Monthly Archives: May 2017

Share Your Memories of Tunstall Market

Tunstall Town HallDo you have memories of Tunstall Market and the town hall?

Did you work in the market or did you go shopping there with your mother when you were growing up? Can you remember the stalls that were there and the things they sold before the market was regenerated at the end of the 20th century?

Spotlight on Stoke is writing a booklet about the market and the town hall.

If you have memories or old photographs of the market or the town hall which you would be willing to share with us, please email David Martin at daymar727@talktalk.net

Fenton – The old library

Fenton Library

FENTON LIBRARY

Standing on the corner of Glebedale Road and Baker Street, the free English Renaissance style building that housed Fenton Library was designed by local architect F.R. Lawson.

At the end of the 19th century, Fenton was the only town in The Potteries without a library.

Earthenware manufacturer, John Shaw Goddard, who became chairman of the urban district council in April 1900, wanted to build one but the council did not have the money.

He asked wealthy landowner William Meath Baker for help, but William who had just given the town a new fire station could not afford to build a library.

However, he promised to give a site behind the town hall where a library could be erected if John was able to raise the money.

Discovering that a New York philanthropist, the self-made millionaire Andrew Carnegie, was building libraries in towns and cities throughout the United Kingdom, John asked him to build one in Fenton. Andrew gave John £5,000 to build a library.

William kept his word and donated the site behind the town hall.

The urban district council adopted the Free Libraries Act and agreed to levy a penny rate on each householder to enable it to buy books.

The library was opened by William on March 7th, 1906.

It was housed in a two storey Accrington red brick building with Hollington stone facings. The main entrance was in Baker Street. Revolving doors led into to the foyer whose mosaic floor was laid with Minton Hollins tiles depicting the town’s coat of arms. The interior archway over the door contained a mural showing children sitting at the feet of knowledge, painted by Gordon Forsythe who later became the principal of Stoke-on-Trent Art Schools.

On the ground floor were rooms containing an adult lending library, a reference library, a children’s library and a reading room. A staircase with a wrought iron balustrade, made in Tunstall by William Durose, led from the foyer to the upper floor where there was a lecture hall which could seat between 100 and 120 people. The room had an ornamental plaster ceiling and was heated by an iron grate in a faience surround.

Copyright Betty Cooper – The Phoenix Trust 2013

Burslem – Reflections on a town’s heritage

A Second World War Liberty Ship

Like all the towns in our area, Burslem has a proud heritage.

In the 18th century, its master potters brought the Industrial Revolution to North Staffordshire.

The old town hall is one of the finest examples of civic architecture erected by a local board of health.

Burslem born architect, Absalom Reade Wood designed the Woodhall Memorial Chapel, the Drill Hall, the Art School, the Wycliffe Institute, Moorland Road Schools, Longport Methodist Church and Middleport Pottery.

Created by local craftspersons, the Wedgwood Institute has a unique terracotta façade which is an inspiring tribute to the skills of the men and women who worked in the pottery industry.

During its long history, the Wedgwood Institute has housed several schools and colleges whose alumni have played a significant role on the world stage in the fields of literature, science and technology.

They include:

  • Oliver Lodge, the first principal of Birmingham University, who invented the spark plug and perfected radio telegraphy;
  • Arnold Bennett whose novels vividly described life in North Staffordshire and immortalised The Potteries;
  • Summers Hunter, one of the world’s leading maritime engineers, whose firm designed the engine that powered the Liberty Ships* which helped to keep the supply lines between Britain and North America open during the Second World War; and
  • Reginald Mitchell, the 20th century’s leading aircraft designer, who created the Spitfire which saved the world from Nazi domination.

*The photograph shows a Liberty Ship which was powered by a marine engine designed by Summers Hunter.

Focus on Fenton: The vicar who had friends in high places

Christ_Church,_Fenton,_from_south-eastAn establishment figure, the Reverend the Honourable Leonard Tyrwhitt, the Vicar of Fenton from 1895 to 1907, was a man with friends in high places.

Born on October 29th, 1863, Leonard was the son of Sir Henry Tyrwhitt and his wife Emma who inherited the title Baroness Berners when her uncle Lord Berners died.

Graduating from Magdalene College, Cambridge in 1886, he trained for the ministry at Wells Theological College and was admitted to the priesthood in 1888.

When he came to Fenton in 1895, Leonard found a parish deeply in debt and services were held in the new parish church (Christ Church) before the bell tower had been erected.

Designed by Stoke architect, Charles Lynam, the church could accommodate 1,900 worshippers. Built of red brick with stone dressings, the nave and chancel which cost over £6,000 had been consecrated by Dr Maclagan, the Archbishop of York, on October 3rd, 1891. Although nearly £5,400 had been donated towards the cost of building the nave and the chancel, over £800 was still owed to the builder, and about £2,000 had to be raised before the bell tower could be constructed.

Leonard moved into the vicarage in Glebedale Road and made plans to revitalise the parish. He established a church council, organised Bible classes and formed youth clubs.

Hoping it would bring in enough money to pay Christ Church’s debts and to erect a bell tower, Leonard decided to hold a three-day bazaar in the town hall to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897. When he heard that the Prince and Princess of Wales were coming to The Potteries, he invited them to visit Fenton and open the bazaar.

The Royal couple accepted his invitation and arrived in Fenton on January 5th, 1897. During their visit to the town hall, the Princess, who later became Queen Alexandra, opened the bazaar which raised £3,250.

Leonard used the money to pay the church’s debts and to build a bell tower containing a peal of eight bells.

A man with a forceful personality, Leonard had unlimited self-confidence and was not afraid to speak his mind.

Early in December 1903, he began a well-publicised crusade against immorality in The Potteries which was widely reported in the national press.

In a series of outspoken, controversial sermons, Leonard condemned factory owners who failed to protect young workers from sexual harassment, bullying and intimidation. Supported by public opinion and leading non-conformist ministers, he attacked drunkenness, gambling, wife beating, child neglect, fornication and prostitution.

Photograph of Christ Church, Fenton licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Stoke-on-Trent is proud of its heritage

A Mark IX Spitfire

Reginald Mitchell’s Spitfire 

People from Stoke-on-Trent are proud of their city’s heritage.

History records the achievements of men and women from our city and tells us the role they played on the world stage.

Stoke-on-Trent’s city council was one of the pioneers of comprehensive education. It defied both Conservative and Labour governments and replaced grammar and secondary modern schools with neighbourhood comprehensive schools and a sixth form college.

Local art schools, technical schools and colleges of further education were progressive centres of excellence. Reginald Mitchell, who designed the Spitfire, turned down a place at Birmingham University. He wanted to serve an apprenticeship with a firm in Fenton and to study engineering at technical schools in the city.

By the beginning of the 1930s, the North Staffordshire Technical College was a university in everything but name. The college had an international reputation and attracted overseas students. It possessed the world’s leading ceramic research centre and had Europe’s best mining school.

There are those who say the past is dead. They are wrong. The past lives in our collective memory. It makes us what we are today. Stoke-on-Trent has a proud heritage – a heritage which must not be forgotten. A city that forgets its past is a city without a future.