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Burslem: John Ward (1781-1871)

St. Paul's Church, Burslem (640x409)John Ward, the author of “The Borough of Stoke-upon-Trent” published in 1843, was born at Slawston in Leicestershire on June 22nd, 1781.

John who became one of North Staffordshire’s leading lawyers served his articles with an attorney in Cheadle.

Qualifying in 1808, he moved to Burslem and set up his own practice.

At the time, Britain and her allies were at war with France. Napoleon’s army had defeated the Prussians. English troops, commanded by the Duke of Wellington, were fighting a rearguard action in Portugal and John joined the Longport Volunteers, a unit formed to help defend The Potteries if the French invaded.

In 1811, John married Anne Rice from Ashby-de-la-Zouch. They had one son, William, who died of pleurisy in 1847.

An able lawyer, he quickly established an extensive practice and acted for leading industrialists and large landowners including Admiral Smith Child and his grandson Sir Smith Child. Like all successful lawyers, John made enemies. Burslem pottery manufacturer Enoch Wood accused him of professional misconduct. John sued for defamation and Wood was ordered to pay him £100 damages.

A devout Christian, John was churchwarden at St. Paul’s in Dalehall, a church he helped to build. Erected on land given by William Adams, the church was consecrated by Henry Ryder, the Bishop of Lichfield, on January 19th, 1831. Costing £2,000 the medieval Perpendicular style Hollington stone building was designed by London architect Lewis Vulliamy who also built Christ Church, Cobridge.

The Reform Act 1832 made Stoke-upon-Trent a Parliamentary Borough giving it two Members of Parliament. Tunstall, Burslem, Hanley, Longton and Fenton were included in the constituency. In 1837, local historian Simeon Shaw, using John’s archives, began writing “The Borough of Stoke-upon-Trent” which he hoped to publish in monthly instalments.

Rewritten and edited by John, the first eight parts were printed under Shaw’s name. A financial dispute arose between Shaw and his publishers. They refused to publish any more instalments until John agreed to take over the series and complete the work. He wrote the last 12 parts, and all the instalments were made into a book “The Borough of Stoke-upon-Trent. John was acknowledged as the author, but all profits from its sales were given to Shaw.

Politically a Conservative, John was one of Burslem’s improvement commissioners who were responsible for providing street lighting and policing. The town’s market trustees made him their clerk. He arranged for them to buy land in the town centre where they erected a meat market. Opened on October 1st, 1836 the market hall was a Romanesque-style stone building designed by architect Samuel Ledward.

Large-scale riots took place in Staffordshire during August 1842. Armed troops were used to maintain law and order. Men and women who had been arrested were taken to Stafford gaol. The Crown employed John to help prosecute them. They were tried by Special Commissioners, who were High Court judges, sitting at Stafford.

John remained in practice until he died at his home, Furlong House in Burslem, on June 3rd, 1870. He was 89 years old. His funeral took place at St. Paul’s, Dalehall and he was buried in the churchyard.

Copyright Betty Cooper – The Phoenix Trust, September 2010

Stoke-on-Trent’s First Art Schools

Great Exhibition Crystal_Palace_interior (640x436)

Stoke-on-Trent’s first art school, The Potteries School of Design, was opened on January 25th, 1847. It held evening classes in Hanley, Stoke and Longton. Students were taught elementary drawing, basic design, freehand painting and modelling.

The school’s first headmaster, John Murdock, and his successor, John Charles Robinson, made it a centre of excellence. Students won national prizes and were awarded scholarships enabling them to continue their studies at the Government School of Design in London.

During 1851, pottery designed by students from North Staffordshire was exhibited at the Great Exhibition, held at the Crystal Palace* in Hyde Park. Their designs impressed Prince Albert who had helped to organise the exhibition. He persuaded the government to devise a scheme to build a regional College of Art and Technology in Hanley which would have university status and branch schools in Tunstall, Burslem, Longton and Newcastle-under-Lyme.

The government’s proposal to build a regional college in Hanley was made public at a meeting held at the Wesleyan School in Burslem on January 19th, 1853.

During the meeting, Smith Child, who was North Staffordshire’s most generous philanthropist, and leading pottery manufacturer Herbert Minton offered to help finance the college. The scheme was rejected by civic leaders and pottery manufacturers who wanted each town to have its own art school. Prince Albert’s attempt to bring higher education to The Potteries had failed.

Shortly afterwards, small design schools were established in Newcastle-under-Lyme and Burslem.

Monthly fees for students attending classes at the Burslem school were 1/9d (9p) for men and 1/6d (7.5p) for women. The school’s headmaster was William Jabez Mückley, an artist whose work had been exhibited at the Royal Academy. It held classes in the assembly room at the Legs of Man, an old coaching inn frequented by thieves and prostitutes. Despite the venue, William was a popular teacher who attracted and retained students. Although the school gave Burslem well-trained pottery designers and skilled crafts persons, local firms refused to help it find more suitable premises.

The school closed when William left Burslem in 1858.

*The illustration shows The Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace

Copyright Betty Cooper – The Phoenix Trust, September 2010

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