Category Archives: North Staffordshire

LLEWELLIN’S KIDSGROVE: First Impressions

Saint-Thomas's-The-Avenue-Kidsgrove

In 1922, the Rev Frederick George Llewellin, a graduate of Durham University, became the Vicar of Kidsgrove.

Frederick wrote a book “The Lighter Side of a Parson’s Life” about his ministry in the parish and the boat people he married in St. Thomas’s Church. In this edited extract from the book, he describes his first impressions of Kidsgrove and The Potteries:

Ignoring all prophesies that I would not stand the strain for more than three months, I accepted the benefice of Kidsgrove in autumn 1921.

The parish is six miles north-east of Stoke-upon-Trent and ten miles south-west of Crewe. Thus, we are outside The Potteries, and I am glad that we are. The pottery people are so terrible in their cynicism. Observing that I had “come from the country” one of them asked me if I would like a nice calendar. Naturally, I said “Yes” and thanked him most heartily for his generous offer.

But what diabolical plot was ever so cruelly played upon an unsuspecting yokel. My wife and I opened the envelope containing the calendar when the postman brought it.

Like most women, my wife hates spending money to replace broken crockery. You can imagine the look on her face when we saw he had sent us a calendar with a picture of a large black cat dancing a on a breakfast table and smashing all the best cups and saucers. Underneath the illustration, the villain had arranged for this inscription to be printed:

Good luck to the cat that breaks the crocks
In pieces very small,
For things like this they do us good
And benefit us all.

There are about 5,500 parishioners in Kidsgrove. Most of them are employed in the coal mining industry, in engineering, in the chemical industry or on the railway. Some work in the pottery industry and travel daily to factories in Tunstall and Burslem.

Last, but certainly not least, I have a small “moving population” of boat people known locally as the “Bargees”. People who have read the stories about these “Water Gipsies” by L. T. Meade already know something about my Kidsgrove Bargees, of whom I am intensely fond.

Post: Copyright 2020 North Staffordshire Heritage

(Photograph of St. Thomas’s Church, Kidsgrove © Copyright Galatas and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.)

FOCUS ON EDUCATION: Werrington Industrial School

Despite the harsh sentences which the courts imposed on young offenders, juvenile crime increased dramatically during the 1850s.

Parliament realised that a new method of dealing with juveniles was needed. It created industrial schools for boys and girls who were likely to become professional criminals. Magistrates’ Courts were given the power to send children who had committed criminal offences to these schools where they received an elementary education and were given vocational training.

Werrington Industrial School

An industrial school for boys opened at Werrington in January 1870. The school’s superintendent was Benjamin Horth, a certificated teacher, who used rewards and punishment to maintain discipline. Horth divided the boys into three divisions (first, second and third). He gave them good conduct marks at the end of each month if they had behaved themselves and obeyed school rules.

After six months at the school, a boy was placed in the third division and given a farthing for every 12 good conduct marks awarded. Continued good behaviour enabled him to progress to the second division, where he received a halfpenny for every 12 marks gained. When promoted to the first division, boys received a penny for every 12 marks they were given. After they had been in the first division for six months, boys were put in the merit class which entitled them to an extra 24 good conduct marks a month.

Boys worked on the school farm or in a workshop where they made shoes. Farm produce and the shoes were sold to help finance the school. Boys were paid wages for the work they did on the farm and in the workshop. The money they earned was given to them when they left school.

Spare the rod and spoil the child

“Spare the rod and spoil the child” was the maxim of Victorian parents and teachers.

Punishments at Werrington were just as severe as those imposed by the courts.

A list giving details of the penalty that would be imposed if a boy misbehaved was displayed in the classroom. For the first offence of dishonesty or falsehood, a boy forfeited 18 good conduct marks and received six strokes of the cane. A boy who was dishonest or told lies a second time lost 36 good conduct marks and was given four strokes of the birch on his bare bottom. If he misbehaved again, the boy lost 144 marks and received eight strokes of the birch.

Boys who ran away from school were the ones that were punished most severely when they were brought back by the police. The first time a boy ran away, he forfeited 36 good conduct marks and was given six strokes of the birch. The second time a boy absconded, he lost 72 marks and received eight strokes of the birch. Boys who ran away a third time lost all the good conduct marks they had been awarded and were given 12 strokes of the birch.

Despite the severe punishments they received, less than 5% of the boys got into trouble with the police when they left school at 16.

Copyright 2020 North Staffordshire Heritage

FOCUS ON KIDSGROVE: The Harecastle Tunnels

Harecastle- railway-tunnel- north-portal-south-tunnel-kidsgrove

Two railway tunnels, three cuttings and a defile took the North Staffordshire Railway Company’s mainline under Harecastle Hill which separated Kidsgrove and Chatterley.

The first trains ran through the cuttings and the tunnels on 9 October 1849 when the section of track linking Kidsgrove with Stoke opened. Before reaching the first cutting, trains travelling south from Kidsgrove to The Potteries crossed a bridge over the Trent and Mersey Canal. As the train went over the bridge, passengers looking out of the carriage windows could see the two tunnels that took the canal through the hill.

The Canal Tunnels

The first canal tunnel was constructed by James Brindley and his brother in law Hugh Henshall. It opened in 1777 and was 2,880 yards long, 12 feet high and 9 feet wide. The tunnel was so narrow that boats travelling in opposite directions could not go through it at the same time. Boats going south had to wait at Kidsgrove until it was their turn to enter the tunnel. Boats going north had to wait at Chatterley until the ones coming from Kidsgrove had passed through. Because it was not wide enough to have a towpath, the boats had to be “legged” through the tunnel.

As traffic increased, the delays caused by long queues of boats waiting to go into the tunnel infuriated local industrialists. Faced with the possibility that pottery manufacturers would build a railway, the canal’s owner, the Trent and Mersey Canal Company, decided to construct a second tunnel at Harecastle. The company employed Thomas Telford to build it. The new tunnel cost £112,581 and was opened on 30 April 1827.

The Railway Cuttings and Tunnels

Railways came to The Potteries in the mid-1840s when the North Staffordshire Railway Company was founded. Trains that the company planned to run linking Stoke with Macclesfield and Crewe had to go through Harecastle Hill. Civil engineering contractor, Thomas Brassey was employed to build two railway tunnels and make a series of cuttings between Kidsgrove and the Chatterley Valley.

The first cutting a train travelling south from Kidsgrove to Stoke came to was a narrow roofed cutting, called a defile, near St. Thomas’s Church and Kidsgrove parsonage.

The defile was about 150 yards long. It had stone walls and a brick roof to prevent noise from trains interrupting church services. When it left the defile, the train passed through a cutting which was about 300 yards long and about 75 feet deep before entering a short tunnel called the North Tunnel. The tunnel, which was 183 yards long, took the railway under Boathorse Road. On leaving the North Tunnel, the train went into another cutting that led to the South Tunnel which was 1,768 yards long.

The northern entrance to the South Tunnel was near where Boathorse Road changes its name to Nelson Bank. The tunnel ran through the hill to Chatterley where its southern entrance was in a cutting near Lowlands Road. Although built at a higher level than the two canal tunnels, for most of its length the South Tunnel ran between them.

Building the South Tunnel

Brassey employed about 1,600 men to build the South Tunnel. No less than 15 shafts were sunk from the surface of the hill to the level of the tunnel. Because of the hill’s undulating nature, the shafts varied in depth from 25 to 60 yards. At the top of the shafts, there were steam engines which lowered building materials for the men working below and brought soil to the surface. Before the work started, an underground roadway was driven into the hill to take supplies to the men building the tunnel. 

The roadway, which civil engineers called a drift, was six feet wide and six feet high.

Workers began to construct the entrances to the tunnel at Kidsgrove and Chatterley. At the same time, gangs of men were digging the tunnel northwards and southwards from the bottom of the shafts. The part of the tunnel they built linked the shafts which became air vents when it opened. 

Offices, stables, a few cottages and a mill for grinding cement were erected on the summit of Harecastle Hill. The bricks used to build the tunnel were made by brickworks in the Chatterley Valley. A tramway was laid over the hill to take bricks to Kidsgrove.

The South Tunnel took two years to build, and it is estimated that 15 million bricks were used in its construction.

Copyright 2020 North Staffordshire Heritage

(Photograph of the north portal of the South Tunnel at Harecastle © Copyright Jonathan Hutchins and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.)

Aikin’s Tunstall

Aikin’s Tunstall is an edited extract from Dr John Aikin’s book A Description of the Country from Thirty to Forty Miles Round Manchester which was published in 1795.

Tunstall in 1795

Tunstall is the pleasantest village in The Potteries. It stands on high ground and commands pleasing views of the surrounding countryside. Its factories make high-quality ware which is sold in large quantities. There was formerly a church in the town, and human remains have been found buried there although no trace of either the church or the bones exists today. A neat chapel has been built recently. There are a considerable number of brick and tile works. The local clay is ideal for making bricks and tiles. Tiles made from local clay are as blue and look as good on house roofs as moderate slate. Tunstall is four miles from Newcastle-under-Lyme and nine miles from Congleton. The turnpike road from Lawton to Newcastle passes through the town. Another turnpike road starts in Tunstall and ends at Bosley in Cheshire.

The illustration shows Tunstall Windmill and the courthouse that housed Tunstall Court Leet. Although the courthouse, which stood on the corner where Oldcourt Street joins Roundwell Street, was still in existence in 1795 it not mentioned in the book.

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The Potteries in 1795

Bell Works, Pottery Industry

In 1795, a book called A Description of the Country from Thirty to Forty Miles Round Manchester was compiled by Dr John Aikin from information given to him by local historians.

The book describes Newcastle-under-Lyme and The Potteries which extended from Goldenhill to Longton.

Writing about The Potteries, the local historian, whom Aikin says was a very intelligent gentleman, writes:

About a mile from the borders of Cheshire, the Staffordshire Potteries commence at a village called Goldenhill and stretch for seven miles to Lane End (Longton) creating the impression that it is one town with several different names. Manufacturing pottery is the main business of this extensive area whose population has increased threefold in 20 years. The pottery towns and villages are Goldenhill, Newfield, Smithfield, Tunstall, Longport, Burslem, Cobridge, Etruria, Hanley, Shelton, Stoke, Lower Lane, Lane Delf and Lane End. In all probability, they will become so intermixed that they will soon form one town with one name. Already, people who live only a short distance away are calling these towns and villages The Pottery.

The drawing shows the Bell Works in Burslem

Extract Edited by David Martin (April 2020)

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North Staffordshire’s History and Heritage

Since 1990, our historical geographer Betty Cooper and her husband international heritage lawyer David Martin have undertaken significant original research into North Staffordshire’s history and architectural heritage.

Born in The Rookery, Betty was educated at Brownhills High School in Tunstall and at Manchester University where she wrote her thesis on the economic development of The Potteries.

Betty’s researches enabled her to produce the first map of medieval Tunstall, which was a market town and administrative centre surrounded by six fields.

Over the years, Betty and David have written extensively about North Staffordshire and some of their articles will be posted on this page.

The photograph shows Brownhills High School where Betty was educated.

FOCUS ON KIDSGROVE: The Brutal Murder of a Little Girl

On Friday, July 31st, 1868, a 40-year-old furnaceman, William Hancock, stood in the dock at Stafford Assizes charged with the wilful murder of Mary Ann Whitehurst at Kidsgrove on June 10th, 1868.

The court heard that Mary, a little girl about ten years old, was the daughter of one of William’s neighbours.

On the evening of June 9th, Mary was playing with William’s children. She obtained permission from her father to sleep at the accused’s house overnight.

Mary went to bed at about 9.30pm. In the early hours of the morning, the household was woken by William. He was shouting and attempting to attack his wife. Terror-stricken, William’s wife and children ran out of the house, leaving Mary there.

William jumped out of his bedroom window into the street. Being unable to find his wife and children who had taken refuge with their next-door neighbour, William went back into the house where he saw Mary.

He caught hold of Mary and dragged her into the kitchen. He picked her up by the legs, held her upside down and battered her head on the kitchen floor until she was dead.

Medical evidence presented to the court showed that William was suffering from delirium tremens and did not know what he was doing when he killed her. The jury said he was insane and the judge ordered him to be detained during Her Majesty’s pleasure.

Copyright 2020 North Staffordshire Heritage

Tunstall Town Hall and Covered Market

Tunstall’s historic market hall is one of the few remaining Victorian covered markets in the United Kingdom.

Designed by architect George Thomas Robinson, the market hall cost £7,651 13s 1d. It was opened by the chairman of the local board of health, Thomas Peake, on the 2 December 1858. Trading commenced two days later on the 4 December.

The market hall was known locally as “The Shambles”. Traders who had stalls there sold meat and fish, poultry and game, fruit and vegetables, hardware and household goods, groceries and dairy produce, shoes and clothing.

In the early 1880s, the market’s main entrance in High Street became unsafe, and the market hall’s roof started to collapse. One-third of the market hall was demolished, and a new town hall was built on the site. A free Renaissance-style building, the town hall was designed by Absalom Reade Wood, one of North Staffordshire’s leading architects.

While the town hall was being built, Wood regenerated the remaining two-thirds of the market hall. He gave it a new roof and relaid the floor. New stalls were erected, and the market hall was redecorated.

Tunstall’s new town hall was opened by Thomas Peake’s son, John Nash Peake, on the 29 October 1885.

After the opening ceremony, a civic luncheon was held in the town hall’s assembly room. Later, the band of the 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards and the members of Burslem Prize Choir gave a promenade concert in the market hall. In the evening there was a football match in Phoenix Park, and the day ended with a grand ball in the market hall.

Scenes From the Past: Shelton Bar (1873)

This drawing of Shelton Bar is taken from Griffiths’ “Guide to the iron trade of Great Britain” which was published in 1873.

Tunstall Windmill

old-windmill-tunstall-stoke-on-trent

Tunstall Windmill was a corn mill.

It was built in 1813 on land that became known as Millfields which was on the north side of Roundwell Street between America Street and Dunning Street.

A track led from America Street to the mill which at one time was surrounded by a circular loading bay where carts were loaded and unloaded.

 The mill is mentioned by W. J. Harper in his book “By-Gone Tunstall” that was published in 1913.

In this edited extract from the book, Harper writes:

Of course, there were no houses near the mill in the earlier years of its history, save three one storey workmen’s cottages seen on the left of the drawing. In later years the mill yard was fenced in, and gardens were provided for the cottagers . . . When the mill went into disuse the corn room was used as a practice room by members of Tunstall’s drum and fife band.

Harper knew John Bickley, a member of the band, who remembered rehearsing in the corn room. John told him that a man and his wife lived at the mill. One evening the couple began to argue. During the row, the woman walked out. She didn’t come back, and her husband spent the night alone in the mill.

There was an old mine shaft nearby, which was full of water. The next morning, the woman’s body was found in the mine shaft. She had committed suicide.

The mill was demolished in 1855. 

The illustration shows Tunstall Windmill

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