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Five Towns (1947)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Two hundred years ago, the Staffordshire valley known as the Potteries was entirely fields and farms, but since the villages spread it has become known as Five Towns.

A factory worker walks down his street of terraced houses. He tells one of his neighbours that his son is bringing home his girlfriend from London. The news spreads and the neighbours excitedly make preparations. The son and his girlfriend arrive. Tea has been laid out in style and the girl meets the family, most of whom work in the pottery factories. They all try to describe what their work is, but the girl is confused by their jargon. The father says she must see for herself.

Fine china clay arrives at the pottery factory. It is mixed with bone dust and powder stone. The mixture is churned up with water into a slip and the slip is pumped into big presses to remove the water. Air bubbles are removed by machine. The clay is made into cups by using a plaster of paris mould. The moulds with cups inside are dried in an electric stove. The turner trims them on a lathe to shape them. Girls stick the handles onto the cups. The cups are put into saggers for firing. The saggers are placed in the ovens and the fires lit. As soon as they are cool enough, the saggers are taken out of the oven and the cups unpacked. The cups are then dunked in glaze and the glaze dried off with infra-red rays. Girls paint the pattern on by hand, singing as they work. The painted cups are then fired.

Workers leave the factory and go home. The family gets ready for a dance at the town hall, with music provided by Jimmie Moss and his Regionaires. On the way home, the boy asks his girl-friend whether she has made up her mind whether or not to marry him. She replies that she finds the Potteries so different to London. He assures her that improvements are on the way, explaining that pottery can be made without producing smoke, as they already do at the Wedgwood factory.

In the modelling shop, a model is first made in clay. A plaster mould is made from the model, and the cups are put onto the handles with a machine. Wedgwood style ornamentation is put onto the plates by hand. Trolleys are used to take the pottery into the electrically-heated ovens. Women paint patterns on the china. The potter shapes a pot with his hands on an electrically-driven wheel.

The girl from London decides to stay. The boy takes her to see the local church. They talk to the vicar who is a member of the Housing Committee. He tells them about the Committee's plans for the future and the improvements taking place. The couple visit a building site and look at new houses.