Category Archives: Tunstall

LLEWELLIN’S KIDSGROVE: First Impressions

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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.)

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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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.

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.

Tunstall Windmill

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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

The Pottery Industry in the 1960s

During the 1960s, The Potteries was a hive of industrial activity. Skilled crafts-persons working in the six towns made the best pottery in the world.

About 90% of the bone china, earthenware, tiles, porcelain, bricks and sanitary ware produced in the United Kingdom came from Stoke-on-Trent.

Pottery workers were proud of their skills and expertise. They took pride in their work, and the ware they made was exported all over the world.

The seeds of North Staffordshire’s industrial development were sown in the 14th century.

Iron ore was mined in Tunstall and at Apedale. Small pot banks, which used local clay to make earthenware, were scattered in isolated villages throughout the district. There were coal seams near the surface, and miners risked their lives working in drift mines and bell pits to get coal to fire the ware.

Industrialisation came to The Potteries in the 18th century when entrepreneurs like Josiah Wedgwood, William Adams, Josiah Spode and Thomas Whieldon built factories that produced good quality ware which was sold at prices people could afford.

During the 19th century, the pottery industry and the coal mining industry expanded rapidly. The population increased and the six towns we know today were created. New factories were built and the smoke from numerous bottle ovens and kilns polluted the atmosphere.

As late as 1939, the pottery industry used 1,500,000 tons of coal to fire its ovens and kilns. After the Second World War, coal fired bottle ovens and kilns were replaced by electric or gas fired tunnel kilns. Between 1945 and 1966, many small firms closed and others amalgamated to form large companies. In 1966, there were about 66,000 people employed in the industry of whom 48,000 were women.

(The photograph was taken in the warehouse at the Gladstone Pottery Museum (Longton) by J. Rutter and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.)

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Camera in the City – The Erratic Boulder in Tunstall Park (2018)

Tunstall – An Anglo Saxon Village

Anglo-Saxon Village

Tunstall is one of the oldest towns in The Potteries.

The town’s “Old English” name indicates that it dates from the late 6th or the early 7th century.

“Old English” place names are descriptive. They describe the settlement and tell us the main occupation of the people who lived there. The word “Tun” means an enclosed farmstead, hamlet or village, and “Stall” is derived from the “Old English” word “Steall” which means a place with pens or sheds where cattle were kept for fattening.

Anglo Saxon Tunstall was built on a sandstone ridge overlooking the Chatterley Valley near the spot where Green Lane (Oldcourt Street and America Street) crossed the old drove road (Roundwell Street) from the Staffordshire Moorlands to Chester. Green Lane which ran from Leicester to Warrington was an important highway that linked the East Midlands with Merseyside.

All traces of Anglo Saxon Tunstall have disappeared although historians believe it was an enclosed settlement protected by a ditch and a wooden palisade.

Two old field names, God’s Croft and Church Field, which survived until the 19th century, support the local tradition that there was a church in Tunstall many centuries before the Wesleyan Methodists erected a church in America Street. Another old field name, Cross Croft indicates that there could have been a wayside cross where markets were held.

Calver Street, which runs between Forster Street and Oldcourt Street, takes its name from Calver Croft a place where there were cattle pens for calves born on the journey from the Staffordshire Moorlands to Chester.

Towards the end of the 11th or the beginning of the 12th century, Tunstall became part of Staffordshire’s New Forest.

Today when we think of a forest, we picture a place covered by trees. In medieval times a forest was a large tract of land where the King and his friends hunted for deer and other beasts of the field.

Staffordshire’s New Forest, which extended from Tixall in the south to Mow Cop in the north, may have been founded by William the Conqueror. The forest was not an area of continuous woodland. It was the King’s hunting ground which included:

  • woods and grassland
  • hills and moorland
  • towns, villages and hamlets
  • farmland, open fields and rough pasture.

The forest had its own laws designed to protect the beasts of the field and the vegetation they ate.

Offenders against Forest Laws were brought before special courts. The penalties imposed by these courts were brutal and savage. For killing a beast of the field, a poacher could be sent to the gallows, have his eyes torn out or have his hand cut off.

The illustration shows an artist’s impression of an Anglo Saxon settlement.

Tunstall has one of the best markets in England and Wales

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Tunstall has one of the best covered markets in England and Wales.

Tucked away behind the town hall in High Street, the market is Stoke-on-Trent’s hidden gem.

Tunstall Market is a “warm-hearted place” where friendly, welcoming traders sell high-quality produce, and household goods at reasonable prices to local people and to regular customers who come from Alsager, Crewe, Biddulph, Mow Cop and Congleton.

Founded in 1817, the market, which celebrated its bicentennial in 2017, moved into the market hall in 1858.

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