Monthly Archives: July 2018

Life was hard for Kidsgrove’s miners

A GIRL PUTTERDuring the first half of the 19th century, the life of coal miners was hard. Wages were low. Men, women and children worked long hours in semi-darkness. The work was dangerous. Accidents were frequent. Human life was cheap, and colliery owners put profits before safety.

Half naked men and women worked together at the coalface mining coal and putting it into wagons. Young children were employed to open air doors on roadways leading from the coalface to the bottom of the mine shaft.  They sat alone in the darkness and opened these doors for boys and girls who were harnessed to the wagons which they pulled along the roadway.

In the early 1840s, Samuel Scriven who was preparing a report on child labour for the government visited Kidsgrove. He interviewed several coal miners employed by colliery owner Thomas Kinnersley who lived in luxury at Clough Hall.

One of the miners, 17 years old John Vickers said:

“I have been to work for about four years; first worked at a farm for about four years. My business is to attend at the pit’s mouth and haul away the coals that come up from Delph. I get 11 shillings (55p) a week for wages; mother gets it from me; I get it from the charter master. We work by the ton; I get paid at the public-house. I went to day school for a few months before I worked at the farm; I cannot read or write; I go to church pretty regularly. I come to work at six in the morning and go home about six {in the evening}. I am too tired after work to go to school in the evening; I would rather go if I could; but as I said before, I am always too tired. My father is dead. My mother keeps a child’s’ school. I have three sisters; two of them work in the silk factories at Congleton; the eldest is 18 years; she has 5s 6d (27.5p) a week; the other is 14; she has 3s 6d (17.5p) a week; the youngest goes to the National Day School at Mr Wade’s.  I get my breakfast before I come to work and bring my second breakfast with me; I go to dinner at twelve and have ‘tatees’ and bacon. I always take my hour for dinner and get my breakfast how I can. I never do any night work.”

Tunstall – An Anglo Saxon Village

Anglo-Saxon Village

An Artist’s Impression of an Anglo-Saxon Settlement

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, Gods 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 named Cross Croft near where Madison Street joins America Street 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.

J. B. Priestley visits Tunstall

greenfield

An Artist’s Impression of Adams Greengates Factory in the 18th Century

Writer and broadcaster, John Boynton Priestley made his first visit to The Potteries in 1933 when he was writing English Journey, a personalised semi-documentary account of life in England.

A well built, good-natured, plain speaking, pipe smoking Yorkshireman, he visited towns and cities throughout the country collecting materials for his book. Meandering northwards from Southampton, John made his way to The Potteries where he went to two 18th century potbanks – Adams in Tunstall and Wedgwood at Etruria.

John was surprised to hear the foreman at Adams call the workers “ladies and gentlemen” instead of “men and women”. He saw then making and decorating cups and saucers, teapots, butter dishes, dinnerware and tea services. The “ladies and gentlemen” took pride in their work. John admired their skill and craftsmanship but was critical of the firm’s traditional designs which were not selling well in overseas markets. Before leaving the factory, he unsuccessfully attempted to throw a large plate on a potters wheel. John could not control its speed, and the plate kept spinning off the wheel.

Unwilling to admit defeat, he decided to try again when he visited Wedgwood. John persuaded the company to let him throw a vase.

John’s skills as a potter were limited, and amused workers watched his futile attempts to shape the clay. Realising he did not have the ability to make a vase, John spent all afternoon trying to create a bowl. One disaster followed another. Eventually, he managed to produce something resembling a bowl that could be used as an ashtray.

Did you know that Adams had two potbanks in Tunstall? The one called Greengates was near Christ Church. The other called Greenfield was in Furlong Road. Both factories were demolished many years ago.

If you have memories of these factories or photographs of them and the ware they made which you would like to share please email David at daymar727@talktalk.net or visit Memory Lane in Tunstall Market on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.