Monthly Archives: August 2010

The Potteries in 1795 (Part Four)

In parts one two and three of our edited extracts from Aikin’s “A Description of the Country From Thirty to Forty Miles Round Manchester” we saw what Goldenhill, Newfield, Greenfield, Tunstall, Longport, Burslem, Cobridge, Etruria, Hanley and Shelton were like during the last decade of the 18th century. Part Four, the last article in the series describes Stoke, Fenton and Longton in 1795.

STOKE

Stoke is a parish-town with a large, ancient, well-endowed church which has several chapels and churches under it. The town, like most other parts of The Pottery, has improved much since the Trent & Mersey Canal was cut. It contains some handsome buildings and from its closeness to a wharf on the canal is well situated for trade. There are many earthenware manufacturers some of whom own large factories. At this place, a gentleman by the name of Spode used the first steam engine to grind flint. The river Trent passes here, at times with rapidity although the brick arches which carry the canal over the river do not seem to have sustained much damage. J. Whieldon, Esq. has a pleasant rural residence here. A new road has lately been made from Stoke to join the main London Road between Newcastle and Trentham.

FENTON AND LONGTON

Fenton and Longton conclude the pottery beyond Stoke. Longton is much larger than Fenton. Part of Stoke parish it has a church, a Methodist Chapel and meeting houses for dissenters. These towns, particularly Longton, manufacture large quantities of earthenware; but it is said to be with less attention than in the other parts of the pottery, consequently, it is of inferior quality although there are a few factories whose ware is second to none. At Fenton, there is the residence of Charles Smith, Esq. and Sir John Edensor Heathcote lives at Longton Hall.

Some earthenware is also manufactured at Newchapel, Wolstanton, Red Street, Newcastle, Norton and a few other places.

The Potteries in 1795 (Part Four) – Edited by Betty Cooper

The Potteries in 1795 (Part Three)

In the third of our series of edited extracts from Aikin’s “A Description of the Country from Thirty to Forty Miles Round Manchester”, we look at Hanley and Shelton.

HANLEY

No part of the pottery can boast of more respectable manufacturers than Hanley. In point of size it is next to Burslem but built so irregularly that to a person standing in the centre of it the town has the appearance of a moderately sized village. But if the houses had been joined together it would have been a well built major town. Hanley has a good market every Monday. All the produce of the surrounding country is brought here except corn, the public sale of which is not allowed because it is so near to the corn market at Newcastle. All the other markets in the pottery labour under the same restriction for the same reason. However, it is expected that attempts will be made before long to get over this inconvenience as many of the inhabitants here and in other places seem determined to trade as little as possible with Newcastle, on account of some instances of an unaccommodating disposition which has been shown by the later. On the other hand, Newcastle, which was formerly the general market of the Potteries, having, of course, suffered some decline, in consequence of the rapid rise of their markets, has exhibited symptoms of dissatisfaction which has helped to increase the mutual jealousy and discontent between them. Hanley has a recently built and well-furnished church. There are also chapels and meeting houses for dissenters. It is a growing town and an inspiring place.

SHELTON

Shelton is an extensive place and has many large pottery factories including the porcelain or china works of Hollins, Warburton & Co. The china made here is very little, if at all, inferior, especially in colours, to that made in the East Indies. The United Kingdom produces all the various types of stone and clay used in this factory and from the number of years it has been established and the regular increase in demand for its products there is no doubt that the owners will continue to reap the fruits of their enterprise and initiative… The Trent & Mersey Canal passes through Shelton and there is a public wharf. The canal brings raw materials to the potteries and takes the ware made there to towns and villages throughout the country and to the ports for export.

The Potteries in 1795 (Part 3) – Edited by Betty Cooper

To be continued

Spotlight on Kidsgrove – The Avenue Villa Murders

On October 2nd, 1911, people living in North Staffordshire and South Cheshire were shocked when they read in the Sentinel that a burglar had murdered widow Mrs Mary Weir, her four-year-old daughter, Margaret, and Mary Hambleton, the family’s 17-year-old maid.

The victims lived at Avenue Villa, a large detached house in Liverpool Road, Kidsgrove which stood in its own grounds overlooking the Victoria Hall and the cemetery. Surrounded by trees, the secluded villa (now demolished) was approached by a long, winding drive. At about ten o’ clock in the morning, Mrs Eliza Stanfield, who lived across the road, was looking out of her window and saw a man walking up the drive towards the house.

Two hours later, Mrs Weir’s eight-year-old daughter Jennie, came home from school for dinner. She saw an empty cash box lying on the floor in the hall. Going upstairs, she found the three bodies lying in pools of blood. They had all been stunned by blows to the head before being stabbed four or five times with a chisels or a stiletto – a short dagger with a tapering blade.

The cash box belonged to William Lehr, a German civil engineer who was erecting a battery of German designed Carl Still coke ovens at Birchenwood Colliery. He had been living with the Weirs for eight days when the murders were committed. The burglar took £30 in gold sovereigns and silver coins from a draw in William’s bedroom where he kept the cash box and a leather bag containing £15. The bag was missing and suspicion fell on Karl Kramer, a German construction worker at Birchenwood, who had helped William move his possessions to Avenue Villa a few days previously.

A keen cyclist, Kramer who was 28 years old had been an infantryman in the German army. He cycled all the way from Wakefield to The Potteries looking for work. He came to Kidsgrove, where German workers were building a battery of 72 Carl Still coke ovens at Birchenwood, on September 14th, 1911. William gave him a job and he found lodgings with Esther Shufflebotham, an elderly woman who kept a shop in Goldenhill. Kramer left Birchenwood on Wednesday, September 27th, after a row with William and two days later walked out of his lodgings owing Mrs Shufflebotham eleven shillings (55p) rent. Everyone thought he had left the district but on the morning of Monday, October 2nd, he cycled from Red Bull to Kidsgrove. Leaving his cycle at a stonemason’s yard near the Harecastle Hotel, he walked into town. When he returned about an hour later to collect his cycle, Kramer seemed agitated and anxious to get away quickly.

When the murders were discovered, Staffordshire Police organised a nationwide manhunt for Kramer. A watch was kept on ports in case he tried to get back to Germany. His description was given to the newspapers and the public was asked to help find a 5 foot 7 inches tall German in his early 30s, with nut brown hair and a bristly moustache, wearing a green striped peaked cap, a dark green suit and black shoes.

On leaving Kidsgrove, Kramer cycled to Macclesfield. Stopping for a drink at the Bleeding Wolf, an old coaching inn on the A34 at Hall Green, he kept going outside to see if anyone was following him. By two o’ clock Kramer had arrived in Macclesfield and went to a hairdresser, where barber Samuel Rider shaved him and took off his moustache. Taking his bike with him, he caught a train to Leeds. Arriving there at about five o’ clock, he purchased a rolled gold chain from a jeweller. Realising that his suit was bloodstained, Kramer went to a clothes shop and bought the first ready to wear suit the assistant showed him. The suit needed altering and he left the shop while the alterations were made. When he collected the suit two hours later, Kramer paid for it with silver coins and purchased a hat. He changed into his new suit and left the shop carrying the bloodstained one in a box, which one of the assistants had given him. He booked a room for the night at the Phoenix Temperance Hotel paying four shillings (20p) for bed and breakfast.

Before going to bed, Kramer went to a public-house, the Prince of Wale, and started buying drinks for everyone in the smoke room. He bought several rounds and paid for them with gold and silver coins taken out of a leather bag that he kept in his hip pocket. A woman, Dora Goldstone, approached Kramer. He bought her a drink and asked if she would like to dance. While they were dancing, Goldstone put her hands in his pocket and stole the leather bag which contained £27. She left the public-house and shared the money with two men who followed her out. When he realised the money was missing, Kramer reported the theft to the police saying his name was John Reuter.

The following day, Kramer made his way to York where he offered to sell his bicycle to George King a cycle dealer. King was suspicious. He believed the cycle had been stolen and called the police. Kramer told them his name was Alfred Woltman and that he had travelled by bicycle and train from London to York looking for work. The police believed him and King bought the cycle for fifteen shillings (75p).

Kramer left York the next morning and went to Bentley, a small mining village near Doncaster. Saying he was a fitter from Glasgow who had come to work at a local colliery, Kramer found lodgings at William Bradshaw’s fish and chip shop. That evening, Bradshaw read a report of the murders in his newspaper which gave a description of the wanted man. Realising that his lodger was the murderer, Bradshaw informed the police and Kramer was arrested. He said his name was Ainfred Woltmann and when charged replied, “Me no understand”. The West Riding Constabulary, who had made the arrest, handed him over to Staffordshire Police and he was brought back to Kidsgrove where bloodstains were found on his underclothes.

On Saturday, October 7th, Kramer was remanded in custody by the Magistrates and taken to Stafford Prison. A few days later an inquest was held at the Victoria Hall, Kidsgrove into the deaths of Mary Weir, her daughter Margaret and the maid Mary Hambleton. The jury said they had been wilfully murdered by Kramer and the Coroner committed him for trial to Stafford Assizes.

While he was awaiting trial, the prison authorities discovered that Kramer was mentally ill. He became withdrawn and lost interest in everything. On Tuesday, November 14th, two prison officers carried him into the dock at Stafford Assizes and placed his seemingly lifeless body on a chair. He sat with his head in his hands while the court clerk read the indictment. Kramer remained silent when asked whether he pleaded guilty or not guilty. Two doctors told the court he was insane and unable to understand the proceedings. Accepting their evidence, the jury found that he was unfit to plead and the judge, Mr Justice Pickford, ordered him to be detained in custody during His Majesty’s pleasure. Kramer was taken back to Stafford Prison and shortly afterwards transferred to the criminal lunatic asylum at Broadmoor.

(NOTE: The Sketch shows the criminal lunatic asylum at Broadmoor)

Copyright Betty Cooper 2010

The Potteries in 1795 (Part Two)

In the second in our series of edited extracts from Dr Aikin’s description of the Potteries in 1795, we look at Burslem, Cobridge and Etruria.

BURSLEM

This is the ancient centre of The Pottery, where doubtless earthenware of one kind or another has been made for many centuries. Doctor Plot, in his History of Staffordshire, written in 1686, makes special mention of the potteries of this place and points them out as being the greatest of their kind… This place has two markets in the week, Monday and Saturday; but the market on Monday is the largest. In the last four or five years, regular fairs where cattle are sold have been established which are well attended. Burslem is a parish, which has a good church, lately enlarged and thoroughly repaired, with a good organ. The late Mr Wesley gained considerable ground here. The Methodists have a chapel, and are very numerous; they have also built chapels in several towns and villages in The Pottery: it is, however, believed that the members of this society are not so numerous now as they were in the lifetime of Mr Wesley. There is also a great variety of other sects in The Pottery: few places have so great a diversity of opinion in respect of religion as this; but the effusions of loyalty hereupon most occasions may be fairly stated to be general, warm, and sincere.

COBRIDGE

Cobridge is a large village where there are factories making earthenware. It lies partly in Burslem parish and partly in Stoke parish.

ETRURIA

Etruria belongs solely to Josiah Wedgwood, Esq. who has a very extensive earthenware manufactory here, a large village and a handsome residence in extensive grounds. In his pottery enterprises, he has most definitely acquired a great fortune with an equal share of reputation. The name of this place was given to it by Mr Wedgwood, after an ancient state in Italy, celebrated for the exquisite design of its pottery, the remaining specimens of which have served greatly to improve the beauty of modern ware. The Trent & Mersey Canal runs through Etruria, which makes it a good manufacturing situation; but the whole belonging to one individual will most likely operate against an increase in the number of factories there.

The Potteries in 1795 (Part Two) – Edited by Betty Cooper 2010

To be continued

The Potteries in 1795 (Part One)

In 1795, Dr J. Aikin published “A Description of the Country from Thirty to Forty Miles Round Manchester”. This book describes Newcastle and The Potteries as they were at the end of the 18th century. During the next few weeks, we shall be publishing a series of edited extracts from Dr Aikin’s book. The first extracts look at Goldenhill, Newfield, Greenfield, Tunstall and Longport. Later extracts will describe Burslem, Hanley, Stoke, Longton and Fenton.

INTRODUCTION

About a mile from the borders of Cheshire, the Staffordshire Potteries commence at a village called Goldenhill, from whence to the other extremity of the pottery at Lane End (Longton), is something more than seven miles; a considerable part of which, by joining together, strikes the traveller as but one town, although under different names. The manufacturing of pottery wares is, the general and nearly sole business of this extensive and very populous area; and from the great increase in the number of inhabitants and houses in the last twenty years (it is assumed that for every inhabitant and house then, there are three now) in all probability, the various towns and villages of Goldenhill, Newfield, Smithfield (Greenfield), Tunstall, Longport, Burslem, Cobridge, Etruria, Hanley, Shelton, Stoke, Fenton and Longton will before long be so intermixed with buildings, as to form only one town with one name. People living a short distance away, already call them The Pottery.

THE VILLAGE OF GOLDENHILL

One should suppose this from its name to be a large and even splendid place, but on comparison, it is found to be the least so of any in The Pottery; however, its valuable mines of coal make ample amends for its other deficiencies, and from those mines, the name was given it. At the upper end of this village is Green Lane, which commands a most unbounded and beautiful prospect. On one side the greatest part of Cheshire shows itself with the Welsh Hills in the distance; and on the other, a complete and the best general view of The Pottery and the country beyond it.

NEWFIELD

Is well fitted for manufacturing purposes, having plenty of coal in its neighbourhood; but as the place belongs wholly to one individual, Admiral Smith Child, Esq. who has a handsome residence there, it is probable that he will not suffer himself to be inconvenienced by a consequence inevitable where there are a number of factories making earthenware together, the nuisance of the smoke and sulphur arising from them. It is therefore supposed that the number of factories will not be speedily increased here.

SMITHFIELD (GREENFIELD)

The situation of this place, in point of convenience for manufacturing earthenware, is not exceeded in The Pottery. It has several strata of coal and coarse clay, which the potters use much of close to its factories; but belonging solely to Theophilus Smith, Esq. this circumstance will doubtless prevent the erection of more works. The views it commands are very beautiful and extensive.

TUNSTALL

Tunstall including its environs is the pleasantest village in The Pottery. It stands on high ground and commands pleasing views. The manufacturers in it are respectable and do considerable business. There formerly was a church here, and various human bones have been dug up; but such is the effect of time, that not the least trace of either the one or the other remains now. A neat chapel has been lately built here. There are a considerable number of brick and tile works here, the clay being of a superior kind for such articles, so that with good management the tiles made from it are as blue, and look as well on the roof of a house as moderate slate. This place is four miles from Newcastle, and nine from Congleton, standing on the turnpike road from Lawton to Newcastle; another turnpike road also commences here and ends at Bosley in Cheshire.

LONGPORT

Longport situated in a valley between Burslem and Newcastle; has some good buildings in it and several large factories; but its situation thereby is rendered at times disagreeable, if not unwholesome, by the smoke hanging over it longer than if it was on higher ground. The Trent & Mersey Canal passes through Longport where there is a public wharf. This place was formerly called Longbridge, from a kind of bridge that ran about 100 yards (91.44 metres) parallel with a stream; on the completion of the canal, there was a rapid increase in buildings and businesses and about 20 years ago the inhabitants changed its name to Longport.

The Potteries in 1795 (Part One) – Edited by Betty Cooper 2010

To be continued

Focus on Kidsgove: Harry Wilson – A Local Hero

Edward Medal

THE EDWARD MEDAL

The Coal Mines Act 1911 forced colliery owners to employ qualified safety officers, called firemen to inspect roadways leading to the coalface and make sure the pit was well ventilated and free from gas.

It was a responsible job. A miner could not become a fireman unless he obtained a Firemans Certificate, was at least 25 years old and had worked underground for three years before working at the coalface for two.

In the early 1920s, Harry Wilson, a roadman at Harriseahead Colliery, was a part-time student at the North Staffordshire Technical College (Staffordshire University) where he was studying for his fireman’s certificate.

On March 10th, 1924, Harry was at work when the lower levels of the colliery were flooded by a sudden inrush of water. Except for Edwin Booth, who was trapped by flood water about 300 yards (274 metres) from the bottom of the shaft, all the men working underground escaped. Many made their way along roadways where the water was four feet deep to the bottom of the shaft.  They were brought up in the cage. Other miners scrambled up a foot rail to reach the surface.

When he realised Edwin was missing Pailing Baker, the manager, called for volunteers to help rescue him. Five men, including Harry, volunteered. Led by Pailing, they entered the mine through the footrail. Making their way along a roadway, the volunteers reached a ventilation door that was holding back the flood water. Fearing for their lives, four of the men refused to open it. They returned to the surface while Pailing and Harry stayed in the tunnel.

The two men slowly opened the door, and the water behind it fell slightly.

Realising they could be drowned by the water which was still pouring into the workings, Pailing and Harry risked their lives by wading in semi-darkness, through swirling flood water, They made their way along a low roofed, narrow roadway to where Edwin was trapped.

Struggling against chest high, fast flowing water, they again risked death to guide him to the bottom of the shaft where a cage took them to the surface.

Six months later, on August 23rd, 1924, Buckingham Palace announced that King George V had awarded Pailing and Harry the Edward Medal for “exceptional courage and resolution”. Before going to London to receive their medals from the King, they were honoured locally.

At a ceremony in the Victoria Hall, Kidsgrove, they were presented with certificates acknowledging their bravery by the Daily Herald, a popular national newspaper. During the ceremony, the Carnegie Trust announced that it had agreed to pay Harry’s tuition fees at the North Staffordshire Technical College giving him the opportunity to continue his studies and become a mining engineer.

Instituted by King Edward VII in 1907, the Edward Medal was the civilian equivalent of the Victoria Cross. Designed by W Reynolds-Stephens, the medal had the sovereign’s profile on the obverse, while the reverse depicting a miner rescuing a stricken colleague, was inscribed with the words “For Courage”.

During the Battle of Britain in 1940, the prime minister, Winston Churchill, persuaded King George VI to institute the George Cross “for acts of the greatest heroism or of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger”.

The George Cross gradually replaced the Edward Medal which was only awarded posthumously after 1949. During 1971, the Queen invited the 68 surviving holders of the Edward Medal to exchange it for the George Cross. Harry accepted the invitation, and until his death in 1986, he regularly attended the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association’s reunions at Buckingham Palace.

Contact Spotlight on The Potteries at spotlightstoke@talktalk.net to tell us about other miners working on the North Staffordshire Coalfield who were given awards for risking their lives to rescue a comrade trapped underground.

John Lloyd – North Staffordshire’s Forgotten Aircraft Designer

Described by Sir Morien Morgan (the Director of the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough) as one of the 20th century’s leading aircraft designers, John Lloyd was born near Swansea on October 20th, 1888.

Born into a close-knit Welsh-speaking family, four-year-old John could not speak English when his family moved to Etruria. An intelligent child, he quickly mastered the English language. Educated at Cavour Street Schools and at Hanley High School, he left school at sixteen.

He became an apprentice at Shelton Bar and attended evening classes at the Technical School in London Road, Stoke.

Fascinated by the Wright brothers attempts to build a petrol engine powered glider, John designed and made model flying machines in his spare time.

Before the First World War (1914-18) aeroplanes had wooden frames covered with canvas. Having studied aerodynamics, John believed that an all-metal aircraft could be built. When war broke out, he was employed by the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough to design composite wood, metal and canvas fighter aircraft.

After the war, Coventry based aeroplane manufacturer Armstrong Whitworth made John its chief designer and he designed the Armstrong Whitworth Siskin fighter-bomber. In 1923 a specially built two-seater Siskin ll won the King’s Cup Air Race reaching a speed of 149 miles per hour. Shortly afterwards, he modified the aircraft’s design and created the Siskin lll, the Royal Air Force’s first all-metal framed biplane.

Civil aviation developed rapidly after the First World War and in March 1924, the government founded Imperial Airways to carry passengers and mail throughout the British Empire.

An airmail service between England and India opened in 1929 and Imperial Airways asked Armstrong Whitworth to build a four-engine monoplane capable of carrying passengers and mail.

John designed the Atalanta, a commercial transport aircraft that had a range of 540 miles and could carry seventeen passengers. The Atalanta made its maiden flight on June 6th 1932. Imperial Airways bought eight Atalantas and the aircraft went into service on September 26th.

The company assigned four Atalantas to its airbase at Germinston in South Africa. The other four were sent to India where they flew from Karachi to Calcutta, Rangoon and Singapore.

As early as 1933, the government realised that Germany was preparing for war and decided to modernise the Royal Air Force. It asked the aircraft industry to build fast heavily armed monoplane fighters and long-range bombers to replace the Royal Air Force’s old-fashioned biplanes. John designed the Whitley, a long-range heavy bomber. Powered by two Rolls Royce Merlin engines, the Whitley’s maximum speed was 230 miles per hour. It had a range of 2,400 miles and could carry bombs weighing up to 7,000lbs.

A front line aircraft from 1939 to 1942, the Whitley played a major role in the Royal Air Force’s bombing offensive. During the Battle of Britain, it attacked Berlin and bombed aircraft factories, munitions works and railway marshalling yards in Italy. The Whitley’s last operational flight against Germany was on May 30th, 1942 when it took part in the first 1,000 bomber raid. The target was Cologne and for nearly ninety minutes over 3,000 tons of bombs rained down on the city.

Between 1942 and 1949, John was at the cutting edge of aviation research working on the flying wing, an experimental tailless jet aircraft. Hoping these experiments would enable him to design an airliner, he constructed a two-seater tailless glider which flew successfully. Impressed by the glider’s performance the government allowed him to build two jet-powered flying wings. One crashed while being flown by a test pilot and the other was taken to the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough where it was used in tests which helped to develop the V Bomber force and Concorde.

During the 1950s, John developed the Sea Slug missile for the Royal Navy which was undoubtedly the finest and most effective ship to air guided missile in the world. Retiring in 1959, he went to live with his daughter in London. A modest man, who never boasted about his achievements, John died aged ninety at Kingston-on-Thames on November 16th,1978.

(The photograph shows a Whitley Bomber on a test flight over Coventry)

Copyright Betty Cooper 2010