Monthly Archives: November 2018

Tunstall’s indoor market is 160 years old this year

Tunstall’s indoor market hall, which opened in December 1858, celebrates its 160th birthday this year.

In 1856, Tunstall’s Board of Health decided to build a new market hall.

The board of health commissioned George Thomas Robinson, the architect who designed Burslem’s Old Town Hall, to build the market hall.

Constructed on a half acre site opposite the Market Place in High Street, the market hall cost £7,651.

It was opened by Thomas Peake, the Chief Bailiff and Chairman of the Board of Health, on December 2, 1858. In the evening a concert was held in the market hall. At 9.00 pm there was a firework display in the Market Place (Tower Square) which was followed by a ball in the market hall.

Trading commenced there two days later on December 4, 1858, when the retail market which sold:

  • Dairy produce
  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Meat, fish, poultry, game and rabbits
  • Manufactured goods and household utensils

left the Market Place and moved into the building.

Tucked away behind the town hall in High Street, the indoor market is Stoke-on-Trent’s hidden gem.

It’s a warm-hearted place where friendly, welcoming traders sell high-quality fish and meat, fruit and vegetables, groceries, household goods and luxury items at reasonable prices to local people and customers who have come from as far away as Alsager, Biddulph, Mow Cop and Congleton to do their weekend shopping.

Today, the market hall is home to one of the best indoor markets in England and Wales – a place where you and your family can do the weekend shopping under one roof.

Spotlight on Tunstall – Betty Wedgwood’s Dame School

Dame School

In his autobiography “When I was a Child” published in 1903, Charles Shaw gives a graphic and horrifying description of working-class life in Tunstall during the 1830s and 40s.

One of Enoch Shaw and his wife Mary’s eight children, Charles was born in 1832. The Shaw family lived in a small terraced house in Piccadilly Street and from 1835/6 to 1839 Charles attended a local dame school until he started work in the pottery industry when he was seven years old.

In this edited extract from “When I was a Child”, he tells us about his school days at Betty Wedgwood’s dame school.

BETTY WEDGWOOD’S DAME SCHOOL

“My education was like that of thousands of other working-class children.

“I went to old Betty Wedgwood’s dame school, and as I had ‘finished my education’ when I was seven years old, I must have attended her school for three or four years.

“The school was housed in the only room on the ground floor of her little cottage. It was about four yards square, with a winding, narrow staircase leading to the cottage’s one bedroom above. The furniture was very scant, consisting of a small table, two chairs, and two or three little forms about eight inches high for the children to sit on. There were a few pictures on the walls of the usual garish sort, blazing with colour, and all the figures upon them were in strikingly dramatic attitudes.

“One small picture was reserved for special distinction, as it was supposed to be the portrait of old Betty’s deceased husband. He had been a soldier and must have attained the rank of colour-sergeant, his stripes and sword being well to the front. The children were duly impressed with the greatness of the personage represented by the little picture. To us, he was a greater warrior than either Wellington or Napoleon. He was more real than either of them because we had before us a visible hero, whose exploits were described by old Betty in tones of awe and in words of admiration. The children listened with wonder to the never-failing recitals of his courage and valour and deeds, and so it has come about that my first vivid impression of a soldier, and what soldiers did, was got by old Betty’s devotion to her husband’s memory, and by the aid of her husband’s portrait.

“The course of education given by the old lady was very simple and graded with almost scientific precision. There was an alphabet, with pictures, for beginners. There must have been something intensely vivid about these letters in the alphabet, for to this day when I see the letters Q and S as single capitals, I see them rather as when I first saw them in old Betty’s alphabet. I have often wondered whether other people carry the same weird impression of the capitals of their first alphabet. I have an impression, too, that the distinctness of that old alphabet had something to do with the success of old Betty’s teachings, for though she never taught writing, her scholars were generally noted for their ability to read while very young. I know I could read my Bible with remarkable ease when I left her school, when seven years old.

“Betty’s next grade, after the alphabet, was the reading-made-easy book, with black letters making words containing two, three and four letters.

“The next stage was spelling and reading the Bible. For those successful in these higher stages old Betty had peculiar honours. They were allowed to take the ashes from under the fire-grate to the ash-heap outside the house. This ash-heap was a common meeting-place, as everybody used it, and on its elevation, many doughty battles were fought. Whoever among the youngsters could get on the top of it and ‘hold the fort’ against all comers, was considered a Victor. Going to the ash-heap, then, meant a bit of sport, and possibly a victory to be talked of in the little school world.

“Another honour of old Betty’s was to allow a successful scholar to sit on the highest visible stair in the winding staircase leading to her bedroom. It was a rare joy to see and be seen by four fellow scholars from this vantage-point of honour. There was yet another distinction the old lady had to bestow. She taught both boys and girls who were successful in reading how to knit stockings. She was a remarkable knitter herself and could carry on this occupation with the regularity almost of a machine, while her eyes were everywhere in her school.

“Old Betty had another resource for pleasing all her scholars. On fine days the little forms were taken outside her cottage and placed under the windows. The children had their books or their knitting, and the old lady, knitting herself incessantly, marched backwards and forwards, hearing lessons and watching work. The joy of the children was that they could see the passers-by, and their mothers, for old Betty’s cottage was at ‘The Bottom’, a favourite resort for the dwellers in the neighbouring cottages.

“These were occasions when the old schoolmistress lapsed into continual smiles, and when her usual rigour, in the matter of lessons, disappeared.

“She was deeply respected by both children and parents. It would be too much to say she was beloved, for there was an air of stateliness and solitariness about her which precluded warm attachment. Whether her stateliness came through her military associations in past years, or whether it was a natural habit, I cannot now say. But for her, being a schoolmistress, it suited well. It impressed the children with a feeling of reverence, and it kept parents from intruding mischievously in the little world she ruled.

“Poor old Betty! She was, perhaps, above the average of her class who taught the children of England in those days for a mere pittance, when our rulers were squandering the resources of the nation in less useful ways and were blind to the wisdom of educating the children of the country.

“She and her class did two things – they made night schools possible for those who wanted to go further, say, to learn writing and arithmetic, and they made it possible for Sunday school teachers to have less elementary drudgery.”

A child murder in Kidsgrove

On Friday, July 31st, 1868, a 40-year-old furnaceman, William Hancock, stood in the dock at Stafford Assizes charged with the wilful murder of Mary Ann Whitehurst at Kidsgrove on June 10th, 1868.

The court heard that Mary, a little girl about ten years old, was the daughter of one of William’s neighbours.

On the evening of June 9th, she was playing with William’s children and obtained permission from her father to sleep at the accused’s house overnight.

Mary went to bed at about 9.30pm. In the early hours of the morning, the household was woken by William who being in a state of uncontrollable violence was shouting, cursing and attempting to attack his wife. Terror-stricken, William’s wife and children ran out of the house leaving Mary there.

William jumped out of his bedroom window into the street. Being unable to find his wife and children who had taken refuge with their next-door neighbour, William went back into the house where he saw Mary.

He caught hold of Mary and dragged her into the kitchen. He picked her up by the legs, held her upside down and battered her head on the kitchen floor until she was dead.

Medical evidence presented to the court showed that William was suffering from delirium tremens and did not know what he was doing when he killed Mary. The jury said he was insane and the judge ordered him to be detained during Her Majesty’s pleasure.

Scarratt’s Tunstall – A Country Town

Tunstall, which is one of Stoke-on-Trent’s six towns, was very much like a country town as late as 1854. The oak and other trees around Greengates House, the large house built by William Adams in the 18th century near where Furlong Road joins High Street, were quite leafy. Rooks built their nests in them, and there were wild ducks on the pond in front of the house. There were several large trees in the courtyard at the back of the house, and the cawing of the rooks was noisy enough in springtime. Little birds built their nests in the hedgerows below Christ Church – I have found them there. Nobody today would think that a pack of harriers or beagles were kept at Greengates House, but that is a fact, the then owner being fond of sport.  I should think the pack numbered 15 couples. I have met them when walking to the grammar school at Newchapel. Furlong Road which led to Greenfields was once narrow and overhung in some places with laburnum and other trees.

(An edited extract from “Old Times in the Potteries” by William Scarratt published in 1906)