Fintan O’Toole: Brexit not the pure shining prize it once seemed

In Leave heartlands, people must decide if Brexit dream still worth sacrificing all else for

“It’s all ‘heritage’ now.” Bottle kiln beside a canal as a barge passes in Stoke-on-Trent, England. File photograph: iStockPhoto

“It’s all ‘heritage’ now.” Bottle kiln beside a canal as a barge passes in Stoke-on-Trent, England. File photograph: iStockPhoto

It is hard, if you spend any time around Stoke-on-Trent, to remind yourself that this was once the centre of the world. Local people don’t even call the place Stoke-on-Trent, a name that was applied overall to the towns of Burslem, Cobridge, Etruria, Fenton, Hanley, Lane End, Longton, Stoke and Tunstall only in 1910. They still call it The Potteries because that is what these towns were for more than two centuries.

It was here that some of the early geniuses of the industrial revolution – most famously Josiah Wedgwood – put together an abundance of coal and water with the discovery that the local red clay, when mixed with flint, could be turned a delicate white – to develop the mass production of affordable ceramics that could be exported around the world. This was the Silicon Valley of the 18th century, the nursery of one of the most profound revolutions in human history.

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