Untold Stories of Burmantofts and New Briggate

The High Streets Heritage Action Zones is a nationwide funding programme, managed by Historic England designed to support physical improvements, community engagement, and cultural activities that will regenerate historic high streets.

Leeds City Council has identified New Briggate with its unique history and cultural identity and are set to receive funding as part of the High Streets Heritage Action Zones (HAZ) programme.

We at East Street have been invited to lead the cultural consortium for New Briggate, which includes: Leeds Heritage Theatres, Leeds Civic Trust, Opera North, North Bar, Age UK, The Churches Conservation Trust.

Together we are working on a pilot project; ‘Untold Stories of Burmantofts and New Briggate’ with commissioned artists Kremena Dimitrova and Rosie Todd and participating groups MAFWA Theatre, Burmantofts Senior Action, and Shakespeare Primary School – read about what we have been up to below:

We have been busy working on this exciting project with artists Kremena and Rosie. Kremena, with the help of volunteer; Robert Dyson from Leeds Civic Trust has been researching the fascinating history of Burmantofts Pottery (right on ESA’s doorstep!) and its relationship to Leeds City Centre Highstreet; New Briggate.

Burmantofts Pottery produced internationally renowned ceramics for 99 years from 1859-1958. Once located on the site of the urban neighbourhoods of East Leeds (Burmantofts, Lincoln Green, Mabgate), home to East Street Arts headquarters, there lies a history as diverse and defining as its current residents – untold stories of earth, clay, industry, and migration.

Burmantofts Pottery met its end when the company could no longer sustain its high-end manufacturing after a wave of mimics flooded the market. Now, Burmantofts ceramics are sold across the world on the antique trade – and rarely, if ever, connected back to the neighbourhood itself.

So far we have discovered all sorts of interesting facts including:

  • One of the most interesting objects made by Burmantofts Pottery was the bullfrog or toad teaspoon warmers. In large Victorian houses, the kitchen was often far away from the dining room to stop cooking smells coming into the main rooms of the house. Spoon warmers, like this one, were filled with boiling water to keep cutlery warm. It was made by Burmantofts Pottery in the late 19th century and is one of a range of ‘grotesque’ objects made by the company.

With so much fascinating material Rosie has been busy making some creative activity packs for our project participants from Shakespeare Primary School, MAFWA Theatre, and Burmantofts Senior Action. Everyone has contributed some fantastic memories and stories and later this month we are going to be delivering clay to people to have a go at making their own Burmantofts style tile.

Our project comes to an end in March when we are hoping to share everyone’s fantastic artwork and the research collected through a fun and interactive resource…watch this space!

Social Media Takeovers

Past Takeovers:

Rosie Todd and Kremena Dimitrova hosted a social media takeover in January 2021 where they discussed their project findings and asked for your stories of Burmantofts Pottery and the area.

During the takeover they ran various activities, please see below the activity sheets for you to download and complete. You can also view the videos used in the takeover on our YouTube channel.