slice of cake before catching the coach for our homeward journey.
Thanks to Joy for organising such an enjoyable trip.