Author Archives: David Martin

A Victorian Town Hall and a Covered Market

Tunstall Town Hall

Tunstall’s historic market hall is one of the few remaining Victorian covered markets in the United Kingdom.

Designed by architect George Thomas Robinson, the market hall cost £7,651 13s 1d. It was opened by the chairman of the local board of health, Thomas Peake, on the 2 December 1858. Trading commenced two days later on the 4 December.

The market hall was known locally as “The Shambles”. Traders who had stalls there sold meat and fish, poultry and game, fruit and vegetables, hardware and household goods, groceries and dairy produce, shoes and clothing.

In the early 1880s, the market’s main entrance in High Street became unsafe, and the market hall’s roof started to collapse. One-third of the market hall was demolished, and a new town hall was built on the site. A free Renaissance-style building, the town hall was designed by Absalom Reade Wood, one of North Staffordshire’s leading architects.

While the town hall was being built, Wood regenerated the remaining two-thirds of the market hall. He gave it a new roof and relaid the floor. New stalls were erected, and the market hall was redecorated.

Tunstall’s new town hall was opened by Thomas Peake’s son, John Nash Peake, on the 29 October 1885.

After the opening ceremony, a civic luncheon was held in the town hall’s assembly room. Later, the band of the 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards and the members of Burslem Prize Choir gave a promenade concert in the market hall. In the evening there was a football match in Phoenix Park, and the day ended with a grand ball in the market hall.

Keeping the Asylum safe: Fire Brigades

Staffordshire's Asylums

Members of the Coventry volunteer fire brigade, 1862 (wellcome collection CC BY)

This month, we are exploring the early days of Cheddleton
asylum further, and focusing on some elements of the advanced technology of the
times which the hospital exploited, and of which they were innovators.

As asylums grew larger and became more complex
institutions, with more patients and wards, keeping them safe became ever more
complex. In large buildings, often connected by long corridors, one fear
remained ever present – the risk of fire.

This increasing risk became an issue after several fires
occurred in the 1880s and 90s. Questions were asked in the House of Commons in
1883 about withholding licenses from asylums unless they put precautions in
place, following a fire at the private asylum at Southall Park, London. The only
source of water for the fire brigade was found to be a shallow pond a quarter

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Scenes From the Past: Shelton Bar (1873)

This drawing of Shelton Bar is taken from Griffiths’ “Guide to the iron trade of Great Britain” which was published in 1873.

Tunstall in the 1830s

Between 1811 and 1831, the population of Tunstall rose from 1,677 to 3,673.

By the end of the 1820s, Tunstall was a prosperous industrial town with a weekly market where fruit and vegetables, meat and fish, household goods and dairy produce were sold.

At the beginning of the 19th century, there were only three factories making pottery in Tunstall. By the end of the 1830s, there were seventeen. Three manufactured both china and earthenware, twelve made earthenware and two produced hand-painted china figures.

Since the middle of the 18th century, Staffordshire blue brick and tiles were made in Tunstall. In the 1830s, there were five firms manufacturing bricks and tiles. The largest brick and tile maker was Thomas Peake whose works in Watergate Street also made ornamental plant holders and garden furniture. 

Although the Methodist New Connexion, the Primitive Methodists and the Wesleyan Methodists had churches in the town, members of the Church of England had to travel to Wolstanton to worship in the parish church, St. Margaret’s, or go to Newchapel to attend services at a chapel of ease.

There were Sunday Schools attached to all the Methodist Churches.

During the week, an infants’ school was held by the Primitive Methodists in a three-storey building in Calver Street. Writing about the school, John Ward in his book The Borough of Stoke-upon-Trent, published in 1843, called it a “laudable and interesting institution” whose aim was:

To rescue children between the ages of two and six years, from the influence of bad example, and from vagrant habits; to imbue their minds with religious and moral sentiments, by imparting instruction adapted to their infant capacities, and to diminish the burden and care of their parents . . .

The parents of each child paid two pence a week for its education.

From 1831, the Wesleyan Methodists held evening classes where men and women were taught to read the bible. In 1838, the Wesleyans established an elementary school for boys and an elementary school for girls.

During 1829, the Church of England launched a public appeal to build Christ Church.

The appeal raised £1,000, and the government gave £3,000 towards the cost of the building. A site, where Furlong Road joins High Street, was purchased from Ralph Sneyd, the Lord of the Manor, for £400.

London-based architect, Francis Bedford was employed to design the church.

Built of Chell-Hollington stone, Christ Church was an Elizabethan style building. It was “an elegant structure with a neat tower surmounted by a spire at the west end”. The church was consecrated by Henry Ryder, the Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry, on August 14th, 1832.

Christ Church could accommodate 1,000 worshippers. It had a three-decker pulpit, and there were galleries on the north, south and west side of the nave.

Scenes From the Past: Shelton Bar (1873)

A drawing of Shelton Bar taken from Griffiths’ “Guide to the iron trade of Great Britain” which was published in 1873.

Faculty Friday- Trentham

The Bawdy Courts of Lichfield

This month’s faculty not only shows details of proposed changes to a church but also hints at a local status power play. The 1843 faculty for Trentham requests confirmation of rebuilding work already completed and remaining work to be done. This includes re-pewing the main church, after taking down the old galleries, with reserved seats for the Pilkingtons of Butterton Hall and building a new west gallery containing pews for the Duke of Sutherland. The architect for this project was Charles Barry.

What’s of note in these papers is that as part of the replacement of the galleries, the Pilkington’s lose their reserved gallery and are instead allocated pews on the ground floor whilst the Sutherland’s (of…

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Scenes From the Past: Tunstall Windmill

old-windmill-tunstall-stoke-on-trent
Tunstall Windmill

Tunstall Windmill was a corn mill.

It was built in 1813 on land that became known as Millfields which was on the northside of Roundwell Street between America Street and Dunning Street.

A track led from America Street to the mill which at one time was surrounded by a circular loading bay where carts were loaded and unloaded.

 The mill is mentioned by W. J. Harper in his book “By-Gone Tunstall” that was published in 1913.

In this edited extract from the book, Harper writes:

Of course, there were no houses near the mill in the earlier years of its history, save three one storey workmen’s cottages seen on the left of the drawing. In later years the mill yard was fenced in, and gardens were provided for the cottagers . . . When the mill went into disuse the corn room was used as a practice room by members of Tunstall’s drum and fife band.

Harper knew John Bickley, a member of the band, who remembered rehearsing in the corn room. John told him that a man and his wife lived at the mill. One evening the couple began to argue. During the row, the woman walked out. She didn’t come back, and her husband spent the night alone in the mill.

There was an old mine shaft nearby which was full of water. The next morning, her body was found in the shaft. She had committed suicide.

The mill was demolished in 1855. 

Spotlight on Stafford: Memories of a Volunteer at St. George’s Hospital

Staffordshire's Asylums

By Vicky Wood

St. George’s Hospital c.1975 (staffspasttrack.org.uk)

In the early 1980s, I became a volunteer at St. Georges Hospital, which had started life as the County Asylum. So, every Wednesday morning, Hilda and I would set off round the hospital with our laden trolley, which was loaded with sweets and chocolates, as well as other small items, to see what the morning would bring. The patient population was fairly static so we soon got to know our regular customers. 

There were many more women patients than men in a population of almost 1,000. This was, according to staff, because in the past, women suffering from post-natal depression were often placed in the hospital and in some cases, never left. A number of patients were attached to objects which reminded them of their children, and one I remember in particular lived in a world of fantasy where they had never…

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SPOTLIGHT ON BURSLEM: When dressing up as a ghost could land you in front of the Church Courts

The Bawdy Courts of Lichfield

In September 1627 Robert Simpson donned a white sheet and walked around Burslem, Staffordshire, pretending to be the ghost of a recently deceased local man. Was this, as Simpson claimed, a simple case of trying to frighten an individual or, as the church courts claimed, was it the sign of something much more sinister?

All sides agree that on the 12th September 1627, the same day that local potter John Turner was buried, Simpson ‘in the dark of the night’ put on a white sheet ‘with a knott on the topp or head thereof in the manner of a windinge sheete’ for the purpose of looking like Turner’s ghost but the burning question is why.

Winding-sheet containing corpse, 15th century.
Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY

The church court, in a case promoted by William and John Blore of Audley, accuses Simpson and his friend William Edge of…

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STAFFORDSHIRE’S HISTORIC CHURCHES: NEWS – Autumn 2019

Staffordshire Historic Churches

Welcome to our Autumn posting. Here we have some news-items which will be of interest to anyone who supports the preservation & heritage of Staffordshire’s historic churches.
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Prince Charles’ support
The Norman alabaster archway at St Mary’s Priory Church in Tutbury in East Staffordshire was in dire need of repair, and a campaign was mounted to secure funding of £80,000 to complete the project – which was concluded over the summer. The Staffordshire Historic Churches Trust was able to make a donation out of its funds, as well as a number of other organisations.
No less a personage than Prince Charles himself also backed this campaign. See: full story.

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Rarely used elaborate church
The

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