Welcome to a tour of Shirley’s Bone and Flint Mill

Use the buttons below to explore each area of the mill and see how it was used

Shirley's 1857 Bone and Flint Mill

Shirley’s Bone and Flint Mill is the last remaining operational steam powered potters’ mill in the world. It was built for Jesse Shirley II in 1857 to grind flint, bone and other materials for the pottery and agricultural industries. Between 1789 and 1793 Josiah Spode developed the process of manufacturing bone china;  a fine, white, translucent strong material similar to porcelain, at his Stoke-on-Trent factory. The industry grew and demand for processed bone and flint increased resulting in specialist suppliers. Jesse Shirley was born in 1819. In 1834 he was employed by his step-father John Bourne at his firm of Bourne and Hudson Bone Works, originally as a writing clerk. When John Bourne died in 1852 he left the business to brothers Joseph and Jesse Shirley. It was the latter who had the present Mill built in 1856/1857.

The Etruria Industrial Museum

The mill was in continuous use until 1972. When it closed everything was left intact. It was restored by volunteers from 1978 and opened as a working mill in 1990 with the Etruria Industrial Museum being created round it. The mill is accessed from the Visitor Centre which supports the site by providing a tea room, toilets (including disabled) and a small museum. In addition to the mill the site encompasses the Trent and Mersey and Caldon canals, a canal junction, three locks (one of which is the only remaining staircase lock in Staffordshire), a canal warehouse and check (toll) office and forge. The site is managed, maintained and operated by volunteers in conjunction with Stoke-on-Trent City Council and the Canal and River Trust.