Scenes From the Past: Shelton Bar (1873)

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

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

Scenes From the Past – Balls Bank Methodist Church

balls-bank-methodist-church-kidsgrove
Balls Bank Methodist Church in Whitehill Road, Whitehill (Kidsgrove)

Spotlight on North Staffordshire is researching the history of Methodist Churches in Whitehill and The Rookery.

If you and your family worshipped at Balls Bank or attended Sunday school there please share your memories with us. Our email address is bettyatspotlight@outlook.com

Scenes From the Past: A view of Burslem from Bradwell Wood in 1865

burslem-bradwell-wood-potteries-1865

A view of Burslem, Longport and Middleport from Bradwell Wood in 1865.

Scenes from the Past: Tower Hill Colliery (Harriseahead)

This photograph, taken by Malcolm Street at the beginning of the 21st century, shows the remains of Tower Hill Colliery in Biddulph Road, Harriseahead.

During the 19th Century, tramways carried coal from the colliery to a coal wharf in Congleton and to a wharf on the Macclesfield Canal at Kent Green in South Cheshire. The coal taken to Kent Green was loaded onto canal boats that took it to Goldendale Iron Works in the Chatterley Valley.

(Photograph: © Copyright Malcolm Street and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.)

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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FOCUS ON KIDSGROVE: The Legend of the Kidcrew Buggett

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the legend of the Kidsgrove Boggart was one of the best-known ghost stories in Staffordshire.

Known locally as the “Kidcrew Buggett”, the ghost lived in one of the two canal tunnels which took the Trent and Mersey Canal through Harecastle Hill between Kidsgrove and Chatterley. People who claimed to have seen the Boggart said it was a headless woman who wore a blood-stained white dress.

The Boggart rarely left the tunnels. When it was seen in Kidsgrove, colliers believed that there was going to be a mining disaster.

The Story’s Origins

An article published in the City Times during the 1930s says the legend began when a woman passenger on a canal-boat was murdered by a boatman in the Telford Tunnel.

Murder in the Telford Tunnel

Before the railway was built, a Kidsgrove woman who wanted to make a journey had too much luggage to go by stagecoach.

She decided to make the first part of her journey by canal-boat from Harecastle. As soon as the vessel entered the tunnel, the boatman murdered her and cut off her head. He buried her body at Gilbert’s Wharf (Gilbert’s Hole) a place in the Telford Tunnel where coal and ironstone were loaded into boats.

When the woman was reported missing, the police traced her to the canal-boat. The boatman was arrested, tried for murder and executed. Before he died, the boatman admitted killing her. Although he told the police where they could find the woman’s body, local people believed that her spirit haunted the place where she was killed.

The photograph shows the Kidsgrove end of the Harecastle Tunnels as it was in the 1950s.

Copyright 2019 North Staffordshire Heritage

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.

Potteries criminals feared Wright’s Law

Law (Wright)

A barrister whose attempts to pursue a political career in Parliament were unsuccessful, Harold Wright became The Potteries Stipendiary Magistrate in 1893.

A man who sympathised with the victims of domestic violence, he was determined to stamp out wife-beating and child abuse in the six towns. Drunken men who had attacked their wives could expect no mercy when they appeared before his court. Even the first offenders were sent to prison.

Unlike the Metropolitan Stipendiary Magistrates in London who sat alone, Harold sat with Justices of the Peace. His court sat in The Potteries and in Kidsgrove. It tried summary offences and sent people charged with serious crimes to stand trial at the Assizes or Quarter Sessions.

Burslem, Hanley, Stoke and Longton were boroughs that had their own Magistrates’ Courts. People arrested in these towns could be dealt with by the local court or by the Stipendiary Magistrate. The police decided where cases were heard. Knowing that Harold would impose more severe punishment than the borough magistrates, the police always prosecuted professional criminals and habitual offenders before his court. The deterrent sentences he imposed made him the most feared magistrate in The Potteries.

Harold lived at Aston Hall, a mansion near Stone. His hobbies included hunting, fishing, painting and drawing. He drew caricatures for Vanity Fair and made sketches of the lawyers who argued cases before him.

A man who liked animals, Harold helped to organise Hanley’s Annual Horse Parade. Cruelty to animals was an everyday occurrence in The Potteries. Each week between 30 and 40 people stood in the dock charged with ill-treating dogs or horses. Supported by the police, he launched a campaign to stop cruelty to animals in North Staffordshire.

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